Saturday, 23 July 2011

Our first taste of Thailand

Well, folks, we are here in Thailand!  It was a bit of an adventure getting here; we first took a bus from Georgetown to the airport, then flew into Bangkok.  We took the brand new speed train from the airport to downtown, then hopped on a subway to the train station to catch a train for Ayutthaya.  After Greg tried to book us tickets for Chaing Mai by accident (he was tired and not thinking straight) we got tickets for the correct train and hopped on.  The train was a bit ramshackle and it took us 2 hours instead of the usual 90 minutes to get there.  We decided to save a couple of bucks and walk to the guesthouse rather than take a tuk-tuk.  The first part of this journey required us to take a ferry, since Ayutthaya is an island city surrounded by 3 rivers which make a natural moat, and it was the capital city for the region in ancient times.  UNESCO has designated it a world heritage site due to the large number of ruins still standing.  The place was pretty crazy - everywhere you looked there was a different ancient temple.

Arriving at the guest house, we were immediately in love.  The people were very kind and helpful, and we had a giant room with a mini fridge, cable tv, wifi, hot water shower, and kettle, which we immediately used to prepare some ramen noodles for a late dinner.  The next morning we enjoyed an amazing free breakfast (crepes, fresh fruit, coffee, orange juice and yogurt for me, bacon, eggs and toast for Greg) and then rented some bikes to explore town.  The first stop was the train station to book tickets for the overnight train to Chaing Mai.  We then peddled out to the elephant kraal, where we saw lots of elephants, including babies!!  These elephants have been rescued from all sorts of different situations.  Some were used as logging elephants, some in tourism, and some were given up because the owners just couldn't afford to feed them anymore (elephants eat A LOT).  They had 4 baby elephants: two were about 9 months old and absolutely cheeky little gals, and two were only 5 months old and slept the whole time we were there.  We bought a basked of cucumbers to feed to the babies, and there was a mini-stampede as they tried to get their trunks on our food.  They would wrap their trunks around my arms and pull them to their mouths, looking for food.  They were amazingly strong and persistent!  It was a pretty amazing experience.

Baby elephant!  Can you see the look of sheer glee on my face??

Mama elephant.  She let us rub her ears and trunk.

OMG, baby elephant IN A BUCKET!

Greg feeding cucumbers to the babies.  

Bull elephants posing for us.  They used their trunks to demand money from us, which we gladly parted with.  Such strong, gentle creatures.

Moving onward (which was difficult), we went to a large temple to take in some of the ruins.  We got to climb this temple, and get a view of the region.

Tall temple.

Biking past the ruins.

Exhausted from the biking and the heat, we returned to the guest house and relaxed before heading out to the night market for food!  I would just like to say that the food in Thailand has been AMAZING so far.  Every meal we've had has been absolutely delicious.  That first night I got seafood Tom Yum, which was a very spicy soup with fish, squid, clams, mussels and some other delicious, indiscernible lumps of seafood.  It was rather too spicy for me, but so incredible that I ended up eating quite a bit of it.  Greg helped me out, much to his glee.  We capped off that evening with a boat tour around the island to see the temples illuminated at night.  It was beautiful, but we didn't see as many temples as we'd hoped.  Oh, I should add that the amazing people at the guesthouse gave us this tour for FREE because they are amazing.  They give a free boat tour to any guest who stays a minimum of 3 nights.

The next day we rented bikes again but stayed on the island to do the big temple tour.  We explored 2 temple sites in detail, and then just rode past and admired others.

Famous and frequently photographed Buddha head in a tree

Long row of crumbling Buddha statues

Taking a break in the shade.

More temples!

Piles of fruit (I think?) found at a market.  No durian in this picture!

The heat was getting to us quite a bit so we cut the temple tour a bit short, and found some amazing red curry soup for lunch.  It was exquisite - we got a giant bowl and split it, and it was hands down the best red curry I've ever had.

Red curry!!!

Later that night we went to the night market for another snack, and Greg finally got the BBQ'd meat on a stick he'd been craving.  I got a banana waffle (amazing!) and then we made a monumental decision: eat durian.  We felt it was something we had to try since it is so prevalent in Asia, and very much talked about as well.  I knew that most people find it to taste disgusting, and I expected that I would dislike it.  Everywhere we've been in Asia we've smelled the evil durian.. on buses, in trains, on the street, in the markets.... it's everywhere.  And it smells like a giant pile of rotting fruit.  Sickly sweet, but rotting.  We bought the smallest amount of durian we could find, and then took it away from the street market since I didn't want to be responsible for ruining anyone's dinner with the stench of durian.  We cracked it open and surprisingly it really didn't smell that much (is it just the peel that stinks??)  I picked up a lump and the first revolting thing I noticed was its creaminess.  It was heavy, and white and CREAMY.  Gag.  Against my better judgement, I put a lump in my mouth and immediately recoiled in horror.  There was no way I could possible swallow that festering lump of fruit.  I spat it out, but the taste lingered.  It was as though a fish had died a week ago and was slowly decomposing in my mouth, along with a slight sweet flavour and the aroma of burning garbage.  WOW.  I was in utter shock that something could taste that bad.  Greg was a bit flabbergasted at my reaction, since he had a few bites of it and really didn't think it was that terrible.  Although he did think it was too sweet (I have no idea where he got that from - it really didn't taste that sweet to me).  We then got a plate of rice and stir fried vegetables to wash the taste of durian out of our mouths, and headed back to the guest house.

On our final day in Ayutthaya, we decided to just take it easy and relax around the guest house until it was time to hop on the train.  We sadly bid farewell to the amazing people at the Prom Tong mansion and I highly recommend that if any of you find yourselves in Ayutthaya in the near future, you must stay at the Prom Tong Mansion.


  1. I understand your disgust for the durian. I couldn't get the taste out of my mouth even after eating something else! Dan, however, quite enjoys it and didn't really understand why I was so disgusted with it. I actually know another couple too who traveled in Asia and the woman thought it was disgusting but her boyfriend seemed to like it!

  2. BABY FREAKING ELEPHANTS. I've been jealous of your trip for a while, but I just went splodey.

    I'm glad you tried durian. I've heard different reports of it's acquired tastiness (or not) from different friend in the area. It's interesting that there's such variance.

  3. Hanna, I saw on your blog that Dan enjoys durian. That is so incomprehensible to me.
    Jocelyn, OMG, we are in elephant heaven here at the Elephant Nature Park. We spent the morning washing and preparing fruit snacks for the elephants. Tomorrow we scoop poop! I will write a giant post on it later on, but it's incredible. INCREDIBLE! I never want to leave. Oh, and there are 91 dogs here too and some kitties. There is a bonafide Kitler here. He makes Squirt look like a snuggly little teddy bear. He has a perfect Kitler 'stache and hairdo, and he is also responsible for the deaths of many small animals (this morning it was a poor little frog).

  4. Sounds incredible!...I think that is my standard comment.

    Sarah just visited me in Winnipeg for a few days on route to Toronto for good. It was super fun but sad we were reminiscing a lot!

  5. Hi guys. (I'm Greg's cousin, Lisa.)

    Glad you are having such a "follow the wind" kind of adventure. I was happy to finally see some turtle pictures in the last post after all the talk of sea turtles!

    I also love elephants, so I can empathize with your love of the sanctuary. There are a lot of GREAT photos in this post.

    Keep hikin'!
    - Lisa.