Cruising from Ayutthaya to Bangkok with @GetYourGuide

Posted by - March 22, 2012 | Category: Asia, Escapes, Thailand

 

Bang-Pa-In-Palace-Ayutthaya-Thailand“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.

Sages' Lookout, Ho Withun Thasana Ayutthaya,Thailand

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.”

Topiary elephants, Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, Ayutthaya, Thailand

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.

Bang Pa-In Royal Palace as seen from tower, Ayutthaya, Thailand

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.

Ayutthaya, Thailand

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.

Buddha with golden robe, Wat Phra Maha That, Ayutthaya, Thailand

From there it’s a short ride to Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, site of the original Royal Palace until the Burmese trashed the place.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Some areas are cordoned off in Wat Phra Sri Sanphet due to structural instability caused by the recent floods in Thailand.

Ayutthaya Thailand flood damage and warning sign

The whitened bricks below show the water damage from the flooding in Ayutthaya.

Flood damage at Wat Phra Sri Sanpet Ayutthaya, Thailand

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.

Elephants at Royal Elephant Kraal & Village, Ayutthaya, Thailand

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.

GetYourGuide Ayutthaya to Bangkok River Tour

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.

GetYourGuide.com Black Pearl White Orchid River Cruise Food Buffet -- Ayutthaya to Bangkok, Thailand

After about 2 hours we start to make our way into Bangkok, and get pretty stellar views of both Wat Arun and the Grand Palace.

Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun, Bangkok, Thailand

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.

Tour Guide First, Grand Pearl River Cruise, GetYourGuide.com, Bangkok, Thailand

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.

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33 comments - add one
    1. I’m usually not a fan of tours either — I like to explore on my own. But sometimes the info you get from the tour guide, especially local ones like First, just make it all the worthwhile.

      1. I agree a guide can add a lot to a travel experience – I’ve got a guide in Nepal not because I needed showing the way but as a way to get to talk to a local person and understand more of the culture. When I was in Nepal my sherpa’s name was Lhakpa, which means Tuesday in Nepali – same idea as your First. I guess when you have loads of kids you don’t feel inspired to think of original names 🙂

  1. I’m going to Bangkok later this year and this post got me all excited! Love the tradition of naming children First, Second, Third and so on in some countries in Asia. Great post!

  2. OMG Raymond – please tell me you didn’t get on that bus in the elephant photo. Dear “First” may well be entertaining, but sorry – that bus looks like a TBFH (Tour-Bus-From-Hell) ;(

  3. Sounds like a cool tour. I just took a day trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Had to stand on the train because they didn’t have reserved seats for the short trip.

  4. Oh man, First has made me laugh! Sp about Shania Twain. So funny, she’s one of my favorite artists and actually learned much of my English thanks to her songs. Haha, what a fun story this was to read 😀

    I can’t wait to hot Thailand! Might try and book a tour with First haha 😀

  5. I don’t think tours are completely bad since I don’t always find it fun and easy to explore things on my own. Sometimes a tour is a breath of fresh air. Especially in places where lone travel is difficult. Looks like they fed you well, too – that’s always a pleasant bonus.

  6. Fantastic! Ayutthaya was actually the first place I EVER went to (outside my own country, as red-shirt protests were happening in Bangkok at the time – I caught the first train outta there.) Your photos are beaut. Nothing beats a Thai guide with attitude!

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