Thailand - Day Thirteen

Today we are heading to Ayutthaya which is the old capital of Bangkok and therefore has many temples but unfortunately many were destroyed by war so only ruins remain. Its an early start as so many of our trips have been and to make matters worse our new friend from last night is on the same trip after all. He takes a seat next to us and I think he forgets he’s told us some of the same stories from last night about how he can’t believe the price of wine around here and why are there no off licences. Luckily when we thought we might have an hour of this we pulled in to meet many other small tour buses and join a larger, much more comfy air conditioned coach to take us for the hour long drive. Along the way we are entertained by Donna our tour guide for the day.

Throughout the trip she just gets better, when she isn’t telling us about the sites, she is telling us about life in Thailand but mainly through her own experiences which tend to be how her husband has to put up with the fact she talks too much, how she can’t eat beef or catfish because she has donated those animals to the king as gifts and therefore is no longer allow to kill them, how she is not like normal Thai women because she is big as her Papa was a chef and liked to feed her so if we follow her on the lunch buffet we’ll do good and all the time we must follow Donna for the best sights and picture spots along the way.

First stop is of the Bang Pa-In Palace, a summer resort of Thai royalty and where the Queen of England once stayed on her trip to Bangkok where apparently the King played the saxophone to her and the Queen of Thailand the piano.

Donna was very pleased that she had come along with her parents to meet our Queen although was mortified when the Queen drove past, got out of the car and she could only see the back of her, Donna apparently shouted for her to turn around and could die happy when in fact the Queen did turn back to look at her and waved.

Next stop was the Wat Maha That which looks more like the ruins of an ancient city than a temple from 600 years ago.

Here is where you’ll also see the famous buddha head which has been overgrown by a tree.

We also bump into our new friend who tells us that we have ruins older than this in the UK, erm thanks!

Then we stopped at Wat Na Phra Mane where we all had a group blessing by the monk so we added another string bracelet to our collection.

This Wat is known for its green stone buddha which is more than 1000 years old and was lucky to have survived the wars but only because this location was the base of the Burmese army hence most of the artifacts here were preserved.

Our final stop of the morning was to the huge stone reclining buddha.

Great to see this piece in such good shape and while we are here we take the opportunity to try some of the local produce. Al goes for a coconut water which they cut right in front of you and then give you a straw to drink from.

I went for the Durian fruit ice cream. This fruit is supposed to smell like actual poo but if you can get past that then it tastes nice.

Our hotel actually has a special mention in the guide book saying they are banned on the premises due to their smell. Personally I think either they don’t smell that bad or their smell in ice cream is massively diluted. Either way the ice cream didn’t taste nice so most of it went in the bin anyway.

Now we knew we were getting on a boat to come home but we didn’t realise we’d also be eating on it too so it was quite a bonus as the tour guide and been trying to sell us a riverboat dinner cruise and now we were getting one as part of this trip. The food was ok but I’d have been very disappointed had I paid for a dinner cruise and got served this. We were sat with a lovely couple from Israel though and we swapped holiday stories.

After the trip the plan was to go have Al’s second fitting at the tailors before visiting the famous banyan tree rooftop bar for cocktails then to get food. Once we got to Lumphini where the bar is located we decided we’d go buy our tickets for the boxing match tomorrow to make sure it didn’t sell out. This is where the night didn’t exactly go as planned. Once at the stadium we were informed that Friday night is actually a better night to go because the Saturday matches are televised so not many locals come and you don’t get the same atmosphere so despite being completely overdressed, as we were planning for posh cocktails on the roof, we ended up being in the heart of the most known Muay Thai stadium in Thailand, Lumphini Stadium.

We ended up buying ringside seats because the 2nd class tickets only had benches and if the people in front stand up you are forced to stand up as well and given we had 2 hours here until the main fight of the night I didn’t much fancy that.

Now this is one of the must do items in our “bible” so although I wasn’t much looking forward to it, Al was up for it so I figured we’d add it to the list. We were ushered into a tinned roof tiny place, now I was expecting something quite impressive given this is the stadium that all the books tell you is the best in Thailand and where all the major fights happen. It was very old school, plastic chairs in rows along the front with tiered wooden benches behind for 2nd class followed by another set of wooden benches behind a wired fence for 3rd class. Glad we decided not to take the tour trip though as they were changing another £10 each just to provide transport.

We had come in at match 2 with the main event being match 7. Looking at the program the thing that really shocked me was how tiny these guys are. The highest weight category was 135 pounds which is less than I weigh! It also looked like before the matches actually start they have a couple of warm up rounds for I’m guessing children since they weighed in at 55 pounds.
So the first few matches were ok but I’m really not a fan of fighting and we were really in the heart of it. Each blow and kick could be heard and at one point a guy got an elbow to the face and we could see the blood splattered. At this point I went to get some drinks as I needed a break, it was all a bit too much for me.

What was interesting though is that Muay Thai is seen as a sacred event so women are not allowed to touch the ring and before each match the contenders perform a ritual / blessing, some were pretty extreme and elaborate dances.

As the matches progressed I did find myself getting into it a bit more, perhaps it was the skill level which was improving so you saw a lot more impressive moves and kicks and less elbows to the face.

After round 6 the next two fighters came into the ring in gloves made from rope, what the hell was the main fight going to be? It looked as if it was bare knuckle boxing almost, the pair started the fight but there was no referee around, it was only when one of them bust out an impressive spinning kick we realised this was not an actual fight but a choreographed performance.

Finally it was time for the main event and I can’t say I noticed much difference from the previous fights and each time we never knew who was going to end up winning, in most cases it was the opposite of whoever Al thought had probably scored most points.

As we were leaving the stadium we were offered the chance to have our picture taken with the winner so we did, he weighed in at 110 pounds so did look really tiny compared to even me but I wouldn’t mess with him seeing his skills in the ring.

We were completely off schedule now having had no food or been for any drinks, since we were in the area though we thought we’d still head to the sky bar for a quick one then grab a takeaway or something easy on the way home. Unfortunately this is where the night was a little disappointing, we walked for ages to get to the bar, got to the top floor only to be told there was a cover charge tonight of around £15 each we were weren’t prepared to pay when usually its free so we had to leave empty handed.

We did manage to find a nice little noodle place to eat though in a rather suspect area of Bangkok with signs for male saunas everywhere and instead or roadside sellers offering handbags or t-shirts it was a variety of sex toys so we didn’t stick around and headed straight back to the hotel.