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Photo by Mark Newton, Mexican camping

I haven't been everywhere...
but it's on my list!


Photo by Mark Newton,
Camping in the Mexican desert



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  #1066  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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The next morning, some photo opportunities at the Koh Samui airport, waiting for the plane to Bangkok


And then an hour later, after touching down at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, more nice things to take pictures of

We're not done with Mel and Anton yet! Neda and I had planned to pick up our CRFs in Bangkok and ride a bit north to check out some ruins. Since our friends still have a couple of days of vacation left, they rented a car and we all piled in and headed up together.

It was all highway to Ayutthaya, just over an hour's drive north of the city. I stared out the window as boring, flat urban landscape packed with towns, roads and vehicles scrolled past. Being in a car is both monotonous and hypnotic. We're traveling during the middle of the day and I glanced over at the temperature gauge on the dash of the car. The numbers slowly crept up: 38C... 39C... 40C! So humid too! Missing the islands already. So glad we are in a car on this boring slab-run with the air-conditioning blasting glorious cold air on our faces!

I may even indulge in a short nap in the back seat...


Wat Chaiwatthanaram at sunset

We arrived in Ayutthaya in the early afternoon, checked into our hotel, then waited until sunset to venture out to see some ruins. There are quite a few in the area. The hotel manager suggested we visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram. It's the most well-known of the temples and is the picture on all the postcards of Ayutthaya as well as Google Images.

Well, if it's on Google Images, we *have* to go take our own pictures then and add them to the library!


Do you have this picture, Google Images? Well you do now! SEO tag: Ayutthaya Ayutthaya Ayutthaya
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  #1067  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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Ayutthaya, the capital of what was once known as Siam (now Thailand), was once one of the largest cities in the world. More than a million people lived here in the 1700s. But most of it was destroyed when Burmese invaders burned it to the ground in 1767. Most of the city was made of wood, but the parts that still stand now are the stone remnants of the temples.


After sunset, we play around with the shadows of the floodlights, lighting up the stones


This is actually the moon peeking out from behind the tower


Getting late, time to go. Lots more to see tomorrow!

There are many different ruins in Ayutthaya, all are within a few kms of each other. There are bus tours that shuttle you to and from all the sites, and we try to beat the tourists that pour out of these behemoths. We've heard that you can also rent bicycles and ride between the ruins, which is a terrific way to die of heat exhaustion. We'll stick to the air-conditioned car, thank you very much Tourism Board of Ayutthaya.
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  #1068  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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Visiting another site in the morning, Wat Chaiwatthanaram in the background


The red bricks look like they've been scorched from the time when Burmese invaders burned the city to the ground


Neda ponders Buddha's Head amongst the tree roots in Wat Mahathat

This is one of Thailand's iconic images. No one knows for sure how Buddha's head became entangled in this tree's roots. During the Burmese-Siamese war, the attacking forces chopped off the heads of all the Buddha's in the area. There's speculation that one of these heads might have rolled under a young tree and over time the tree's roots grew around the head.


This dog lives here, so he doesn't find it all that interesting
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  #1069  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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There are a few decapitated Buddhas on the grounds. But some have managed to keep their heads




The forests around the area are teeming with wildlife. Here's an egret by the lake.


We were driving between sites and Neda spied something on the side of the road. She yelled out to Anton: "STOP THE CAR!"

Then we quietly tiptoed out, took out our cameras and... Water Monitor Lizard. This guy was pretty big, about a foot and half long. Gorgeous creature, but very shy. He slinked away from the cameras very quickly.
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  #1070  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit


Bird Dog


Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya, well known for its chedis (Thai Stuppas) all lined up in a row

These aren't the original chedis. They've been restored after the Burmese attacked in 1767. This wasn't the first time Ayutthaya had fallen. The war between Siam and Burma had raged for centuries and the first time Burma took Ayutthaya was in 1564. After they razed it the second time, the city never recovered.
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  #1071  
Old 21 Jun 2016
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Looks like there are still ongoing archaeological efforts to find more of the ruins at Ayutthaya


Wat Lego. When the Burmese tore these temples down, they inadvertently
stepped on the bricks strewn on ground and were repelled due to the excruciating pain



Temple of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam. I like how they gave him a real cloth robe. That's a lot of material!
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  #1072  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/296.html



Lopburi is only an hour north of Ayutthaya, but the Buddhist temple there, Phra Prang Sam Yot, is a major tourist attraction.


But the temple itself is not why people come here...


Monkeys. Everywhere.

It would be totally like a scene out of an Indiana Jones movie, were it not for the fact that the temple is on a tiny grounds that is surrounded by the bustling city of Lopburi.


Monkeys are not just confined to the temple grounds, they spill out onto the city streets
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  #1073  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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The owner of the hotel last night in Ayutthaya warned us against coming here. The monkeys sometimes get very aggressive with the tourists (especially if they think you are hiding food from them) and there have been some reports of rabies due to bites and scratches.


That doesn't stop a lot of people from coming anyway. Including us


The little ones are so mischievous. One of them takes a liking to Mel

It's the baby monkeys that are the most daring. They sneak up on tourists behind their backs and look for piggy back rides. There are signs on the temple gates advising people to leave their wallets, glasses, cell phones, etc. in the car because the curious monkeys will find them, play with them and break them. Sounds like something I would do. Huh, I should really be wearing a sign like that around my neck!


Curious creatures. They get into everything and everywhere

There's a security guard at the gate of the temple. But we soon discovered he is not guarding the temple from tourists. He carries a stick that he uses to beat away the more aggressive monkeys. He also uses a slingshot that he pings rocks at them. I was happy because either he was a really bad shot or he just aims in their general direction to scare them off!


Mostly they are driven by food

You'd think the locals would be sick of their town being overrun by monkeys, but we saw many people drive up and dump food near the grounds. I think the monkeys are good for tourism.

And then tourists come and bring them more food. These guys are well fed.
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  #1074  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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SO cute! Especially the ones hanging onto their momma monkeys.


Monkeys own the temple


I don't think they took over recently. Engravings of monkeys adorn the temple.
They must have been here all along



This was as close to the monkeys as Neda wanted to go. The talk of rabies scared her a bit
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  #1075  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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"Be kind to all creatures; this is the true religion" -- Buddha


Farewell, Monkey Temple of Lopburi!

We drove back down to Bangkok and spent a last evening with Anton and Mel. It was very sad leaving them mainly because they are our friends, but partly because we knew this would be last time we would be able to speak English in complete sentences for a long time... It's been almost two weeks with them and by the end, I was actually using pronouns and multi-syllable words. I also wore pants. Most of the time.


Early morning departure. Bye Anton and Mel, thanks for coming to visit us!!!

We left Bangkok early in the morning to beat both the heat and the traffic. The highways around the capital city differs from the rest of the country because motorcyclists are banned from using them. I think this is because most of the bikes are low displacement and aren't capable of traveling 100km/h. Unfortunately this isn't fair to the bikes that *are* capable of achieving that speed, which our 250cc dirtbikes are able to do, although they sound like they are going to self-detonate at that speed.

I led our way out of the city and one time I inadvertently got us onto the No-Bikes-Allowed highway. We frantically searched for an exit ramp and lucky for us we found one because not half a km after we exited, we saw a policeman ticket a Thai motorcyclist who was using the highway. 2000 baht fine! That's like $75, which is a huge amount considering how far that can go in Thailand.

*phew* Dodged a bullet.
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  #1076  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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Looking for a nice place to lay down our beach towels in Hua Hin

Hua Hin is only three hours from Bangkok, but the rising heat of the late morning and the terrible seats of our CRFs force us to stop for the day. The ride is an uninteresting trek through a very urban landscape. After getting settled into a small hotel outside of the city (cheaper), we traveled into town for food and to find a place to dip our toes into the ocean. There are a few beaches in Hua Hin, and we hopped from place to place, heading further south until we found one that we liked.


Khao Tao beach, about 20 minutes south of the centre of Hua Hin

This was far away from the bustle of the city, very quiet place with nice sand to squeeze between our toes. There were beach chairs and umbrellas which we could rent for 100 baht ($3) for the day. The weather along the coast is not as nice as the islands where we came from, but it's waay better than Bangkok.


Plus there are monkeys here to entertain us

These guys were hilarious, they were diving into the water from the rocks. Head first sometimes. Amazing how human-like some of their behaviour is. Or is some of our behaviour monkey-like? Hm....
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  #1077  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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Neda spent her time running in and out of the water to cool down from the relentless sun overhead


I spent my time studying these strange patterns under my beach chair


The patterns are created by these tiny crabs, digging through the sand for food

I don't know why I find these guys so fascinating. They use their front claws to dig through the sand in front of them and pass it through their mouth, filtering the food out. And then their hind legs roll the used sand up into tiny balls which it pushes behind itself. I guess so it knows not to go through the balled sand again.

But it's the methodical way it travels from it's little cave, out in specific spiral pattern away from the centre that creates these cool patterns. I must have spent over an hour just watching these guys work. I'm a bit OCD in some ways (Neda has a million embarrassing stories about this so I'm glad she's not writing this blog), and this really appealed to me.


Also, I found this interesting. This is how Asian people go to the beach

In Thai culture (and pretty much all of Asia), light skin is seen as being more favorable than dark skin. Skin whitening products prominently decorate the shelves of the pharmacies. So almost all the Asian tourists on the beach were covered up in long sleeves and pants despite the 35C heat. And if they were wearing shirts and shorts, they would always be hiding under an umbrella.


Compare this to the Western tourists...
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  #1078  
Old 23 Jun 2016
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These guys were selling horse rides along the beach


Found a dead crab on the beach. Hm... getting hungry


When we got back to our bikes, a vendor had set up his cart right in front of them. I guess we parked in his spot...

Hua Hin is just a short stop. Back on the bikes again, we're heading further south.
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  #1079  
Old 25 Jun 2016
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Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/297.html



Back on the southbound road.

Thailand funnels down into a thin strip of land, squeezed even narrower because it has to share the peninsular connection with Myanmar. This stretch of road is pure torture on our behinds. The CRF seats are killing our butts and the straight, unending highway offers no distractions as we squirm about on top of our motorcycle, searching for ways to get comfortable even as the temperatures rise to the low 30s by mid-morning.


Boring, boring ride. When is it going to get interesting?


Did we see anything interesting along the way? Jack.

The heat and the seats are limiting our mileage. We've been averaging about 250kms a day and we stop in Chumphon for the evening. I say evening, but really we arrived after lunch, stormed into the room and cranked the air conditioning up full-blast while we sat around in our underwear trying to cool off. So glad Anton and Mel aren't rooming with us anymore...

PANTS OFF TIME!
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  #1080  
Old 25 Jun 2016
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Packing up bright and early to leave Chumphon

We finally make it past the narrow neck of the peninsula and suddenly things start to look a lot more interesting. In the distance, large monolithic structures shoot up from the horizon. We enter the outskirts of Krabi and check into a hotel we found. It's so much cheaper getting a place outside the city, I'm glad we have motorcycles so we're not forced to find accommodations in the expensive city centre.


Cool-looking rocks up ahead!


Heading out into Krabi to explore the town
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