Thailand – Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is an hour north of Bangkok. It is an easy day trip but I strongly encourage you to spend at least a couple of nights here. There is so much history and ruined temples, palaces to explore.

We left Bangkok from the Hua Lumpong Bangkok Train Station and headed north to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya.

Inside the train station waiting for the platform to be announced.
I was excited to see Dunkin Donuts!
This is second class on the train. Since it is very inexpensive to travel throughout Southeast Asia, I tried to get reservations in first class but it was booked. Thank goodness it wasn’t a long train ride – about an hour from Bangkok as there was no air conditioning for this car. Have I mentioned how hot and humid it was in September in Thailand??? The windows were down and we had……
ceiling fans for cooling. It wasn’t too bad but I would have preferred air condition in first class!
Leaving Bangkok, I took this picture as we passed by a community of homes built on the river. The houses were on top of one another.
These are the tuk-tuks in Ayutthaya. This style can only be found in this city. They kind of have a “Darth Vadar” look to them, don’t they? We took a tuk-tuk from the train station to the restaurant where we were staying in a room they rented out.

Ayutthaya or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya was the ancient Thai capital for 417 years.  It was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong after the Thais were forced out of the North by their neighbors.  It became the trading capital of Asia as it was an excellent location between India, China, and the East Indies. It was considered the finest city by European merchants. There were 33 kings, from different dynasties, who ruled Thailand until the demise of  Ayutthaya 1767 by the invading Burmese army that sacked the city.

Ayutthaya is on an island surrounded by three rivers – the Chao Phraya River, the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River. The historical park is on the island but there are several temples around the rivers that run the perimeter of the island.

This is our host, Niki in front of the Krua Ruaen Boran (Old City Kitchen) restaurant that she and her husband, Tom own. This is where we stayed while in Ayutthaya. It is one of our best memories on our whole trip!

David found the room that we stayed at in Ayutthaya on Airbnb.  It was advertised as a single room in the back of a family-owned restaurant.  It was located close to the Historical Park (a ten minute walk) and looked like a very interesting place to stay.  Plus, it was only $14 a night and that included breakfast!

What an amazing and wonderful experience it turned out to be.  The owners, Tom and Niki are amazing host and very, very interesting people!  We arrived as strangers but left as friends! 

Tom is Russian born but spent his teen-age years living in Switzerland where his mother was a diplomat for Russia.  Tom was always fascinated with the history and culture of the orient.  He pursued this interest by graduating with a master in Thai studies and shortly after graduation, he moved to Thailand.  His life journey took him to live in Canada for a brief stint and then Russia.  It was in Russia that he met Niki, a Thai national who was living and working there.  

They fell in love, married and eventually moved back to Thailand.  Although they own property in the southern part of Thailand, near the islands, they are living in Ayutthaya.  Niki runs the restaurant and Tom is very much an entrepreneur.  Since he speaks four languages – Russian, Thai, English and Lao and he is in high demand as an interpreter.  He teaches part-time at the University and is involved in exporting  coconut products.

They are such kind and delightful people who could not do enough to make our stay enjoyable.  Niki is a fantastic cook!  We ate all of our meals at their restaurant.  The last night, we even got a cooking class with her showing us how to make Pad Thai and wide noodles with sautéed vegetables.  Tom was always available to explain any questions we might have regarding customs and culture of Thai people, arranging tours and introducing us to interesting people from the town.  

Staying in back of the restaurant was sort of like a “homestay” as we really experienced how this Thai couple lived.  Our room was sufficient for the amount of time we were in it.  The bathroom was an experience…there was a small hole drilled in the bottom of the wall to allow water to drain from the shower.  It wasn’t covered with a screen and each night, there appeared a new “critter!”  The first night, it was a huge spider…I mean huge!  It was just a tad smaller than the size of my hand and that is no exaggeration.  The next night, was a toad/frog that I almost stepped on.  It was in the middle of the night, that I was heading to the bathroom and there was a dark rug on the floor.  That darn little guy was sitting on the corner of the rug.  Fortunately, the flashlight on my iPhone hit him enough that I spotted him before stepping on him!   The third night was a small salamander and a large cockroach that “buzzed” and moved it’s anteni while I was using the bathroom.  All of the critters were gone by the morning!  The day we left there was a large snail under the sink!  I found it all very entertaining and just part of the experience!

I really hope that the universe will provide an opportunity for our paths to cross with Tom and Niki.  If you are planning a stay in Ayutthaya and a single room with large twin beds would suit you, I encourage you to stay with them.  Tom has his establishment listed on TripAdvisor as KRB Family Restaurant with Private Accommodations and on AirBnb as Family Owned Restaurant with Private Accommodations.  Their restaurant is named Krua Ruaen Boran (Old City Kitchen). Tell them that Sharalyn sent you!!! 🙂

The room at Tom and Niki’s. It was very, very clean. The heat pump worked well and the room was very cool during the hot days and nights.
It was late by the time we arrived in Ayutthaya and got checked into our room. We walked down to the historical park to get better orientated. It was a 10 minute walk from where we were staying. We walked around the park for awhile until it started getting dark and we left. On our way back, we discovered the night market. It was mostly food booths. I imagine that the food was very tasty but I was hesitant to try anything for fear I might get sick and also, because of the language barrier, I didn’t want to eat anything with meat or chicken in it.
These are fried insects. I used to be very adventurous with food…now, not so much. We both passed on trying these!

As I said earlier, the city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767. The inhabitants were forced to flee. After this, the capital was moved to where the city of Bangkok is today. Today, Ayutthaya is a Unesco World Heritage site. There are several ruins of Bhuddist temples and palaces. We spent a couple of days going around to many of them.

A map showing the various temples and palaces in the historical part of Ayutthaya.

Here are some of the temples for the park in the center of Ayutthaya:

This is the park that is located in the center of the island, not far from where we stayed.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet was originally where King Rama I, King Rama I ordered his Royal Palace to be built in 1350. The palace was completed in 1351 and King Rama I made Ayuttahaya the capital of his kingdom. This was where the Royal family lived and no monks lived here.

In 1448, a new palace was built by King Borommatrailokkanat and he made the former palace a holy site. His son, King Rama II, had two chedis built. One was to house the ashes of his father King Borommatrailokkanat and the other was for his brother, King Borommatrailokkanat III. In 1529, another chedi was built by King Borommaracha IV.

Before this holy site was destroyed it was an impressive place. Today, the 3 Chedis are the only exisiting part of the temple that were not destroyed and have been reconstructed.

The three Chedis that have been restored at Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
The Chedis where the King’s ashes were placed.
This is a small Chedi that survived. I like the dog taking a siesta during the midday heat!
Some of the platforms where the halls were.

Wat Maha That

A model of the Wat Mahathat

This temple was constructed in 1374 during the reign of King Borom Rachathirat I.   

Collection of broken Buddha statues.

In 1384,  Ramesuan the nephew and successor of King Borom Rachathirat I, expanded the site to build a grand temple.

The Royal Vihana (Royal Sermon Hall)
The small Sermon Hall
I thought these chedis were interesting, especially the top of the one on the right.
Here is a close-up of the detail of the Chedi.

One of the unique features of these ruins is the Buddha head in the tree roots.  This head was once part of a sandstone Buddha statue that was constructed around the mid-1600s.  The head fell off the statue and was soon surrounded by the roots of a growing Bodhi tree.  This was a popular picture seen throughout the gift shops of Ayutthaya and on posters advertising the city.

Wat Phra Mongkhon Baphit  

This temple houses the large bronze-cast Buddha statue Phra Mongkhon Baphit.  Originally, it was enshrined outside of the Grand Palace.  King Songtham transferred the statue to its current location and built a Mondop over it.  The Mondop was damaged by fire from a lightening strike and the then reigning king, built a sanctuary over the Buddha.  Both the sanctuary and statue were badly damaged during the second fall of Ayutthaya.  There was a renovation to restore the statue and the building as it is today, but the current building does not have the elaborate craftsmanship as the original one had.  

Wat Phra Mongkhon Baphit
Phra Mongkhon Baphit is one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand.
These statues are partially covered with small gold leaf squares that can be purchased at the temple. According to my Thai friend there are a variety of reasons that people rub gold leaf on the Buddha statues. Gold is considered pure so putting it on the statue is giving back something pure and good thoughts. If the gold leaf is rubbed on the Buddha’s temple or forehead it is for good thoughts. If they rub it on the Buddha’s hand, then they believe that a good deed will come to them.

Wat Ratchaburano

I almost didn’t visit this temple but I am so very glad that I did. It was our last day in Ayutthaya when I finally went. David was tired of touring around, especially in the heat, so he opted to stay back in our air conditioned room. On the other hand, I had a ticket that allowed us to visit several temples and so I decided to take advantage of seeing as many as I could before we left. This temple turned out to be my favorite spot. I think it was because if was so very peaceful as there were very few tourist visiting when I was there.

The temple was built in 1424 by King Borommarachathirat II on the cremation site for his two brothers who had fought to their deaths in a duel to determine the successor to the throne after the death of their father, King Intharacha. Due to their death, their younger brother became king.

This is the Royal Sermon Hall that was built with brick and mortar.
The front of the Sermon Hall had three entrances with the middle one being larger which was the style for the late Ayutthaya Period.
The outside wall of the Sermon Hall. I walked along the wall to the stupa and this is what I saw inside….
A small dog resting….I really had to zoom for the picture as I didn’t want to scare him.
The prang is considered one of the largest in Thailand and used to store gold relics of the king. In 1957, it was broken into and several gold Bhudda statues and other gold artifacts were stolen. The culprits were arrested and some of the stolen items were recovered. Today, the remaining artifacts are on display in Chao Sam Phraya Museum.  On the other side of the prang, are stairs that allow visitors to enter the chambers where there are faded frescos, showing the early life of Buddha, from the Ayutthaya early period.
The prang is decorated with various mystical creatures. This is Garuda, the a protector, with power to go anywhere.

Wat Phra Ram

This was really the only temple that I didn’t visit while in Ayutthaya. It was however, the one temple I did get a photo of at night. It was really beautiful. It was built in 1369 and believed to have been extended in 1665-1685.

The main Prang with smaller Chedi.
Wat Phra Ram at night

River Cruise

One day, David and I took off on foot to explore the city of Ayutthaya away from the historic and touristy area. We passed through the shopping district that was a busy street lined with a variety of businesses.

We really enjoy walking in a new area as we are able to see things that we would most likely miss if we were in a tuk-tuk or taxi. For example, the street signs were interesting to me….very ornate!


Eventually, we came to the river and walked along it for awhile.

It was very busy with several barges transporting material.
This appeared to be the “water taxi” taking people from one side of the river to the other side. The two young children looked as though they had just arrived from a day at school and when the man got out, they got in to go across to what I assume was their home.

As we walked along, we came to a place that was offering boat rides. We had been walking quite a few hours in the heat of the day and thought it would be a nice way to cool off and see more life along the river.

We rode in this “long-tail boat.” These boats are called long-tail because of the long driveshaft so the propeller can be properly positioned to move the boat.

The ride lasted about 1 1/2 hours and was really nice to have a breeze to combat the heat and humidity. Plus, it was interesting to see the variety of homes….from apartment buildings to high-end homes to house boats and the several temples along the river. Here are some pictures of our trip:

Amongst the variety of temples we passed St Joseph’s Catholic Church. It was originally built in 1665-1666 by French missionaries but was destroyed during the Burmese attack in the 1767. The church was rebuilt starting in 1831 and finished in 1847.

Tour of the Temples by Tuk-Tuk

Tom, our host, arranged for us to take a full-day tour of the temples. Noi has been giving tours in his tuk-tuk for several years now. We visited several temples this day.

Noi and me after he had taken me around to see some of the temples at night on a separate tour. David didn’t feel like joining us!

Wat Phanan Choeng

This temple existed before Ayutthaya became a capital. It was built in 1324 and it is believed that the temple was connected to nearby settlements. One of these settlements was made up of approximately 200 refugees from the Song Dynasty China.

The highest building in the temple complex, the wihan, houses a 62 ft (19 meter) statue of a seated Bhudda. This statue is from 1334 and is believed to be a guardian for sailors. It has undergone several repairs but I find it truly amazing that this statue has survived for over 685 years! That is 442 years older than when the United States gained independence! WOW!

The Thais call this statue Luang Pho Tho and the Thai-Chinese call it Sam Pao Kong.
In 1407, Zheng He, a Chinese Muslim admiral visited the temple and bestowed gifts to the temple. It is an event remembered today by the descendents of the Chinese refugees.  
The columns on the veranda that surrounded the temple. They are made from tree trunks.
Rubbing gold leaf on a statue. In an earlier post, I explained that there are various reasons for putting gold leaf on the statue. The person is hoping that good will come to him or a person is having good thoughts, if it is put on the statue’s head.
On the side of the main temple, were smaller shrines. This is the laughing Buddha statue, a symbol of good luck, health, happiness, prosperity, and a long life! The stomach is rubbed for good luck, wealth, and prosperity.
My parting shot for this temple is this model of a ship made out of iron. I don’t know what it represents but thought the artwork was stunning.

Wat Thummikara

Although it is among ruins, this temple is currently an active monastery with some new, modern buildings near the ruins. It was an interesting mix of old and new. From research I have done, it is believed that this temple predates the founding of Ayutthaya which was in 1350.

Wat Thumikara is not one of the more famous temples in the area, but I really liked it. Unfortunately, many of the signs were just in Thai so much was lost as to understanding what we were looking at. Greeting us at the entrance were these two monkey figures.

I read that the monkey at Buddha temples in Asia represent many concepts. One is how easily humans can be distracted and move onto other thoughts and things. Monkeys also represent compassion, intelligence, understanding and are very social.
Just inside the gate were these two statues of turtles. Again, I don’t know their true purpose in this temple but in researching, turtles represent longevity and stability. On some tours, we learned that a dead turtle or statue of a turtle would be buried with one of the columns of a building in Asia for wishes of longevity for that building.
I am not 100% certain about this statue but I believe it is a replica of the Buddha statue that is currently in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum for safe keeping. The original statue dates back to King U-Thong (1350-1369) period.
I love the eyes on this statue. Some kind of green stone….the use of lions shows Khmer (Cambodian) influence which helps date this temple earlier than the founding of Ayutthaya.
We walked through these arbors to visit the Chedis, the Viharn or Sermon hall, and a whole lot of rooster statues!
The Chedis surrounded by lion statues.
Close-up of one of the lion statues.
The entrance to the Chedis with Naga statues – the protectors of Buddha.
The Royal Vihara (Royal Sermon Hall)
This is the Ubosot or the Ordination Hall that was recently restored in 1992. Just an example of a newer building among the ancient ruins.
This was one of the unique aspects of the temple! It was a shrine to Prince Naresuan who was also known as the Black Prince. His father, the King, was defeated by the invading Burmese army. The Burmese took Prince Naresuan, who was young at the time, back to live in Burma as insurance that his father, the King would not try to invade Burma. The king was left in Thailand to rule the country under Burmese rule.
After 6 years, the Black Prince and his brother returned to Ayutthaya where he eventually became ruler. Although I couldn’t find anything to confirm the story, the legend goes that King Naresuan declared Ayutthaya independent from Burma and challenged the ruler to a cock fight. If his rooster won, then Ayutthaya would be independent from Burma.

You guessed it! The King’s rooster won and Ayutthaya was free from Burmese rule. Today, people pay homage to the king by placing statues of roosters at any of his statues throughout Thailand.

Upon leaving the temple area, we passed these decaying boats with statues in one of them.

I am sorry to say, I have no idea what this is supposed to represent. I looked on the internet and couldn’t even find anyone else’s blog mentioning these statues. I am sharing the pictures with you because I thought it was all very interesting……maybe they are used to celebrate a holiday or something. It is such a shame that it is left to the elements and not under some kind of protection.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

This was my second favorite temple. I loved the Buddhist statues that were lined against the wall of the temple and how they were drapped in lovely orange/yellow cloth. It made for quite a site.

Buddhist statues draped in yellow-orange cloths for good luck and blessings.
The statues completely lined the walls.

In 1357, this monastery was built by King U-Thong, the founder of the city of Ayutthaya. The monastery was named “Wat Pakaew” and became the primary seat for the Supreme Patriach of the forest sect of Buddhism .

A diagram of the temple area to give you a better understanding of the layout of the various buildings.

The large Chedi – Chedi Pra Chai Mongkhon – in the center of the temple area was built in 1592 by King Naresuan the Great as a tribute for the defeat over the invading Burma King Maha Uparacha.

Chedi Pra Chai Mongkhon
Walking to the entrance of the Chedi.
The view from the Chedi and the various buildings and statues on the temple ground.
A park behind the Chedi. I believe at one time there was a building in this area.
This photo is of the buildings where the monks live today and the Buddhist statues lining the wall.
Buddhist statues along the wall and ruins of ancient Chedi.
This is the statue of a reclining Buddha in the ruins of the ancient sermon hall or Viharn. The statues of the reclining Buddha represent the historical Buddha who was ill and waiting to enter parinirvana. Parinirvana is nirvana-after-death for one who has achieved nirvana – peace, enlightment, tranquility – in their lifetime.
Of course, I couldn’t leave this area without draping a statue with the cloth for luck and blessings!
They gave me safety pins to attach it with but I didn’t have much luck with the pins, so I decided to tie a knot.
My draped Buddha statue….I am so lucky and blessed. Of course, I felt that way long before I did this ritual! Just an effort in confirming my blessings and luck!

Odds and Ends

These were some interesting plants that we saw.
One of the more elaborate Buddha statues at the temple.
Finally, I have no idea what this represented but found it interesting and worthwhile to take a photo. The statues looked like the ones that were placed at the spirit houses found throughout Thailand to appease the good spirits and keep the bad spirits away.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

The meaning of this temple is “Temple of the long reign and glorious era,” as it was built by King Prasat Thong in honor of his mother in 1630.

This model shows the center Prang which is 115 ft (35 meters) high. It is surrounded by four smaller prangs. Prangs originated in Khmer empire (now Cambodia). These towers are used as temples to worship Hindu and Buddhist gods.

There is much symbolism for the way this temple is laid out. The dominate prang represents Mount Meru – the center of the Buddhist universe. The four smaller prangs represent four island continents in the Buddhist belief. The rectangular walkway represents the iron mountain that surrounds the Buddhist world.

The center prang surrounded by four smaller prangs. Surrounding the prangs was an enclosed walkway with eight chedi-shaped chapels.
Here are two chapels with the prang behind it. In this photo, the center prang appears to be leaning. It is my photography and not the prang as you will note in the previous picture.
The walkways were lined with broken Buddha statues. This is a close-up of one of the chapels.
Inside, each chapel was decorated with Buddha statues and they were decorated with paint.
The outside of the chapels were decorated with reliefs depicting the various scenes from the life of Buddha.
These statues faced out towards the river with their backs to the main prang area. It is possible that, at one time, they might have been part of an assembly hall or Viharn.

Like most of the other temples in Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwatthanaram suffered much damage when the Burmese attacked in 1767. After, it was deserted for many years. Over the years, looters helped themselves statues, sold bricks and other acts of vadalism. In 1987, the Department of Fine Arts started restoring the temple and in 1992, it was opened to the public. Restoration continues on it today.

Floating Markets

Floating markets have long been a Thai tradition. In earlier days, land around the rivers or waterways were where people settled. As you well know, water is necessary for survival. It made sense that people would settle near water in order to have easy access to it. As a means of transportation, people would travel in boats. They would bring their crops to barter or trade. Floating markets became the hub for communities. As roads and railways were built, people began to travel overland with their goods, rather than by boat. Over time, markets were moved to land, closed down or renovated.

Today, the few floating markets that remain, are more for tourist than for the Thai people. Unfortunately, David and I didn’t have very good luck in visiting one. The day that we went to Wat Tha Ka Rong Market, which got very good reviews, was closed. The market is only open on Saturday and Sunday, I believe. We walked around briefly but honestly, we didn’t see much. Nearby is a temple but we didn’t get to see it as our tour guide had an agenda. Here are a few pictures:

This was part of the entrance to the market. It had some kind of religious meaning but couldn’t find out exactly what it was. I just loved the colorful streamers hanging from the ceiling.
Another picture of the streamers.
This market had a walkway around the water. You can see the vendor’s boats in the water and in the background, you can see the empty booths. It looks like it might have been a busy place when it is opened.
Fairly crowded area!
In the center of this boat is a stove. I don’t know if the vendor sells food during the market or if it was for his own personal use.
I have no idea what this was used for but thought it was cute and picture-worthy!
These carp fish are a Thai craft that I wish I had been able to bring home with me as a souvenir. They are woven from fan plam fonds. It is believed that their origin came from Thai muslim spice traders, who sailed along the Chao Phraya River. The craft gained popularity with Thai people because they believe that carp fish bring prosperity. Over the years, people began to create mobiles out of them and hang them over a baby’s crib in hopes that it will bring the child good health and prosperity.  

The other floating market we visited was the Ayutthaya Floating Market. If, by chance, you are reading this blog post doing research for an upcoming trip, please DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY AND VISIT THIS FLOATING MARKET. The only reason we ended up there is because it was part of a tour we took. It was the worst and a complete tourist rip-off. There was nothing about a “floating market” at this place. To visit the market, we had to pay 100 Thai baht each (about $13.00 US), which included a boat tour and a traditional dance performance.

I thought that we needed the boat tour in order to see what the vendors were selling from their boats. This wasn’t the case at all. There are no vendors selling from boats. The “floating market” is a walkway built over the water with stalls where the vendors were selling souvenirs.

The boat ride was a 15 minute ride around the canal.

Once off the boat, we walked around the walkway and then left. The whole experience was just plain horrible and so not worth the money.

Then, to top it off, we walked across the street as we saw vendors selling there and thought that it might be a more authentic market. What a HUGE mistake that was as there were elephants chained in small pens who were being used for elephant rides. We even saw a baby elephant tied to its’ mother with a rope around each of their necks. Nine months later, I am still trying to get that sad, sad image out of my mind. After seeing that, we just left. Trust me, DO NOT GO…this is definitely one place you do not want to support.

Traditional Thai House

This is a traditional Thai house. The can vary slightly depending on the region and the size of the family. Most are built on stilts to avoid flooding during the rainy season as well as dirt, animals and even thieves.

View from the house.

The high ceilings, open windows, as well as the porch, helps with ventilation to give relief from the hot and humid temperatures.

This is the main room for family activities and eating.
In the corner was a small stove for cooking. This might be used to keep food warm as most often, the kitchen would be located outside of the house for safety reasons.
This is the bedroom. The bed was a bamboo mat or on the floor – which might explain why the mattresses in Thailand today are so darn hard!! During the day, the mats were rolled up to provide more living space.

In the past, the homes were constructed from wood or bamboo. Due to declining forest and increase in the city sizes, homes today are mostly constructed out of concrete. Life in Thailand has truly changed. The cities are getting more congested. To make more roads, canals are being filled in and homes are fairly nondescript due to the high-rise apartment buildings to accomodate the increasing population.

Cooking class

Our hostess, Niki, offered cooking classes at the restaurant. For the fun of it, I took a class to learn how to make the Thai Wide Noodle dish and Pad Thai…our two favorite dishes. I am surprised we didn’t turn into wide noodles!!

Niki and me.
Niki is a much better organized cook than I am. These were the ingredients for the wide noodle dish. Then again, this dish cooks very quickly so you really need to have the ingredients ready!
First, you add the wide noodles with some broth.
Next you stir quickly……
Niki had to take over because I wasn’t stirring fast enough.
Add eggs…
Then add the veggies and…..
Stir until cooked! Yummy!
This is making Pad Thai which I think is the most popular dish in Thailand. My photographer didn’t take as detailed photos as he did for the wide noodles dish.
Niki spooning the finished Pad Thai into a bowl, next tot the wide noodles. She is such a great cook! If in Ayutthaya…you must go and visit Tom and her at their restaurant….the Krua Ruaen Boran (Old City Kitchen). You could even take a cooking lesson from her!

Odds and Ends

My Birthday

While in Ayutthaya, I turned 64 on September 25th. That was the day that we walked to the river and took the ride. If I haven’t already mentioned it, it was a long walk!
On the way to the river, we stopped for lunch and ordered our favorite. Wide noodles with veggies and spring rolls.
That night, we celebrated with a small fruit cake that David was sweet enough to arrange….I know! I know! I am one of those “odd ducks” who likes fruit cake!

Tuk-tuks

The tuk-tuks in Ayutthaya were distinctly different from any other city we visited in Thailand.
The view from the back of a tuk-tuk where you sit.
This was another site from the back of our tuk-tuk. The kids saw my camera after I had taken the picture and started waving. Seeing several people on a motor scooter isn’t uncommon.

Just because:

While walking in the center of the town, I noticed these baskets in the trees with lights in them. I made it a point to return at night to get a picture of them lit up.
These sheep make me smile!
As did these duckies! I love duckies and have quite the rubber duckie collection.
Of course, I have to share the dogs! These dogs were at the Ayutthaya Tourism Center. They have a great exhibit at the tourism center explaining the history and culture of Ayutthaya.
This sweet guy was staying cool on the marble floor of a building near the river.
I had coffee one day at the Pine Cafe. I loved how they served it.

This just about wraps it up for Ayutthaya. I really encourage to to spend as much time as possible in this wonderful, historic city. Amazingly, my travel guide – Lonely Planet for Southeast Asia, did not cover this city. Such a shame!! It is definitely one of my favorite experiences from the eight weeks we spent in Southeast Asia. Next stop, Chiang Mai.

Until then, may you be filled with joy and sparkles!

California – Ocean Beach, San Diego

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach was the first place we landed when we arrived in San Diego as a friend of mine had an Airbnb and offered it to us for 10 days before Christmas. It was so nice to have a destination to head for once we had arrived. The original plan was to find a hotel and figure it out from there. With the Airbnb cottage, we at least were able to spend Christmas in a cottage and not a hotel.

This was the windswept town Christmas tree by the beach. It was decorated with small, inflatable beach balls.
The town Christmas tree at night.
Sunset on Christmas Eve from the Ocean Beach pier.

Not to deviate from talking about the Ocean Beach neighborhood, but since I am talking about Christmas, I thought I would share that we spent a few days before Christmas with David’s side of the family. He has an aunt and cousin who live in Loma Linda. Aunt Helen’s son, Bill and his family live in Texas and Alaska. Bill and his children/grandchildren stayed in Ocean Beach and the relatives from Loma Linda came for a day.

It was so wonderful to see Bill again and to meet that whole side of the family. I have been married to David for close to 31 blissful years and honestly, thought I would never meet them. What a wonderful gift to spend the Christmas holiday with them all!

Christmas Day, David and I drove to Oceanside (about 35 minutes north from Ocean Beach) to spend the day with our nephew, Patrick, who has been living out here for close to 4 years. He treated us to a lovely Christmas dinner of ham, fish, scalloped potatoes, asparagus, green bean casserole, and corn! I was very impressed with Patrick’s culinary abilities…they are much better than mine!

A Christmas feast!


Patrick, his sweet little doggie, Abby and me Christmas, 2018.

The day ended with a nice walk along the beach. Patrick is fortunate enough to have the beach in his front yard!

Oceanside Beach and pier…a nice ending to Christmas Day!

Now, back to Ocean Beach…It is a quirky little community. I describe it by saying “they never got the memo that the 60s decade is over!” There are many people – young and old – walking around in tie-dye clothes, hair with dreadlocks or whatever other “hippie look” they might create!

The downtown area is built around the beach and they, too, have a pier.

Veternas Plaza is between the beach and downtown. You can see the sign for OB Surf Lodge, which is a popular restaurant on the outer edge of the OB shopping area.
Veterans Beach is a popular area for musicians and aspiring entertainers in aerobatics to come to hone their skills and for others to watch.
Ocean Beach Pier
If you look on the pier, towards the right side, you will see the person sending bubbles toward the beach!
The children below were loving trying to “catch” the bubbles…so much fun! You never quite know what you will find at Ocean Beach.
Looking down Ocean Beach from the pier and on the other side of the jetty is…..
Dog Beach! This is where pet owners can bring their dogs to run off-leash. As you can see, it is a popular spot, especially on a Saturday morning.

Funny story about Dog Beach! David and I were walking around the beach saying hello to any dog who would stop long enough from playing or fetching a ball to say hello to us. We were walking back towards the “people beach” when I stopped to take a picture of the pier. There were two large dogs romping behind me…the next thing I knew, I was flat on the ground. One of the dogs had “body checked” me in his excitement of playing with his buddy. David didn’t see it happen as he was looking the other way. When he turned to tell me something, he found me sprawled on the beach….”What happened to you?” he asked. I was just laughing….it all happened so quickly. I told him and he helped me up and brushed me off. Although I am fine, my camera is a little worse for wear thanks to the fall!

We were on the beach the Saturday before Christmas. The yoga instructor was in the Christmas spirit with his Santa hat!
We visited the pier several times. It was a fun place to watch the surfers and fishermen to see what they were catching.
Around Christmas time, there were some great waves for the surfers.
I was able to get this great picture of a pelican, too.
One day the waves were extremely high and washing over the pier. The “powers that be” closed the pier to keep anyone from getting hurt or washed overboard. Sadly, shortly after I took this picture, the pier was permanently closed due to damage caused by the waves. To my knowledge, they are hoping to reopen it on Memorial Day weekend, 2019.
The birds seemed to enjoy having the pier all to themselves.

There is quite a busy downtown area of Ocean Beach with gift shops, several restaurants, bars, coffe shops, grocery stores, banks, library and post office. The population is about 11,500 people.

Wednesday afternoons from 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM, there is a farmer’s market on Newport Street, one of the main streets for Ocean Beach. It is a great farmer’s market with organic veggies, fruits, food trucks, a variety of other vendors and live music. It is a fun place to hang out to be part of the beach community funky vibe!

Ocean Beach is on a hill, which made morning walks good and challenging. I would often walk up a hill on one street, cut over and walk down the next street until I made my way over to Sunset Cliffs Nature Park.

Looking up a palm-lined street and once at the top…..
…the reward of the view.
Another view….it was worth the challenge of the hills and so good for one’s health!

Sunset Cliffs Nature Park is 68 acre of land, along the ocean, dedicated as a park in 1983. It is a beautiful spot to enjoy the views of the ocean as well as looking towards Ocean Beach and the pier.

Sadly, the cliffs can be very dangerous. On a much to regular basis, someone stands to close to the edge and fall in. Often, you will hear the rescue helicopters flying overhead. One day, I saw the water rescue team practicing repelling over the cliffs for a simulated rescue.
There is beauty on a sunny day or a cloudy day.
Birds hanging out at Sunset Cliffs Natural Park on a chilly, cloudy morning.
Ocean Beach is a very artsy community. If you keep an open eye, you will be rewarded with the creativity of others. This mosaic was along Sunset Cliffs. I am a huge fan of mosaics, so discovering this made me smile!
It wouldn’t be fair to share Sunset Cliffs without a sunset! Here you are….

Odds and Ends for Ocean Beach….

I enjoyed my morning walks. I was never quite certain what I would discover. When we first arrived in December, the weather tended to be overcast in the mornings but one day, we had clear, brilliant blue skies. I just had to click pictures of the palm trees against the blue!

There is a company of parrots that live in Ocean Beach. I just looked up to find out what a “group” of parrots is and they are called a “company” or “pandemonium of parrots.” I so love the “pandemonium” description for a group as that is what they created was true pandemonium when they flew around with all of their squawking. It usually happened in the very early mornings and again, in the early evenings.

Along with the squawking parrots, were the airplanes taking off from the San Diego airport. The San Diego airport is literally downtown. The airport was built on what used to be a smelly, tidal marsh, Dutch Field. There was a proposal to build an airport in that area because it was close to downtown, the post office, and the train station. Have you ever flown into San Diego? It is considered the fifth most dangerous airport in the US…not a warm, fuzzy feeling. If you have flown here before, you will know that landing planes skim the top of the downtown buildings in their approach. Planes taking off, fly directly over Ocean Beach. You can pretty much set your clock dialy to 6:30 AM when the planes start to take off. It is loud…especially when you are sitting in your backyard. It was one of the many reasons that we decided not to make Ocean Beach our permanent neighborhood.

This was another picture that I took on my morning walk. It was around Christmastime. Coming from Maine, it is rare to see a bush of poinsettias. This was a treat!
The plants here in CA are so different from the Northeast. Thanks to the arid conditions, people tend to decorate with succulants and cacti.
Here is more random art that I discovered on my walk. It was along the sidewalk.
I think that it embodies Ocean Beach’s free-spirit vibe!
So does this van advertising a popular hamburger joint in Ocean Beach – Hodad’s! It is always crowded with a long waiting line on the weekends. Do you know what Hodad means? It is a nonsurfer who spends his time at the beach pretending he is a surfer!!!

This was the sign on a door that I frequently passed on my walks. More free-spirit vibes and finally….
This just plain made me smile! I had to share it somewhere on my blog. It was at one of the t-shirt shops in Ocean Beach!

Until next time, I wish you joy and sparkles!

We are in San Diego, now where do we live?

Ocean Beach was our destination arriving in San Diego. Originally, we thought that we would just arrive and get a hotel room. Although we had lived in California from 1989-2000, we had never visited the San Diego area. It was all very new.

The “hotel plan” changed when I learned that a high school friend of mine had an Airbnb rental in Ocean Beach and yes, it was available from Dec 16 to the 26th. As we got closer to our destination, we were so grateful that we had a “place” to go to and a “place” to be in over Christmas. To say the least, this Christmas was a difficult one for me. The holidays are not the best time to move…I didn’t put up any Christmas decorations, mail out any cards and being among palm trees and at a beach, I just didn’t have that Christmas-holiday-kind-of-feeling.

The cottage that we were in was so adorable and about 2 blocks from the beach….an added bonus.

#5044 was our cottage. It is about 500 sq ft.

It is very, very cute, no?

Knowing that we only had 10 days to find another place, we hit the ground running. Everyone said that the best way to find a rental in San Diego was to look on Craig’s List but to be careful of possible scams. Wouldn’t you know that the first place we liked/were hopeful about turned out to be a scam in La Jolla? We actually ran into three of them in the La Jolla area. These people are very good at deceit…I can understand how easy it is for someone to fall for the fraud.

We took the day Monday to look on Craig’s List for possible rentals and to find a windshield repair shop. The appointment was made for Tuesday morning to get it repaired. In the meantime, we had also found a nice place in La Jolla that was available for rent…a furnished, two bedroom house, all utilities for $2,000. It came with pictures inside and out and was lovely. We texted the person saying we were interested and asked when could we meet to see it. They replied that it was available after December 28th for viewing because they were out of town for the holidays. They gave us the address so we could drive by and see where it was located.

Before driving to La Jolla, we went to get the windshield fixed. We got talking with the owner and explained that we were moving to San Diego and asked his opinion on which area to live. He recommended the Tierrasanta area which is east of downtown…halfway between San Diego proper and Santee, where David’s office is. He even gave us the name of an apartment complex. We then shared about the house in La Jolla that we were hoping to rent. He said that was a scam…there was no way that we would get a furnished house in La Jolla for $2,000. The house we were describing would easily start at $5,000. With his information and the warning we heard earlier, we proceeded with caution.

We went to the Tierrasanta after our windshield was repaired and took a tour of the apartment complex. It was a nice area but not for us. It was more of a residential neighborhood. There were no stores, restaurants, library, etc within walking distance. We would have had to buy a second car living that far out. A second car is something that we are trying to avoid. Plus, the apartment complex living is definitely something we wanted to stay away from. 30 years ago when we were first starting out, it was fine but honestly, the “stamped out” apartments stacked one on the other is not for us now. Tierrasanta was not for us.

Onto La Jolla, which is a very charming community. We drove by the house. It was a little further away from the downtown area than I would have liked but it was adorable…it even had a tri-level deck with an ocean view. It was perfect! We texted that we were very interested in it. They texted back that we would have to fill out an application and in order to see it we had to pay the first month rent and security deposit upfront. The reason for this was to screen the inquiries and only get people who were really serious about renting. They didn’t want a bunch of people just walking through the house. They then said that they would sign some kind of legal paper to ensure that we would get our money back if we decided not to rent it. That is when I knew we were dealing with scammers.

I guess the saying, “if it is too good to be true, then it is” applies here. We had two other similar episodes with La Jolla rentals. The ad claimed that the one bedroom, furnished cottage was $2000/month. After texting our interest, they gave us the address. We drove by and noticed a management sign in the front yard. The phone number on the sign was different from the one I had been texting. When we called the number on the sign, they told us that it rented for $5000/month. The person we spoke with went on to explain that somehow, they copy the ad off the internet….hence, the actual photos of the inside of the cottage and create their own ad to try and scam people. So very sad, no?

Needless to say, we were very discouraged…we liked Ocean Beach and decided that we would look for another AirBnB for at least another month so we could have some more time to explore and look for an area that we would want to live in. We found another cottage on the other side of town. It was in a good, quiet location in the back of the owner’s home, away from traffic and it had a great backyard.

It was actually difficult to get a photo of the exterior of the cottage but here is are pictures of the inside.

We liked the cottage. It was only 10 minutes from downtown Ocean Beach in one direction and in the other direction, it was 10 minutes to Sunset Cliffs and wonderful views of the ocean. The only real problem is it was advertised with a washer/dryer but after we moved in, we discovered the machine was broken. The landlords claimed that they had discussed with us…no, they didn’t as I would have definitely remembered that conversation or email. It was a huge inconvenience to have to go to the laundry mat a couple of times a week.

Due to the fact that I had a trip back to Maine at the end of January, we stayed through February. I didn’t want to leave packing and moving to David. As fate would have it, we met Chris, our current landlord. It is interesting how we made the connection with him. While in Chiang Mai, Thailand, we spent a day at an elephant sanctuary and met three young people traveling together. They had all gone to Boston University and now lived across the United States. Alyssa, from Massachusettes, works in Boston; their male friend lives and works in Kansas City, and Syrenna, lives and works in San Diego. We were chatting at lunch while spending the day at the elephant sanctuary and shared that David was considering a job offer in San Deigo. Syrenna graciously gave us her phone number and said that if we accepted the offer and moved to the area, to let her know and she would help us in any way possible.

When David accepted the job, we contacted Syrenna and she gave us the names of a couple of people who might help us find a place to live. After the episodes on Craig’s List, we told her what had happened and she offered to contact her landlord, Chris, to inquire if he might have any rental units. He had a cottage in University Heights that was available until the first of June.

At that time, we thought that we would continue to rent….maybe in different areas using Airbnb for a few more months to finally figure out where we wanted to settle down. The next question to address was do we want to rent for the four years out here or buy? Housing is unbelievably expensive out here! After looking at places for sale in Ocean Beach, we didn’t feel that we could afford living there. A small, one bedroom cottage, around 500 ft can start at $500,000 and go up.

Chris’s cottage is in University Heights. We met Chris and saw the cottage the first of January. We really liked the it and arranged to move in the first of March for 3 months. Chris’s property is really cute. It is three small cottages on the lot and in the back, is a row of small garages with an apartment above them.

I have discovered that cottages grouped together are popular out here. I think they might have been built during the 40s, maybe to house military personel. This is just a guess.

We moved into the first cottage.

This was to be our “home” for the next 3 months. The gypsy lifestyle was getting to both David and me….it was fun experiencing different areas but living in limbo wasn’t for us. We both decided that by the end of our 3- month stay, we would figure out where we wanted to live. In the meantime, Chris told us that the middle cottage was being completely renovated and would be available for rent. We were very interested.

We really liked the location of the cottage. Three blocks to the north of us is Trolley Barn Park, the local park. One block to the west, is Park Blvd that has the coffee shops and restaurants. A 10-minute walk to the south is the library and Sprouts Market, a smaller version of Whole Foods Market. There is a Trader Joes nearby as well. Further to the south, about a mile is Balboa Park. This is the public park for San Diego and is truly more than a park. It has 20 museums, a craft village – Spanish Village, hiking trails, tennis courts, a velodrome for cyclist, recreational areas, and the San Diego Zoo.

After looking at the price of real estate, visiting different neighborhoods, looking at all the options…do we want to buy a house, condo, even a mobile home? Do we rent for the next 4 years? We talked to a variety of people to ask for their advice. The general consensus was it would be better to rent rather than to buy. We had been leaning toward renting and this made the decision easier.

At the end of March, the middle cottage was finished and we, hopefully, made our last move while here in San Diego. This is our new home:

Now that we have “roots” we are hoping to become more of a part of the community. There is a newspaper for University Heights. Some of the upcoming events are “Party on Park Blvd,” a night where the street is closed off for entertainment and the restaurants to offer some of delicious items from their menus. “Cycle and a Movie” is offered in May to get people riding their bicycles more and to meet at the Trolley Barn Park for a movie. This weekend, there is a flea market at Trolley Barn Park.

I am meeting people as I walk each morning and I am beginning to feel more of a sense of belonging. Do I want to be here? It wasn’t on my radar to move to San Diego but that said, there are much worse places to end up, no? I am grateful for all that I have. We are so very, very blessed and I truly believe that there is a reason for everything. When I know the reason for us to be out here….I will gladly share it with you! For now, I am saying thank-you that we are supposed to be in San Diego, CA and not Fargo, ND!!!

Until next post, I wish you joy, sparkles, and many blessings!