Thailand - Overland to the Mekong and Laos and Back - Round the World Anticlockwise 5

Author: Sue Rogers
Date: 9th January 2005

Return to the Khaoson Road

  • This time an overland trip through Thailand to Laos, starting again in Bangkok's Khaosan Road, a another massage on a mattress on the floor that makes me feel as if I've done ten rounds and a facial  that involves half a greengrocer's shop on my skin.

Ayutthaya

  • First stop is Ayutthaya, a city about 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The ruins of the old city (razed to the ground by the Burmese) now form the Ayutthaya Historical Park, an archaeological site that contains palaces, Buddhist temples, with multiple stupas, monasteries and statues. Bang Pa In is the home of the King's Summer Palace - palaces on islands and topiary galore. It’s a picturesque and interesting visit.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

  • Next an overnight train to  Chiang Mai, the second city of Thailand in the mountainous north. Founded in 1296, it was once capital of the independent Lanna Kingdom. It's also known as the ‘Rose of the North’. There's a scenic, winding drive up a mountain  to Doi Suthep, one of the country's most stunning temple complexes . It involves a  300-step serpent-guarded stairway, leading up to the temples but the climb is rewarding. The  chanting of the Buddhist monks is relaxing and hypnotic - I could sit listening all day - and there are sweeping views of the city. A cycle tour of the flatter, old city is also worth the effort; it is crammed with hundreds of elaborate Buddhist temples.

Chiang Rai

  • Finally, Chiang Rai, the gateway to the mighty Mekong River, which forms the border with Laos. We take a boat along the Mekong to Laos, but before we can embark there are mountains to climb for views and more temples to admire. This is the home of the ornate Wat Rong Khun, or the White Temple, which turns out to be an wedding cake style art installation.

Krabi, Thailand

  • At the end, returning again to Thailand from Hanoi, a beach sojourn in Krabi. It is an especially sad time. The tsunami had hit the month before. I would have been on the beach at the time if I hadn't re-organised my trip. I considered cancelling, but the spa I had chosen tells me they need the business. There are no other tourists. The people I speak to tell of their panicking as they ran for high ground, their relief to be safe and their sadness at the deaths of so many. The pretty bays and limestone scenery are ravaged, piles of excavated timber on the beaches, sunken boats in the water. The most poignant sight, the posters and photographs tied to the railings,  listing all those still missing.

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