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Sukhothai – Thailand’s Old Cities Pt 3

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My last stop on my tour of the old capitals of Thailand was Sukhothai. Ayutthaya was my current favourite, so let’s find out which city was my favourite.

sukhothai thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

Getting There

Sukhothai was easy to get to. A direct bus leaves from Ayutthaya. Alternatively, it’s possible to get a train to Phitsanulok then a bus to Sukhothai.

sukhothail thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

Where to Stay

Most accommodation options are in New Sukhothai. I stayed in Garden House which was 200 baht per night for a single room. The room was basic and didn’t have a/c but the temperature was just about cool enough to sleep. The night market was a 5 minute walk away and had plenty of food options (although no mango sticky rice!) There were also a few bars close to my hostel but they all seemed pretty relaxed.

sukhothai thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

Old Sukhothai

All of the ruins are in Old Sukhothai. A bus service runs between New and Old Sukhothai’s around every 30 minutes or for the reasonable price of 30 baht. The bus stops right outside the historical park. From there, it’s possible to hire a bike to cycle around the ruins. Entrance to the historical park is 100 baht. I decided to walk around which was a terrible idea because the temples are so far apart! I definitely recommend hiring a bike.

sukhothai thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

Sukhothai Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is an important part of Thai history.

sukhothai thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

Leaving

Leaving is reasonably easy as there’s a number of buses leaving daily from the bus terminal. I intended to get the 2.30pm bus to Chiang Mai. There was another bus going to Chiang Mai at 3pm so I figured if I missed the earlier one I wouldn’t have long to wait. Annoyingly both buses were cancelled so I had to wait until 6pm for the next one, along with 8 other people.

sukhothai thailand AlexExplorestheWorld

How does Sukhothai compare to Ayutthaya and Lopburi?

I already talked a bit about Lopburi in my last post, and how it compared to Ayutthaya. Overall, I’d have to say Ayutthaya was my favourite of the 3 cities for a few simple reasons:

  • In Ayutthaya, the old temples are all around the city, making them very easy to see by bicycle.
  • Ayutthaya has a boat cruise
  • It’s very cheap to get to Ayutthaya on the train. Sukhothai doesn’t have a train station.

So there you have it! I visited 3 of Thailand’s oldest cities and Ayutthaya came out on top.

Do you agree? Did you have different experiences of Thailand’s old cities? Let me know in the comments!

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Lopburi – Ancient Temples And Monkeys

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The second stop of my tour of the ancient cities of Thailand was Lopburi. Lopburi is well known for its population of crab-eating macaques, as well as having ruins of ancient temples.

How to Get There

I was already in Ayutthaya, so I took a day trip to Lopburi on the train. The train ticket was super cheap, as usual on Thai trains. It cost 13 baht one way, then 20 baht to return to Ayutthaya (I guess different train companies charge different prices).  Trains leave Ayutthaya fairly regularly (once every 1-2 hours). The train took over an hour from Ayutthaya to Lopburi.

What to See

Once in Lopburi, the train station is close to many of the ruins, and many can be seen as soon as you step out of the station. Prang Sam Yot is the most popular temple and has a huge population of monkeys. Prang Sam Yot is a Khmer temple, and was originally a Hindu temple but was later converted into a Buddhist temple.

prang sam yot lopburi AlexExplorestheWorld
Prang sam yot lopburi AlexEXplorestheWorld
prang sam yot lopburi AlexEXplorestheWorld
prang sam yot lopburi AlexExplorestheWorld

Entrance to Prang Sam Yot is 50 baht. I was the only visitor and a local lady walked around with me. It soon became apparent that this was to stop the monkeys climbing on me and taking things out of my bag. There were so many monkeys hanging around the temple. A couple managed to climb up my leg but were quickly shooed away.

Aside from seeing the many crab-eating macaques and the old temples, there really isn’s much else to see in Lopburi, which is why I recommend only visiting on a day trip from Ayutthaya.

Around November, the sunflower festival begins, giving tourists something extra to see.

Staying In Lopburi

To be honest, there really wasn’t much happening in Lopburi. It was very quiet, hence why I decided to visit Lopburi as a day trip from Ayutthaya. However, there were hotels on the main street, so if you wanted to stay overnight there are accommodation options.

How did Lopburi compare to Ayutthaya?

Whilst Lopburi is an interesting little town, I don’t think it requires more than a day to explore. Ayutthaya has more to offer in terms of ruins and temples. Lopburi has the novelty of monkeys. Ayutthaya has far more options for food too. Overall, I’d say that Ayutthaya is a more interesting city and defintiely worth a visit.

One more city to go! Stay tuned to see how Sukhothai compared to Ayutthaya and Lopburi.

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Ayutthaya – An Old Capital Of Thailand

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Welcome to my short series about the ancient cities of Thailand! I’m starting with Ayutthaya, and following up with Lopburi and finally Sukhothai.

I returned to Thailand much earlier than expected. I spent far less time in Laos and Cambodia than I expected, so I found myself with almost 3 weeks of extra time in Thailand. After getting my visa sorted for Myanmar, I was keen to either head north or south. July is the rainy season, so I figured that the islands may not be the best option. I decided I would head north, to Chiang Mai, via the old capitals of Thailand, Ayutthaya, Lopburi and Sukhothai.

Getting to Ayutthaya

I had been in Bangkok for a few days and I’d heard from a fellow traveller that the best way to travel to Ayutthaya was by train. I got a taxi to Bangkok central station (Hua Lamphong) for 50 baht. Trains to Ayutthaya are fairly regular so one was leaving 15 minutes after I arrived. I purchased my ticket for 15 baht (whaaaaat?? so cheap!) and got on the train. It takes just under 2 hours to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.

Where To Stay

I stayed at Stockhome Hostel which I highly recommend. The location is good and it’s possible to book tours through them. They also have free breakfast and a TV room.

What to See

I would recommend getting up early to see the temples for 2 reasons:

  1. It’s far too hot to walk around temples in the midday heat.
  2. You’ll beat the coaches of tourists coming to Ayutthaya for a day trip from Bangkok.

The first temple I walked around was Wat Ratchaburana. There was one other person there so I had the place pretty much to myself. Wat Ratchaburana was founded in 1424.

wat ratchaburana ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

wat ratchaburana ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld wat ratchaburana ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

One of the most popular temples in Ayutthaya is Wat Mahathat, mainly because the head of a Buddha statue is embedded in the roots of a tree, making for an interesting sight. It reminded me of Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas. The tour groups were just starting to filter in when I arrived around 10am. wat mahathat ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

wat mahathat ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

Something that all the old temples have in common, is that many Buddha statues have been decapitated. This is from the 18th century when Burmese forces sacked the city of Ayutthaya.

Sunset Boat Tour

I booked a sunset boat tour through my hostel for 200baht. Pick up was at 4pm and the boat stopped at 3 temples. The boat arrived back at the pier before sunset but at least it was a bit cooler in the day for walking around temples.

The first stop of the tour was Wat Panan Choeng. Our boat driver dropped us off and told us to return in 20 minutes. Entrance to this temple was 20 baht. This temple was very colourful but the main highlight was the enormous statue of Buddha in the middle. The doorway leading to the statue is small so I stumbled upon it very suddenly.

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Stop number 2 was rather disappointing. It was a modern temple with some ruins situated a short walk beyond. The problem was that the ruins section was closed when we arrived!

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The last stop was my favourite; Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The entrance fee was 50 baht. This temple complex is stunning.

wat chaiwatthanaram ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

wat chaiwatthanaram ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld
wat chaiwatthanaram ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld


wat chaiwatthanaram ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld
wat chaiwatthanaram ayutthaya AlexExplorestheWorld

Where to Eat

Ayutthaya has a number of restaurants dotted around the city which serve both Thai and Western food. In the evening there’s plenty of street food stalls to choose from.

Stay tuned for my next 2 posts about Lopburi and Sukhothai – 2 more ancient cities in Thailand. If you want to read more about visiting ancient sites, check out my Angkor Wat post.

 

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Angkor Wat And The Temples of Angkor

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Angkor Wat is one of the most visited sites in South East Asia, and is the reason most tourists visit Cambodia. I spent a full day looking around 3 of the most popular temples with some friends and a tour guide. I was fortunate enough to have a day of good weather, especially as the rain had been relentless for the majority of my time in Cambodia.

Angkor Thom

Angkor Thom was our first stop. Our guide said we would leave Angkor Wat until last because then the sun would be behind us making for better photography.

angkor thom AlexExplorestheWorld

 

angkor thom AlexExplorestheWorld

Angkor Thom AlexExplorestheWorld
angkor thom AlexExplorestheWorld

angkor thom AlexExplorestheWorld

 

angkor thom AlexExplorestheWorld

Ta Prohm

Ta Prohm is commonly known as the “Tomb Raider” temple, as it’s most famously featured in the Tomb Raider film starring Angelina Jolie. Ta Prohm has been reclaimed by nature, as evidenced by the many trees sprouting from the ruins. 

ta prohm AlexExplorestheWorld

 

ta prohm AlexExplorestheWorld

ta prohm AlexExplorestheWorld

ta prohm AlexExplorestheWorld

Angkor Wat

Undoubtedly the most famous temple, Angkor Wat. I was amazed by how large the temple was! Whilst it was definitely the busiest in terms of the number of tourists, it certainly didn’t feel too crowded. Because it was low season, there was no queuing to get inside the temple.

angkor wat AlexExplorestheWorld

angkor wat AlexExplorestheWorld

angkor wat AlexExplorestheWorld

Tips

  • If it’s cloudy, there’s no point in doing the sunrise tour. You will not see the sunrise. However, the temperature may be better for viewing temples. It’s up to you.
  • Expect it to be busy. The Temples of Angkor are popular. There will be massive tour groups, even in low season. Be patient. You will get that photo.
  • Food is expensive. Bring snacks or be prepared to pay the hefty prices.
  • Entrance to the Angkor temples is $20 for one day and it’s around $18 to hire a tuk-tuk for the day (this can be split between up to 4 people).

Angkor Wat is definitely one of the highlights of my time in South East Asia. The temples are amazing and I would certainly go back if I had the opportunity (although I’d choose to return in the dry season).

Planning a trip to Cambodia? Check out my Phnom Penh post.

 

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Sick In Sihanoukville

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Parasite. Say the world to any traveller in South East Asia and you’ll get a look of wide-eyed horror. I know, it happens every time I tell this story. When travelling in South East Asia, it’s not uncommon to get a little bit of sickness and/or diarrhoea along the way. Most travellers will experience it when they go to a new country and maybe try some different foods. Some lucky travellers may not experience it at all. But what happens when you get really sick? Unfortunately, I have first-hand knowledge of this, so let me tell you my story…

The Beginning

I was in Kampot when I first started to feel unwell. On Sunday evening I had a couple of stomach cramps but thought they would pass. The following morning the cramps were agonising and I ended up spending the whole day within 5 metres of a toilet. I seriously hoped it would pass and that it was just a 24-hour bug. I was wrong. I’d agreed to meet my friend in Sihanoukville on Tuesday so we could go to Koh Rong together. I took paracetamol and a lot of Imodium and managed to get the 2 hour bus to Sihanoukville.

Sihanoukville

Once I arrived in Sihanoukville I went for a nap. I woke up because the agonising stomach pains had returned. At this point, I hadn’t been vomiting but I also had no appetite. I hoped that by drinking plenty of water I would stay hydrated and the bug would pass through. On Wednesday evening I started throwing up and it was apparent that I wouldn’t be going to Koh Rong the following day.

Seeking out a doctor

By Thursday afternoon, I was unable to keep any fluids down so decided it was time to see a doctor. I used Google to find out which hospital in the area would be best to visit and got in a tuk-tuk. The tuk-tuk driver took me to a dodgy looking surgery and told me that the doctor spoke English. He told me that the hospital I’d asked to go to would make me wait a long time. I told him I didn’t care and that I wanted to go to the hospital I’d originally asked for. I ended up having to shout at him to take me to the hospital which he eventually did.

I got to the CT Clinic and was immediately seen by a nurse who took my temperature and blood pressure. She made notes of all my symptoms then I was seen by a doctor. The doctor said I would be staying overnight as they weren’t sure what was wrong with me.

I was put into a room and put on a saline drip. The staff all spoke English and were very nice. I had some blood taken (turns out they were testing for malaria and dengue) and was told to provide a stool sample (lovely).

A Diagnosis!

On Saturday morning the doctor came to see me and told me that the lab had figured out what was wrong with me – an intestinal parasite! Intestinal amoebiosis to be more precise. I was given two options – take tablets to get rid of it for 7 days, or take one very strong dose and stay in the hospital for an extra day, meaning I’d be better the following day. I opted to take the strong dose. I literally slept all day after I took the tablets.

Going Home!

Well, not home, but leaving the hospital. On Sunday morning I was released after I’d paid my bill. My bill can, fortunately, be claimed back on my travel insurance.

For the next few days, I slept a lot. I think after over a week of barely eating I was exhausted! I was just glad that the stomach cramps had gone because they were truly awful.

Moving Forward

Since being in the hospital I’ve definitely been more fussy about what I eat in South East Asia. For a week after being in the hospital I couldn’t eat any fatty, oily, spicy or raw food. Even now, over a month later, my stomach still doesn’t like any amount of spice, whereas before I could have some spicy foods.

I’m also extra paranoid about eating street food, especially if it’s been sitting out.

I was lucky to be able to get good medical care so my experience of being ill in Cambodia is different to so many other travellers.

What You Need to Know About Intestinal Amoebiosis

This particular parasite is contracted through drinking contaminated water, which in the case of South East Asia, happens to be the tap water. Obviously, I haven’t been drinking tap water in South East Asia, so the most likely way I got it, is from raw vegetables contaminated with the parasite. I’d eaten a couple of salads in Phnom Penh, so this seems the most likely way.

Not everyone that gets the parasite will show symptoms. Some people it might not affect and it can pass through unnoticed. Others may be unwell for a couple of days before it passes through. I was unlucky and it managed to latch on to my intestines. If left untreated, it can burrow through your intestines where it will then infect your liver, causing an abscess. It can eventually be fatal.

 

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