Ended up heading back to Bangkok earlier this month.
- Figured I'd post a handful of pics, below (even if they were phone pics - I didn't drag my camera/lenses along, and, of course, subsequently regretted it - such is life).
- No Marriott stay (although the very nice hotel they put us up in wasn't far from the Renaissance)....
- Enjoyed the long trip to Bangkok (14 hour flight from IAD to Beijing, then 4.5 hours on to Bangkok) and back via Air China (and enjoyed their business class cabins, seats, service, and food). Bags were delayed (with suits/work clothes), but arrived before it became a crisis.
- Anyway, after 4+ days of never leaving the hotel complex, we crammed in a little tourism - and we touched all the bases, not just planes, trains, and automobiles, but also water craft, bicycles, elephant, and, yup, ox cart....
- I'm NOT necessarily recommending any of these as "first trip" experiences, but we've been a few times... My favorite day trip is probably out to the Bridge Over the River Kwai (of movie and French novel fame - yes, it's fiction, but the railway and the carnage were all too real) and the cemetery and the (nicely curated small) war memorial musuem....
Not too far from Bangkok, Wat (Temple) Chaiwatthanaram is an imposing, partially restored Bhuddist temple from the 1600's, that's part of the UNESCO listed Ayutthaya Historical Park, but not inside of the historic city itself.
The most common spelling we found for this waterfall (in the massive Khao Yai National Park) was Haew Narok. This viewing platform was at the bottom of a daunting series of staircases (steep going up, but more comfortable than going down). Although it's elsewhere in the same park, this is not actually the waterfall from Leonardio Di Caprio's The Beach (which is signifcantly shorter than this one).
My trusty steed for traversing the various temples and sights scattered throughout the old historic city of Ayutthaya. Not quite the latest in carbon fiber, and not exactly my dream bike, but it got the job done, and it was fun.
Plenty of eye candy on the river ride back to town - one more example, further below - a surprisingly entertaining river "cruise" (and the food was pretty good too - there was both some edible sushi and some satisfactory Tom Yum soup on the buffet)....
A relaxing ox cart ride through the countryside. Not particularly fast, and the suspension could use some work, but the sight lines were unobstructed.
We heard a wide variety of explanations for this disembodied Buddha head which (apparently, buried long (how long?) ago,) has grown out of the roots of this tree, elevating this particular Ayutthaya site to major tourist attraction and (to some) religious significance.
View from the hotel, with a taste of the ever-expanding sky train, one of the massive malls and movie theater complexes, etc.
Also from the hotel, obviously at night, but this view was at the end of the outdoor "running track" (of sorts), which was part of the extraordinary gym/fitness center (which included everything from basketball and badminton to spinning classes and squash and tennis and thai kick boxing) gives a better sense of the elevated pedestrian plaza and the sky train.
On the river, heading back towards Bangkok from Autthaya, you see a steady stream of these (surprisingly small) tug boats pulling (typically) three massive barges from two ropes (not cables, just a couple of ropes). When you see the empty barges going the opposite direction riding high in the water, you realize how much cargo they can carry.
Sure it's fun to ride the elephants, particularly up and down steep hills and through the water, but it's much more fun to feed them. The pace and volume are mind-boggling (the best analogy I can think of is they go through bananas (skins and all) at about the same rate I go through (shelled) peanuts, but I wouldn't be surprised if they're still faster), the facility of the trunk is incredible, and they obviously enjoy it. (I even received a gentle trunk swat upside the head after I ran out of fruit.)
And let's hear it for transparency. (Oh, and if you're curious, 50 Thai Baht is much less than two bucks, actually closer to $1.50. By comparison, at the popular coffee shop, Cafe Amazon, we paid 35 Baht for an espresso or an americano (same price), and for 50 baht, you could get your coffee with honey, which apparently is quite popular.)