Monday, September 17


Buddha Statue(s), so many to choose from

Whomever did the transliteration of the Thai language had absolutely no command of the English language.  For example, how do you think you pronounce "Ayutthaya?"  In Thai, it's pronounced, "Ah-you-tee-ah."  When you read the word "Ayutthaya," do you hear that sound in your head?  The sound my head hears is, "A-yut-thay-a."  We decided to go to Ayutthaya, a city in northern Thailand, and not surprisingly, we had a very difficult time communicating our intended destination.
Ayutthaya has the same type of ruins found in Cambodia at Angkor Wat.  I know nothing about Angkor Wat, other than that it is an important ruin, and Angelina Jolie made Tomb Raider there.  I decided that if Ayutthaya has important, Tomb Raider ruins, then obviously, we needed to go.  I made that decision about one hour before we left.  Consequently, we didn't do much planning.  
We arrived at the train station only to find that all of the trains going to Ayutthaya for the rest of the day were second or third class trains only.  It wasn't just that there were no first class seats available, there were no first class trains - at all - the whole rest of the day.  Tim and I immediately agreed that we should skip the train and take a taxi.  The kids were crushed, they were so excited to take the train.  I gestured to all of the passengers waiting for trains and said, "Katrina, if we sit in second class, we will have to sit right next to all of these people."  Considering every country in the United Nations was well represented in the train station, I thought my point was blatantly clear.  Katrina said "So what?"  I said, "Katrina, honey, I did this after college.  I carried a backpack and took 2nd class trains and I thought it was cool.  Now, I'm older, and I don't think it's cool anymore, I just think it smells bad.  When you are over 21, you can ride any train you want."  Katrina said, "Mom, you don't have to act 42, just because you are 42, you can still be as young as college people."  I said, "You are making a very compelling point, nevertheless, I don't want to sit in between the smell of curry, red chili, durian and tamarind.  Also, I believe in the importance of bathing, and regular hygiene, and some of the people here adhere to a different code of cleanliness."  I thought my speech tied up any loose ends regarding the train versus taxi discussion.

Both kids vehemently disagreed with me and complained bitterly.  Katrina pulled out her trump card, "I'll get car sick" and flat out refused to get in a taxi.  Tim agreed with me and he went to negotiate with a taxi driver.  I took the kids into the train station convenience store.  First, a man walked in with a ski mask on.  It covered his entire face so that only his eyes were visible.  I grabbed both kids and recoiled in fear.  Maybe he was going to pull out a gun and rob the store, or perhaps he was a terrorist?  He wandered over to the drinks, got an orange Fanta soda, then he walked by and said something to us.  Then, he paid and left - in a ski mask - in 90 degree heat.  Next, a man that looked exactly like a Thai version of an Oompaloompa came up and started talking to Timmy and patting Timmy's cheek.  This is a perfect example of why I didn't want to buy a ticket on a third class train.

The most memorable part of our trip to Ayutthaya, a world heritage and UNESCO site, was the one hour taxi ride.  It should have taken over an hour, maybe even two hours, but we took the expressway and I think there must not be a speed limit.  Or maybe the taxi had a jet engine.  I sat in the back, with the kids, without seat belts, while Tim sat in the front, gripping his seat.  We sped past the other cars, sometimes in a lane, sometimes not.  Timmy loved it and said he felt like he was on a roller coaster.  I felt like I was on a roller coaster too, but not the fun roller coaster that Timmy was on.  I felt like I was on a wooden roller coaster, that was built in 1903, with faulty brakes and no seat belts.  I was distracting the kids with an a capella performance of the musical, "The Sound of Music."  I knew Tim was genuinely concerned because he never tried to stop me from singing.  My favorite part of the taxi ride was when we stopped to get gas, and drove up the highway exit ramp, the wrong way, into oncoming traffic. 

When we arrived at Wat Monkhol, in Ayutthaya, Tim hugged us all and quietly said he was grateful that we were all OK.  Then, he paid the taxi driver and told him he could go back to Bangkok.  The driver spoke almost no English and I'm sure he was thoroughly confused and wondered how we would get back.
Possibly Wat Monkhol, I'm not 100% on that, could be a monastery
When we got there Timmy asked, "Are we in Thailand?"  I don't know how many times I will have to explain to him that we are in Thailand, all the time, every day, all day long, even when we sleep.

I explained to the kids that Ayutthaya was once the capital of Thailand.  Now, all that is left, is ancient ruins of the great palace, monasteries and Buddhist temples.  I had done almost four minutes of research on Ayutthaya and that's three minutes more than Tim had done.  When we arrived, we had no idea what we were looking at, and I don't read Thai.  Timmy's questions are unavoidable so I had no choice but to fill in the historical blanks.  Since I really don't know Thai history, there were a lot of blanks to fill.  My version of Ayutthaya's history, heritage and landmarks is fascinating.  I told Timmy that the movie "Indiana Jones" was based on Ayutthaya.  I also told him that there was treasure buried in the temples/shrines/palaces (slightly true) and that although much of the treasure was stolen by Burmese thieves, there was still treasure hidden within the ruins.  I threw in a Burmese King, some monks, elephants and the Emerald Buddha; it was a very interesting tour of the Ayutthaya Wats.
In Thailand, it is very important that you never point at an image of the Buddha, or show the bottom of your feet to the Buddha and you must always be lower than the Buddha's head.  As we approached the first statue, Timmy pointed to the Buddha and said, "Is that the statue we're not supposed to point to?" 
What's it made of?
During the Burma/Siam wars, the Burmese army came in to Ayutthaya on elephants, (true) and destroyed many Buddha statues in the monasteries.  The head from one of the statues, fell to the bottom of a tree and is now encased in the roots.  Timmy and Katrina remembered that we needed to stay below the Buddha's head and insisted that we squat down, in front of the Buddha head encased in the roots.  When the other tourists didn't also squat down on the ground, Katrina loudly said, "They are being very rude and very disrepectful, they are too high!  They have to get down!  I'm going to tell them."  I had to physically restrain her from repreimanding the other tourists.
Stuck in a Jam
The only safe option home was the train - the same train that had no first class seats.  We took a taxi to the train station and bought second class seats.  As we waited, it just so happened that a Buddhist monk sat on the bench next to us.  This wouldn't have been a big deal, except that I had included the Buddhist monks in my version of Ayutthaya history.  This monk had glasses, shoes, a wallet, money and an iphone.  In my version, the monks didn't have anything but the orange outfit and the rope belt, no shoes and definitely no money.  I could see the questions bubbling behind Timmy's eyes.  He pointed at the monk and said, "Is he going on the train?  Is he allowed to do that?  How is he going to do that?  How is he going to buy a ticket?  Where did he get the money?  Does he have underwear on?  Where does he keep his wallet?  Does he have pockets in there?  Why does he need glasses?  Where did he get the glasses?  Did someone give him the glasses?  Why is he wearing socks if he has on flip flops?  To be fair, I had many of the same questions, beginning with the underwear.
When we got on the train, the monk sat directly behind Timmy.  ooops
The train wasn't that bad.  It took forever and stopped in random places for a long time for no apparent reason. 
When we got off the train Timmy asked "Are we in Thailand now?"
Monastery where treasure is buried


  1. Virginia, I miss your wit. Be safe and come home soon. -

  2. I like Timmy's questions. Are there any answers? Virginia, you are a wonderful Mommie. You take your children to wonderful places, expose them to world cultures, and make up fairy tales on the spot. Have fun and please send me a telephone number. I cannot tell if you are getting emails. Love, Mom