Ayutthaya, the city of temples

Must have book when visiting Ayutthaya.

Ancient Ayutthaya was the most famous and glorious city in the 1700s. With over 400 temples and 3 golden laden palaces, it was also the largest city in the world. One million people called it home, and traders from all over the world came to the ports of Ayutthaya.

After the fall of the city in 1767, the glorious city has never recovered from the destruction the Burmese army inflicted upon it. Today, a fraction of those spell bounding temples of old has been recovered, and do they impress.

Many people visit Ayutthaya as a day outing from Bangkok, and it is such a shame. For this city has so much to offer, not only in temples and a palalace, but also in history and culture. Not to mention mission out on seeing the Biggest Gautama Buddham image in the world, located only a short drive from Ayutthaya.

How to get to Ayutthaya cheaply.

From Bangkok, you can take a train to Ayutthaya. First class tickets are in the reign of 200 to 300 Baht and third class tickets are around 20 to 50 Baht. However, you will need to take a Tuk Tuk to the train station in Bangkok, and then again from the train station in Ayutthaya to the city.

A cheaper option is to take a minivan from the Freedom Monument in Bangkok directly to the center of Ayutthaya. You can take the BTS train from all over the city in Bangkok directly to the Freedom Monument, and also from the airport. A train ride from the airport is 45 Baht, and in the city is 15 Baht from one station to the next, however, you can get a day pass for 130 Baht that allows you to get on and off as you like, and explore the city.

  The freedom monument in Bangkok

At the freedom Monument, go to the shopping area under the bridge, and ask for a minivan to Ayutthaya. In June 2015 when I used the service, the buses departed from the last taxi stand (closest to the monument) and was 60 Baht per person. I had three large backpacks, and bought a second seat for my bags. The bus dropped me off at the taxi step in Ayutthaya.

   Shopping area and taxi pick-up point for minivan to Ayutthaya.

Explore Ayutthaya, and see the famous Buddha head in the tree.


Laos & Thailand. Day 1

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For details of the places I visited in Vientiane and Bangkok, with GPS Coordinates, see my books Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions and Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions.

Wow, time flies. Been over a year already in Cambodia. I read that Laos is cheaper to live in than Cambodia, as well as easier to extend your visa. I am currently on a work visa that is valid for one year, and expires in a month.

Cambodia immigration law allow you to be on a work or business visa for the first year without having a work permit as you are essentially looking for work. However, to extend my work visa, I will have to get a work permit. The permit itself is $100 a year, but you have to pay back fees for your previous years. That coupled with that I do not work for a company, means I will need to pay additional fees to “brokers”. Basically people that set up a front company and then say you work for them. Or I can form my own company, at some cost, in addition to the work permit fees and other “admin” fees.  But then I would need to pay tax.

Considering that I am already paying 30% tax to the USA government and I do not even live there, I am not keen on the tax thing.

So, if Laos is cheaper or the same price as Cambodia, I may move there as their visa is easy. $2 a day and that is it. Cambodia has also upped their visa fees. It used to be $20 a month for a tourist visa, but is now $30, however, they add processing fees of $7 on top of that, plus if you renew you have to pay additional admin fees, that comes to $48 a month. They did leave the year business visa for now at $285 a year, but with the added work permit fees and hassle of setting up a company or paying someone to give me a work letter, it works out closely the same if i do a business visa for the year, or go with a month to month tourist visa. I am also not keen on committing another year in Cambodia.

With a tourist visa, i will have to do border runs every 3 months, but it is not so bad.  I decided to bite the bullet and head to Vientiane (capital of Laos) to check it out. Last time I spoke to the travel agent and asked if he has buses to Vientiane, he said “Laos no problem, bus $22.” So I recon for $100 or so, I can be in and out in a few days and see if it is feasible to live in Laos, before i pack up and go there. Unfortunately, I forgot the golden rule in South East Asia, and that is that you are in South East Asia.

So with my mind made up, and my spirit high, I head to the travel agent I have used a few times before. I sit down and with a smile say, “a ticket to Vientiane.” His response is glistening eyes as he starts writing the bus ticket, then he stops and asks, “mini van or large bus?”

“What’s the difference in price?” “Only $2, worth it,” he goes. Shrugging my shoulder I agree. Might as well travel in a smaller van. Less people to persuade when you want the driver to stop for a restroom break (tree alongside the road).

$48 he goes, holding the ticket out to me. “It’s return right?” I ask as I take the ticket. “No, one way Vientiane,” he laughs. I am taken back a bit as this adds about $50 to the trip i did not recon in. “But you said around $22 a few days ago when I asked you.”  “Yes yes, Laos $22,” he goes.

So if you say you want to go to Vientiane and they respond with a price and say Laos the country and not the town you want to go to, they mean they can get you into the country for that price. “Where does the bus go for $22?”  “Oh, 4000 islands.” He smiles.  I drop my shoulders, 4000 islands is just across the Laos border, about 900km from Vientiane. Biting my lip, I pay the $48 for my “though bus” to Vientiane, having no idea what adventure would await me. Before i leave, i ask. “How long is the bus ride.” “24 hours” he goes. That was technically sort of correct i would later find out.

I go home and pack light as normal, my bus is to leave at 6:30 am, so i will be picked up at 6, thus i have to get up at 4:30 to get ready and walk to the pickup point. Had i stayed in a hotel they would have come to pick me up, lucky me.

Note: The first day of actual travel is a long day and post, so i split this section into its own post.