Leaving Bangkok we went to see the Summer Palace. It was a large compound with grassy knolls, European statues, topiaries, gardens, a temple in the middle of a lake, and of course, the palace. It was still really hot but there was a nice breeze and seemed like a lovely place to spend the summer, away from the craziness that is Bangkok.
The group!(This was a building donated to the king by the Chinese.)
We left there to travel along to Ayutthaya. The city was originally built in 1350 and was the capital of Siam. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 1700s and abandoned to be taken over by the jungle. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, for good reason. In the ruins of on temple they found a Buddha head that was encased in the roots of a tree.
On our way to Sukhothai we stopped by the Crystal Palace. It used to be a very small monastery in the countryside until a monk there invented Tiger Balm. So many people came after that and donated money that they built more and larger buildings and decorated the main building like this…completely covered in small diamond mirrored tiles. It was amazing to walk into. A large golden Buddha was at one end and the other end had a statue of the Tiger Balm monk that held his ashes.
We took a very enjoyable lunchtime river cruise to see the floating houses and eat strange fruits. The houses were simple one room shacks floating on the river where they would fish and farm. I loved seeing how people still planted flowers and food anywhere they could. People still had dogs and small outhouses (bathrooms are called the Happy Room) and seemed very content. The weather was beautiful with a slight breeze.
From there we continued to Sukhothai. We stayed in a cute hotel where the rooms were more like upscale bungalows and I met the first person of questionable gender on the trip. We saw many more beautiful ruins there, also a UNESCO site.