Bangkok-Ajuthaya-Surin-Chiang Mai
November 1984
Part I - Bangkok-Ajuthaya-Surin

If you want to skip directly to the other part, then just hit
Part II  - Chiang Mai


This is an abridged description of a trip to Thailand in November 1984. The intention is to give a firsthand personal experience of how I did get to and through the country. Despite the fact that I did not book anything in advance at all it was no problem getting any means of transport or accommodation on the same day. I only did some kind of pre-planning in so far that I wanted to be back in Bangkok at least one day before my return flight to Germany

At the time of writing all this, more than 24 years have passed. But actually cultures and customs have not changed that much but everything else. Also, I did state neither accommodations with rates nor restaurants with prices (with few exceptions) after so many years.


Why starting with Bangsaen and not Bangkok? Because I went by bus directly to this unknown place as soon as I arrived in Bangkok. The reason was that I already met an Italian guy at the airport in Amsterdam (because I flew KLM) who wanted to meet his girlfriend in Bangsaen and he raved about the nice beach there. Since it was early Sunday and the banks and travel agencies were closed anyway, and this place was closer to Bangkok than Pattaya, so I decided to get some rest after the long flight and stay in a beach resort (for around 17 DM). Ok, there was a nice beach and good restaurants and in the evening I could watch a Thai wedding in the same resort.

Remark: The photos on the right side may not be correctly adjusted if you use Mozilla Firefox or Chrome. I propose to use the Explorer of Microsoft instead.

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My first overnight stay My Italian companion
Beach life Water sports
Altars everywhere Too many weddings
Bangsaen was more the place for the Thais in contrast to Pattaya with its international clientele. Next morning I did get a lift back to Bangkok on a truck with a group of young Thais I met on the beach the day before. The Italian guy wanted to stay and still wait for his girlfriend, who didn't turn up yet (he saw her last a year ago).


Back in Bangkok I checked into an old and cheap Chinese hotel (room rate was around 5 DM) right at the side of the Hualamphong railway station. Banglamphu with the Khao San Road would have been a better place (ok, at the end of this trip), but railway stations with its bustling life in and around always excites me (reminiscence of my past). It also was close to China Town and the Chaophraya River where I wanted to watch the Light Festival (later on). And it was convenient to get on the train to Ayuthaya (comes later).
My hotel room Night market
However, my first Bangkok round trip did take me to the Khao San Road area where I booked the flight to Rangoon in one of the cheap fare travel agencies. They could get the ticket for me the next day but the payment they wanted right away. I told them: money against ticket only (you always have to be careful: Bangkok was a scam city). In order to get it my way I had to ride on a backseat of a motorbike with the delivery boy half way through Bangkok to get to the airline ticket office. It was the most scary ride in my life and I prayed and thanked Buddha that I survived.
Precious altar Golden stupa
Since my flight to Rangoon was in three days I had plenty of time to visit some sights (even if I had visited them several times before). First was, of course, the most important one: the Wat Phra Keo and the Grand Palace. You can read about the whole complex in any guidebook. Let just the pictures pass before your eyes to give you an impression ...
The Royal Temple: Wat Phra Keo Demons guarding the entrance
Golden statues Miniature temple
Beauitiful landscape Holy shrine
Angkor Wat miniature Temple interior
Temple here Temple there
... an impression of the beauty and wealth from the old days to nowadays, even if the king is not living in this old Royal Palace anymore. It's more or less like a museum (with some events from time to time).
Old kings palace Where is the king?
Are the "generals" waiting for the king? He didn't arrive at the elephant station yet?
For the Princess birthday celebration? Monks having lunch before meditation
There is also a real museum housed in another building not far away from the palace, which is very interesting and worth the visit.
King's golden carriage Old king's weapons
Also a must is taking a regular speedboat roaring down the klonks with full speed passing living quarters built on stilts along the waterfront and visiting other temples and monasteries.
Speedboat Temple
Holy monks Working monks
And then a special event I happened just to attend. At the first full moon in November the annual light festival took place. It was a beautiful event watching the people creating flower bouquets and finally letting them with a lit candle slowly down to the river and having them float along with the stream accompanied with wishes for a good future.
Binding flowers for the Light Festival
Everybody is busy Even helpful the police
Children are happy Going to the river
To let the flowers down to float in the river
The whole celebration has to be bright because it is called the festival of light. And it is more impressive during the night in the faint light of the moon. I easily could find my way back 'home" from Chinatown through the bright streets to Hualamphong.
Also many fireworks were burned and many temples were illuminated


Next day I went by train from the Hualamphong station to Ayuthaya on my last day before flying to Rangoon (see Burma November 1984). After 86 km and 1, 5 hours (for less than 1 DM) I reached the old capital (till 1767 when it was sacked by the Burmese and the king moved to Bangkok thereafter). I took a tuk-tuk for the whole day to visit all the interesting places.
Temples here Temples there
Temples everywhere Same with stupas
I was in my element strolling around and in between all the old temples and palaces trying to feel like a European diplomat assigned to the capital of Siam back in the first half of the eighteenth century before it was destroyed.
Palace in ruins once so great
Temple wall supported Buddha statue restored
How could the Burmese also destroy most of the Buddhas (or was it collateral damage?), since they also strongly believe in him. But if they would have believed in him, why did they fight a war in the first place. Buddhism is actually the most peaceful religion (not like the wars fought in the name of god of other religions). There will be no answer. Look at the discrepancy between the rulers and the ones being ruled even within the same people as is the case in contemporary Burma.
Reclining Buddha Close-up Buddha
The reclining Buddha might have been too big to be destroyed by the Burmese or this beautiful piece may have really been spared from destruction. What happened to the other Buddha? Is the banyan tree trying to protect it from future demolition, but then it should have it completely covered.
Buddha embraced but not covered by the hanging roots of a banyan tree
So many stupas are still around. They are also called chedies and are either standing alone in the field or were part of a temple. Not much restoration has been done to some of these structures. But they give a better antique impression as long as they don't collapse.
Old white stupa Old overgrown stupa
Tall old stupa Tip of old stupa
Ayuthaya today isn't only an archeological site, partially restored, but also with a new city built around in the following centuries after it was destroyed. Many new temples have been built again with modern Buddhas around and inside.
Many new temples have been erected Paid from donations nuns have collected
Everybody worships Buddha's elevation including the young generation
Children admiring the past and time really goes by fast
They also want to have some fun And have some lunch on the run
Food is provided for all day Ayuthaya, now I say good bye
Ok, that was Ayuthaya. Next day I flew to Burma also trying to find a clue why the Burmese have destroyed Ayuthaya. Maybe I will not get the answer from the Junta but maybe from locals in the street.


Ok, during the seven days in Burma I didn't get any answer why the Burmese destroyed Ayuthaya. After coming back to Thailand, I only stayed one night in Bangkok in the middle class Boston Inn. Next day I took the night bus (the trains were fully booked) to Surin, around 500km to the northeast, just in time for the elephant round-up, which takes place once a year in November. Upon arrival I was already greeted by the elephant taxies in front of the railway station, where also our bus trip ended.
Hello, elephant taxi They have right of way
The whole city was invaded by elephants. They also were used for public transport. I didn't hear of any accident. Though, you still have to be careful not to be trampled upon, also not to step into a pile of elephant shit.
Heavy traffic of heavy elephants
So if you want to go from A to B you had to climb an elephant stand and wait for the next elephant coming alongside. Ok, it sounds as if this is the kind of transport here the whole year. But this service is only provided during the festival. The fuel for the elephant may cost more than the gas for the car. And the gas of the elephants may also contribute to pollution. Rather use the pedi-cabs again which seemed to be almost out of business right now because of the strong competition.
Always use guarded zebras Wait high on the elephant stand
The main attraction is still the elephant round-up, which is being staged in the field. It's not a real round-up of wild elephants but just a demonstration of it.
Mahouts demonstrate taming elephants Elephant Formula One race pole position
And then a whole circus starts with everything the elephants can do: racing, playing soccer and rope pulling competition ...
Elephants ready for a soccer match Elephant score still nil to nil
Who is stronger pulling the rope? One hundred men or one elephant ?
The most interesting spectacle was the formation of the elephant army going to war. Was that the kind of fighting against the Burmese? Who may have had the elephants deployed in a similar way but probably outnumbered the Thai (or Siamese at that time).
Elephant and warrior are stronger together with all the weapons anyway
Are they ready for the attack? My king is still way back
Here he comes with his body guards
Followed by foot soldiers with swords Back to base. Battle finished. But who won?
After the elephants went to sleep, the night market and the party started on a huge fairground with all the reeling and rocking attractions, with wheels of fortune and other gambling gadgets, with stage performers and show girls, etc.
Nightlife starting with the girls
Next day I had to hit the road again to get back to Bangkok to get may train to Chiang Mai.

And now hit
Part II  - Chiang Mai
to take a look at the second part of my Thailand trip.

© WEW Tours