Tuesday, December 17, 2013

How NOT to Get to Thailand’s Ayutthaya Historical Park

One of the reasons I wanted to go to Thailand was to visit all the archaeological ruins. The first set of important ruins, Ayutthaya, is situated a bare forty miles north of Bangkok. And according to my guidebook, it would be a short train ride to get there.
            However, I messed up on something crucial: getting to the train station. My first terrible mistake was agreeing with my friend, who thought it would be fun and easy to travel to the train station via the canal. In theory this should have been simple. We were staying near the Grand Palace. There was a canal stop only a short walk from our hotel.
Ayutthaya. Photo by D.R. Ransdell
            What we weren’t prepared for was the utter confusion at the water landing. People were scurrying to get into one line or the other, and there were several different express boats that stopped at the same place.
            But I was armed. I’d worked on Thai for over a month, so I bravely asked for the right boat to get to the train station.
            The first lady I asked looked at me as if I were completely crazy. The second lady looked away when I reached my second badly pronounced word. My third victim, a male teen, pointed to the boat that was just pulling away.
            My friend and I waited on the banks. Another line had already started forming. After a brief wait we were able to make our way onto the boat. But then came another surprise. The boats go SO FAST (after all, they’re express boats!) that the drivers have to put up plastic flaps so that people don’t get completely soaked with canal river water. This was bad for us because it also meant that we couldn’t see where we were.
Ayutthaya, Wat Mahathat  Photo by D.R. Ransdell
            We sped to the first stop, where our speed mobile paused for about ten seconds as people scrambled on and off. Then we were zipping through the canal again. Neither my friend nor I had caught the name of the canal stop, but we didn’t have a chance to communicate with one another. Instead we were thrown back into our seats as the driver gunned the engine.
            We reached the second canal stop and had no better idea where we were. Again our vehicle paused briefly before speeding away. But then I got a clue. I saw tall buildings through the cracks of the makeshift plastic awning. We were in the business district. We were in the heart of modern Bangkok.
            We were miles from the train station. At the next stop, we scrambled out.
            Smarter travelers would have found a cab and gotten to the train station the “easy way,” but now that we’d reached a modern section, we couldn’t find any cabs. It was only after a big fight that we even figured out where we were on the map.
Wat Rachaburana, Ayutthaya. Photo by D. R. Ransdell
            We were way off course. My friend had insisted on an early start, and I had begrudgingly complied only to lose everything by getting us so far of course that we had to find a bus to get back in the right direction of the train station, and after that we had to cover another few blocks on foot. By the time we got to the station, we found we’d just missed one connection and had to wait for the next.
            I was seething at my own incompetence, but my friend calmly took a seat at the train station after finding an English-language newspaper. By the time we finally caught a train, it was nearly noon.
            By then I’d made a pact with myself. No more attempts to speak Thai. We just didn’t have the time!
            Train stations aren't usually so hard to find--or are they? What's your own worst experience of trying to reach a train station?
For a fictional account of a trip to Ayutthaya, please see www.drransdellnovels.com/thai-twist.html


  1. Beautiful post really interesting and knowledgeable!!!!
    thanks for sharing such great post with us!!!

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