AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Sukhothai to Ayutthaya

In an attempt to get fit we walked the one mile from the hotel (a 2 minute walk from the bridge in Sukhothai) to the bus station with our rucksacks. We are getting used to them now and can walk reasonable distances with the weight on our backs. There are two ways to get to the bus station, walk down the site of the main road which is busy and rather indirect or take the much shorter route down a number of back streets (we only managed this because I had maps and GPS on my phone).

Upon reaching the bus station we bought bus tickets to Phitsanulok. The main train line from north to south is about 40 miles to the east of Sukhothai and goes through Phitsanulok, making it a regional transport hub. There is a regular bus service between Sukhothai and Phitsanulok so booking ahead is not required, simply turn up and ask for the bus.

The bus journey was cheap, less than an hour long and best of all the bus driver wasn’t a psycho (the last bus driver must have been confused between his bus and a race car). All was going well until the bus drove past the bus terminal in Phitsanulok. (The bus did stop on the road opposite the bus terminal but we didn’t realise until it was too late). This was annoying because it’s only a 2km walk from the bus terminal to the train station, another walk we planned to do. I quickly went to ask the driver where we were going, he pointed in front and replied “bus terminal”. I guessed that as we were on a dual carriageway he’d drive down for a bit then do a U-turn and come back to the bus station. But no, we kept on going, further and further away from the city. Eventually the houses and shops were gone and replaced with fields. Then we turned off and pulled into Phitsanulok Terminal 2. Why the hell would anyone build a bus station so far out of town? (If you’re making this journey, ask for bus terminal 1 and be ready to get off the bus once you enter Phitsanulok, it’ll save a lot of time and hassle getting back into town).

We couldn’t walk back to town (we were about 6km from the train station now) so caught a bus back into town. The bus had seen better days, flat out at 20mph it sounded like the engine was going to explode. The speed coupled with the least direct route into town meant the journey took almost an hour. The bus eventually dropped us off a 1 minute walk from the train station.

We bought tickets on the express train to Ayutthaya and then went to get some food. A Tesco Lotus (the Thai branding for Tesco) was almost opposite the station so we bought some snacks then got comfortable in the station. The train was only 30 minutes late on arrival and by the time we reached Ayutthaya we were almost an hour late. Again no schedule meant this was OK, although I wasn’t sure how we started out late and arrived even later as we were on the high speed express train and suffered no delays or problems during the journey. Trains in Thailand just seem unable to keep to the printed schedule.

Arriving in Ayutthaya we walked past the Tuk-tuk drivers and started waking down the road towards the bridge into the city. The bridge looked quite large and high, not a normal bridge but a dual carriageway bridge. We couldn’t see the start or end of it and after a few minutes decided to head back and get a tuk-tuk to the hotel. This was now 2 of 3 walks with the rucksack which had not happened because nothing goes to plan. In the tuk-tuk we found that there is more than one bridge onto the island which contains Ayutthaya, the one we could see was indeed a big busy road, but behind it is a smaller bridge with a ramp, but even better, next to the bridge is a pedestrian bridge meaning we could easily have walked from the train station into the city.

We arrived at the hotel and the owner explained the hotel was full, but we could stay at as place just round the corner for one night. As compensation we could have a free breakfast the following morning. The hotel we were taken to was a youth hostel and although the room had everything we’d paid for (double, air-con, private en-suite) and cost about the same as where we were supposed to stay, it was not pleasant. Flying cockroaches, giant cockroaches, mosquitoes. We put up the mosquito net, more to keep other bugs out rather than just mosquitoes. A crap ending to a day in which almost every plan had failed. We went out to eat at about 9pm and could only find one restaurant still serving (probably many more but we didn’t see any where we were walking). The food was pretty crap and cost the same as normal. The icing on the cake for a crap day.

The next morning we got up and out early and went back to the proper hotel. Breakfast (usually 120 baht) was not great. Two fried eggs and two “hotdog” sausages. Then toast and jam. Glad we didn’t pay for that! Luckily we got the room we expected and it’s fine.

We are only complaining about small things which shouldn’t matter. We spent  120 baht (£2) more than expected and nothing was broken or stolen, so why get annoyed? Well, mainly it’s the lack of information. We make decisions and plan things based on what we know. In Asia as much as possible is kept unknown to ensure you are in the dark during any negotiation. This puts travellers at a serious disadvantage and hands all the power to the local who wants our money. Help (a bus, tuk-tuk, minivan) is always available for a fee, usually about 3-5 times what a Thai person would pay. Prices are never known or written down, this makes everything a negotiation, and often the balance of power is so skewed that we have little power and can haggle the price down just a small amount. I hate that feeling, not knowing everything I need to make an informed decision and that is why I felt bad at the end of the day.

Posted from Phitsanulok, Phitsanulok, Thailand.

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