With the long weekend in Chiang Mai ticking off the last of the major places I wanted to visit in the Northern and Central regions of Thailand, I didn’t have much motivation to travel this weekend, which meant that I switched my focus towards trying to shop for presents. Since that’s pretty one-note, I’m going to combine Saturday and Sunday into the same post for once.
My first stop on Saturday was Ayutthaya. Bubpha drove me there as she also wanted to visit a couple of markets, so the first place we visited was the market-square in Rajabhat University near Ayutthaya’s centre. The market itself wasn’t that notable, mostly selling the same clothes brands and items that many of the other markets I’ve visited have done, but the university was interesting, mostly because there happened to be a science fair taking place whilst we were looking around. I don’t remember ever having a science fair at school so the image of them I have was formed solely through how they’re depicted on US TV shows- that is, various stalls with awkward looking students sat at them containing hodge-podge displays about the solar system and other cliché subjects. This one wasn’t too far off that mark, although the students themselves were sharply dressed and looked like actually knew what they were presenting, despite the ‘made it last night’ vibe some of their stalls gave off. For others, it just seemed like an excuse to play darts.
By this point I realised that the day was going to turn into more sightseeing rather than finding any useful presents. After the university we went to Wat Phu Khao Tong, a temple built by King Naresuan in the 14th century, which had slanted to the side making it look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. The temple itself has stairs leading to the top, so climbing it I got to see some great views of Ayutthaya, but Bubpha told me when I got back down that the stairs had only just been put in and that visitors had to literally climb up the sides of the temple to get to the top prior to their building. That would’ve been much more adventurous.
We went to Wat Thakarong after that, which was probably the most bizarre place I’ve seen in Ayutthaya. It was fairly huge and, whilst it had the usual shrines and temple-related stuff, it also stretched onto Ayutthaya’s riverside where various boats were being used to cook and sell food. Also around the grounds was a bird sanctuary and a small aquarium, and many of the buddha statues were portrayed in a hyper-realistic style, seemingly drawn based on the features of actual monks. Oh, and there were statues of Optimus Prime and Captain America, the holiest of religious figures, guarding the entrance the several of the temple buildings, plus various animatronic skeletons placed around that would creepily move up and down every so often with a pot beside them trying to get people to donate money.
To summarise, it was all a bit odd. Entertaining, but odd.
Once Bubpha had left I checked into a hotel at about 5 and walked to Ayutthaya’s centre to attempt present shopping. I had one place in mind that I wanted to go to but after entering and being confronted by an unhelpful staff member who was more interested in eating the dinner she had on her desk than anything else, I realised that I wasn’t going to get anything done this evening. Instead, I walked around the nearby park that was full of the usual ruined temples and stray dogs, before heading to a night market to eat. It would have been nice to have gotten a hotel room in an area that had more to do at night, but I enjoyed having a calm time in the city centre by myself.
Sunday was more frustrating. I caught a van to Bangkok soon after waking up and was dropped off at about midday within Victory Monument, named for the massive statue commemorating the Thai military placed in the centre of the area’s traffic-laden roads, and headed for one of the nearby malls. Here I managed to sort out the present-related issue I had failed to do in Ayutthaya, so thinking that this would be the start of a successful day I ventured to Siam Square on the Skytrain (like the London Underground but, well, in the sky), what with it being the only other major shopping place I knew how to get to. The rest of my day was therefore spent wandering in and out of massive shopping centres, finding very little worth buying in terms of presents, before realising that it was getting late and getting the train home. Once I was back i realised that there were many other better markets and places in Bangkok that I could have gone to, so I guess the moral of this story is that if you want to spend a day shopping in Bangkok, plan ahead.
At least the early evening sunsets provided a nice end to an otherwise disappointing day.
Infact, the weirdest moment of the day happened in Bangkok’s railway station, where after leaving the grotty pay-for-use toilets I noticed a fortune-telling machine by the side of the doorway.
If you’ve seen the Tom Hanks film Big (and if you haven’t, go watch it) you’ll probably know how weird and intriguing these things are. A sheet of glass lay between me and a wooden carving of a peculiar looking old Thai man and as his cold stare beckoned me I couldn’t help but drop 5 baht into the machine to see what would happen. In the case below the figure was a small panel displaying the numbers 1 to 30 in a circle, and as the machine started an LED light flickered around the circle like a roulette wheel, eventually stopping and brightening on the number 9. Below the glass casing were rows of shelf compartments with numbers above each of them corresponding to those on the panel, all of which contained slips of paper. Taking a slip from shelf number 9, I turned it over anxiously to read it.
As I should have expected, however, the slip was written in Thai, so I couldn’t actually understand whatever fortune I was being told I would have. Hopefully I can get someone to translate it this week, but since my train back was delayed by half an hour after all of this, it’s probably not a good one. On the other hand, maybe it was actually the same machine from Big, in which case I will hopefully wake up soon and be Tom Hanks.
I’m writing this a day late and that doesn’t appear to have happened yet, but there’s still time.