The (not so) Real Bangkok: a visit to Ancient City

Back in October, Todd ran a road race in a park called Ancient City (you can read the post here). It was a pretty rad park, but we didn’t see much of it – Todd was too busy hauling his ageing body around the course, and I was too busy screaming “go haaaaaard!!” at random, baffled British children, and checking out the classy port-a-potties. We decided we needed to go back and see the park properly, so this past Saturday, we grabbed Vera (main talent: being a dead ringer for the Korean chick on “Cloud Atlas”) and Therese (main talent: thought manipulation) and headed for the park.

I was a little taken aback by the hefty entrance fee, but I got over it when I saw the awesome bicycles that the fee included:

Built for comfort (the bicycles, I mean)

A crocodile bicycle: my dream come true

Ancient City (Thai: Mueang Boran) contains replicas of a variety of Thai historical sites. From the official website:

  • Just a visit to the Ancient City is comparable to a Thailand-round journey within a day.
  • The layout preserves the pattern of traditional Thai lifestyles, which is hard to behold nowadays

Our visit was pretty short (we only had 1.5 hours before we had to head back to the stix), so I figure we made a quarter Thailand-round journey. Because of our short time frame (and my shorter attention span), I didn’t read many signs, so don’t ask me for a history lesson. I can, however, vouch for the ambience, and the coolness factor – both were right on.

The temple provides the ambience, the farangs provide the, uh, coolness factor

There were also a lot of fun statues in the park, including these fighting elephants. I cannot imagine anything more terrifying in battle than being hauled off your perch by an angry, flailing trunk.

Hmmm. Maybe I’ll be safe if I hide by his massive, thundering foot.

This was another fun statue in the park – a bunch of horses and gods go to battle together. The best part of the statue was the artificial mist being released from the rocks.

So historical, it’s almost lost in the mists of time.

We bought fresh coconuts from a long-tail boat that was floating near the replica of a traditional village.

Peeping Tom Todd creeps on the villagers

I could handle living here

Unfortunately, Therese is almost as obsessed as Todd is with birds, and as soon as one flew into sight, they were all over it. Turns out Vera also likes a good chirp. They were throwing around terms like long-breasted-short-beaked-angry-footed-booby-clucker, so I meandered around and took a few more photos.

Not sure what it is, but it looks cool.

Also very cool. The gazebo looks really romantic from afar, but when you get closer, it’s full of carvings of angry, multi-headed snakes. Whatever does it for you.

I made Todd give me a ride on his bike to make up for the delay. This bike would be the ultimate family bike: you could put one kid on the front seat, and another in the basket. Now that’s what I call family time.

Unparalleled comfort AND style

Before we made it back to the entrance, I had to snap one last photo:

Vera looking picture perfect next to a replica of Ayutthaya

Ancient City filled us so full of Thai history (and birds) that we decided to give our culture-filled brains a rest, and went for Mexican food with our American compadres.

Hmmm. Not much history/culture going on here.

I’m guessing Ancient City will lure me back again, though – the combination of immaculate history and crocodile bicycles is just too much to resist. And besides, where else can you get a Thailand-round tour in just one day?

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was The Queen’s Birthday this past weekend, which meant that Thailand had a stat holiday on Monday. In Thailand, not only is The Queen’s Birthday a holiday, it serves as Mother’s Day for the entire country. Now that is royalty with real power! In case anyone forgot that it was The Queen’s Birthday, there were displays along all the major roads, and, more importantly, in all the malls to remind them.

The birthday shrine outside Todd’s school’s gates

Most of the new teachers decided to celebrate the three-day weekend by travelling to Ayutthaya, the site of Thailand’s historic royal city. 16 of us crammed into a mini-van with seating that will forever after make economy class feel spacious to me. Every time we clambered out of the mini-van, I could hear most of the teachers counting us off – they just can’t help it. Herding adults is infinitely worse than herding students – you can at least threaten students with detention, and I’d bet money that they have better impulse control when confronted with food carts.

At our first stop in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was an intriguing place to visit. We learned about it in Thai Culture Class, and it was great to see it in the flesh. At our first stop, Wat Phra Mahathat, Todd and I decided to enhance our historical experience by renting an audio tour that came with two headsets. This lasted for about 5 minutes, after which I gave up on the history and meandered off by myself. I prefer to absorb information via osmosis. This tends to leave me with fewer facts but fonder memories.

I don’t care if I’m in the land of Siamese twins – I just can’t handle the conjoined thing.

We wandered around the first site for a while, and admired the ruins. If I remember correctly, the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in the 1700s, and sacked the joint. Check Wikipedia if you want more facts.

Oops! Buddha is missing his head

Found it!

After lunch we visited Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, a temple that houses a massive bronze Buddha.

Nearby were the partially restored ruins of another temple complex called Wat Phra Si Sanphet. In my wanderings, I somehow missed the ruins, and found myself in the opposite corner of the large complex. I was confused, as there didn’t seem to be anything of archaeological interest going on, although the bathrooms were extremely clean. While I was gone Todd found himself a much nicer friend than me, and spent the rest of the tour congenially conjoined.

David is a very friendly soul, and told me that I can include anything I want about him on my blog. This is naturally extremely exciting to me.

Our final stop of the day was the reclining Buddha. The government of Thailand allegedly draped him in a saffron robe to represent wisdom, thus creating a national mystery about what exactly is hidden under his robe. I tried to convince Todd to crawl under his robe and reveal said mystery, but he refused.

Aww. You look tired. Why don’t you just curl up in his robe, Todd?

After visiting three sites, the educators couldn’t handle any more education, and we crawled back into the bus. This time, my seat was without both legroom and headroom, so I pulled out my best not-so-secret talent, and scrunched myself into a pretzel in the back row. The Queen beamed benevolently at us from multiple highway shrines as the bus crawled back to the Big B.