Ayuthaya, the capital city of the kingdom of Thailand between 1350 and 1767 and now a UN World Heritage Site, was our destination yesterday.
We took a hotel shuttle to the Skytrain, and connected to the MRT. We took that to the end of one line and the Hua Lamphong train station. So far so good.
We gathered from helpful employees who proved not to be touts or scammers that we had a choice of what they described as "standing" (could they mean seats not reserved?) and air-conditioned or not. That made our decision easy and we bought reserved tickets for the next air conditioned "special express" train that stops at Ayuthaya.
The train was upwards of a half hour late, but when we climbed on it we found that, although shabby, it was indeed air conditioned. After further delays on our way out of the station, we eventually started to move. The trip was described by one guide book as "scenic." Unfortunately, we could see very little of the countryside through the incredibly filthy windows, other than some flooding that's recently been disastrous in large parts of the country. Along the way, we politely declined the small trays of food and glasses of water offered by a train attendant, and we arrived at Ayuthaya about 45 minutes behind schedule.
We hired a car and driver to take us around to the main sites and found it all quite interesting. You can see some of what we saw (and maybe some sights we didn't see) by clicking the link at the top. We also negotiated to have the driver return us directly to the Conrad in Bangkok at the end of our tour. That 30-minute drive became closer to a two-hour trip after we got caught in a snarl of traffic less than a mile from our hotel. We barely moved for a half hour, as we inched forward sporadically toward an intersection with no traffic lights clogged both by traffic and pedestrians.
We finally made it back to the hotel, learning that there is no one surefire way to travel around Thailand without delay. At this point we don't regret our decision to fly to Phuket and Chiang Mai rather than traveling by train. We'll see how Thai Airways looks after us today as we fly to Phuket.
We're trying another form of transportation to the airport, the quite new Airport Train. Given yesterday's little adventures, Brian at least will argue for an early departure to the airport.