Sunday, 1 January 2012

ayutthaya and the fearless monkeys of lopburi

20th - 23rd December 2012

Ayutthaya to Lopburi, Thailand

                   After taking in all that Kanchanaburi had to offer - which in the end turned out to be a great deal - checked out of the Jolly Frog hostel on the morning of the 20th, flagged down a motorbike taxi and headed for the local bus station in order to figure out the best way to get to my next destination which was to be Ayutthaya - the former ancient capital of Thailand. I had heard about the place the night before after chatting  with some other travelers who said that it was a pleasant pit stop on the way up north and with some time to kill before New Years I thought I would give it a shot. A spur of the moment decision like that is one of the great things about traveling by yourself as no big debate needs to go into making a decision, you hear of an idea and you go do it, no fuss, no bother, you just get on with it. Although there are obviously many advantages to traveling with friends, I tend to feel quite smug when I overhear groups of travelers at hostels quarreling  themselves into deadlocks about what to do next and how to go about doing it. After using my very limited Thai and broken English at the station it appeared that the journey to Ayutthaya  required retracing my steps back to Bangkok in order to catch a connecting minibus onto my final destination. The minibus in question had about eight seats to my eyes, yet unfortunately for me and my long legs, the short sighted driver seemed to think it could hold at least double that and as a result the mercifully short hour ride there had me squashed rather uncomfortably against one of the back windows, to the great amusement of trailing cars. That day, time had run away with me and unfortunately it was early evening by the time I arrived in Ayutthaya, which is never a great position to be in as it always seems far trickier to find a place to stay under cover of darkness. Having tried a few guesthouses already, I had been declined by many due to extortionate prices for a double room (one of the pitfalls of independent travel, as single rooms can be hard to come by) or full bookings. In one last ditch effort, I hauled my increasingly heavy rucksack onto my weary back and trudged towards Tony's Place - a recommendation from the ever present traveling bible - and walked into a very fortuitous conversation. A Spaniard I had met back in Kanchanaburi by the name of Ramone and a friend of his (Jorge) were facing the problem of being two people whilst only a three man room was available. And at that moment I showed up and became the obvious solution to their dilemma. Having been shown to our room, I noticed that a rather ugly reminder of the recent flooding had seared itself onto the wall outside our room in the form of a frighteningly high water mark. This watermark was a good two feet clear of my head and it was hard to imagine that only a month prior, this whole area had been fully submerged. The work which has been done there to get business back up and running is amazingly impressive as aside from this watermark, there were  very few indications of the turmoil which had corrupted the city. The next day after hiring some bicycles we came across similar faded water marks around the town on buildings, trees and lamp posts which gave extended scope to the extent of the damaging floods. As I was eager to head for Chiang Mai for New Years Eve it was an enjoyable if rushed couple of days with the Spanish, first through Ayutthaya and then the monkey town of Lopburi, and the following photographs serve to document some of the things I came across during those few days.
One of the many ancient ruins at Ayutthaya. The city is located in the Valley of the Chao Phraya River and was founded in 1350 by King U Thong who proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom. Over the years it grew considerably in size and by around 1700 it had an esitmated 1,000,000 souls living within its boundaries, making it larger than London at the time! Things took a severe downturn in 1767 however when the Burmese invaded and the collapse of the Ayutthaya kingdom followed.  
As you can see Ayutthaya and Lopburi rest north of Bangkok. 


The following day we hired some bicycles and went for a ride around the small city which is set within a central island surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pasak rivers.

Ramone, Jorge and Me. And another cheeky Buddha.

At the Wat Phra Mahathat came across the curious sight of a Buddha head resting  in the gnarled roots of a banyan tree which over the years had provided the statues head with a natural frame.

Wat! Another temple! Wat Ratchaburana.

The crumbling red brick ruins and monuments are all that remain of a city once noted for it's lavish splendor.
As you can clearly see, the water mark on the tree indicates how high the flood waters reached.


Arrival in Lopburi. The thing I liked about Lopburi is that there weren't many other western faces on it's streets which meant that I got to see a glimpse of everyday Thai life without the tacky stalls and constant hassle from tourist-hunting  street hustlers.

It's like the planet of the apes in Lopburi. The monkeys do whatever  the hell they want and go where they please.   Walking through certain areas of town it's necessary to carefully navigate yourself through the hordes of monkeys which gather on street corners. Looking up, more can be found swinging from electrical wires and the facades of buildings. We saw a family who unwittingly entered this simian playground with some food from the local market. Needless to say those sausages were soon swiped from disbelieving hands.
Entering one particular temple complex, it seemed that when the monkeys weren't roaming the streets they were here. Literally hundreds of the chaps were either lounging around on the grass surrounding the central temple or climbing over its crumbling brick roof. Or in this case getting well acquainted with the almighty Buddha.
Completely fearless of humans, a few of the monkeys hopped onto my shorts and back pack, hoping to find any food I had concealed! With no bananas present though they soon hopped off again.
It was actually possible to enter the temple which served as a sanctuary from the moneys outside due to a large iron gate preventing their access. From inside you could observe and play with the monkeys without fear of a mauling!


No comments:

Post a Comment