“Today I would like you to try something different. On the boat today we have appetizer – special appetizer. Do you know durian? We have a saying in Thailand, ‘durian tastes like heaven, but smells like hell.’
It’s not durian.
The appetizer today is fried grasshopper. We say, ‘Smells like fart, tastes like shit.’”
I wish more tours would start like this.
This is the Ayutthaya to Bangkok tour with Grand Pearl Cruise from GetYourGuide.com and from the outset, I know it’s going to be good. Even if I have seen most of the sights already while renting a bike in Ayutthaya a few months before, I just want to listen to what more this guy has to say.
Our court-jester/guide named First (because he was the first-born of course) does not disappoint.
“No appetizer,” he continues, “then no meal.”
Throughout the bus ride from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, First delivers first-rate commentary on what we are going to see, and peppers the conversation with humorous anecdotes like this:
“I had a cobra when I was a kid. I didn’t want to eat it, but my Dad said that cobra makes you handsome. Thanks to eating as much of it as I could get my hands on, you are blessed with this handsome man you see before you today.”
He’s a charmer to be sure.
Our first stop is the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, also known as the Summer Palace (pictured above). We are the first tour group to arrive so pretty much have the place to ourselves for an hour. Although the main palace was destroyed by the Burmese in the 1700s during the fall of Ayutthaya, its replacement and the surrounding buildings are still quite beautiful. The well-manicured gardens and serene ponds add a touch of tranquility to the mix.
Our next stop is Wat Phra Maha Trat – site of one of the most photographed icons in all of Thailand – the Buddha head engulfed in the roots of a banyan tree.
From there it’s a short ride to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, site of the original Royal Palace until the Burmese trashed the place.
Some areas are cordoned off in Wat Phra Sri Sanphet due to structural instability caused by the recent floods in Thailand.
The whitened bricks below show the water damage from the flooding in Ayutthaya.
After the palace there was time for folks who wanted to engage in some elephant antics. Although I have some mixed feelings about elephant camps in Thailand (think chains, beatings, torture) the elephants at the Royal Elephant Kraal and Village in Ayutthaya seem to be well-treated, at least according to reviews I found online.
Did you know that some of the elephants from the Royal Elephant Kraal were called in to help find survivors of the devastating tsunami of 2006? Neither did I. But our guide First did.
From the elephant camp we are transported to the boat. I was expecting a small affair with just the folks from our group, but the boat was massive — and luxurious. We spend the next two hours leisurely navigating the Chao Phraya River on our way to Bangkok.
But not before we get our grub. I’m usually not a fan of buffets (it’s one step away from soup kitchen if you ask me), but this one was huge, tasty, and dessert-heavy.
So what’s the verdict? Even though I had seen most of Ayutthaya previously, First’s commentary added plenty of info I had no idea about. And his humorous nature pepped up what could have been a very mediocre tour.
I’ll leave you with what one last anecdote from First on expectations.
“Give more. Expect less. Give without expectations.This is the Buddhist way. Much like the way I give my love to one girl. I expect nothing in return. And actually, I get nothing in return. I think you may know that girl. Her name? Shania Twain. She don’t even know I love her.
You see, this is the Buddhist way. We expect nothing in return.”
I wish more tour guides were as good as First.
Note: While this tour was provided compliments of GetYourGuide.com, the views are strictly my own.