Monday, January 2, 2017

A second day touring in Ayutthaya

On our final full day in Ayutthaya, we walked down the road near our hotel toward the ferry.  Every storefront had its own spirit house, but this one was especially striking

Then it was onto the ferry, across the rover to the Chao Phrom pier, but this time our destination was the Chao Phrom market itself:

There were a variety of edible delights in addition to everything else on sale, including this shredded caramelized  beef with a slightly spicy kick

fried fish


and soups.

Raw foods on sale included chickens (with their feet on, of course)


and chilies and other vegetables.

While we gawked and shopped, Chingchai was asking one of the vendors from whom we were buying where to go to get the very best mangoes.

We were headed into the interior of the market, and passed the storefront where Chingchai lived when his parents first moved into the market and off the river

Finally, we reached the Sin Yong Hiang Bakery; this was the business that Chingchai’s parents started, and operated when he was growing up; it was where he lived until he moved to Bangkok to attend the high school that would prepare him for the university.

Chingchai’s older brother Hao (Meechai) now lives there and runs the bakery; he was out making deliveries when we visited and, in fact, the New Year’s period is his crunch time so we were unable to meet him. But we were able to walk through the bakery and see the storage bins for the bakery’s specialty, a sweet cake that Chingchai always brings hom from his visits to Thailand   

We were able to watch the preparation of the sesame candy that we were bringing home with us:

First the sesame seeds were toasted

while being turned in this huge pan; at the same time, the sugar melted was melted in a similar pan.

and rolled out flat

without any waiting for cooling, the candy was cut into long strips, then cross-cut into bite-sized pieces

and the bakery’s proprietary label is added

We walked out of the market, passing more stands brimming with flowers and delicious-looking food

After we left the market, we drove out of town to see the new house that Chingchai was building for his mother and sister,

inside a gated community

Next, we headed to a part of the Muslim Quarter of Ayutthaya, planning to have a late lunch in its market.

On the way, we drove on a street whose lampposts all had this fun design

We stopped at a small roadside market beside a mosque

where we got directions into the market itself

The prepared foods we ordered included whole chicken roasted on a spit

curries packed in plastic bags,

a delicious biryani

and this dessert, a squirt of soft meringue inserted into a sort of light taco shell. with a variety of fillings, some salty and some sweet

In addition to shopping for our late lunch, Chingchai bought some bags of prepared sticky rice.

We sat down outside a prayer room to eat our meal, while Sam and Nafisa took turns holding Abraham at the entry-way to a large moon bounce full of kids having a great time.  He was too little to be in there by himself, but he plainly got a kick out of being with so many other kids.  A man who seemed to have some leadership role in the institution, and who was wearing a kofi, came over and said something in Arabic to Nafisa, who responded in kind.  He asked if she was a Muslim and seemed pleased by the affirmative response.

There was a large rice field right next to the prayer room

and as we drove through the community on our way to our last destination of the day, we saw several more

There was a house growing bananas

Many of the houses were up on stilts as a hedge against flooding

Getting back onto a main road, we passed by many of these street posts

as well as this bus wildly decorated with paint as well as lines of hubcaps

Our final tourist destination was Wat Ma Ha That, which was started by King Borommaracha I in 1374, then expanded in 1384 by his nephew and successor Ramesuan

There was no admission charge; a ticket holiday had been declared beginning a week after the death of the king and lasting into mid-January

Here is a model of the Wat as it originally appeared before the Burmese invasion

The ruins were picturesque, many of them leaning to the right or left

here is the main pagoda

and here a Buddha seated in front of it

this was once a staircase leading up to the main pagoda

And another seated Buddha

As we headed for the exit, we finally found the feature for which Wat Ma Ha That is best known to the guidebooks: a Buddha head embedded in the roots of a tree.  The head was likely made in the late 1600's, and is in the style of the Middle Ayutthaya period

A sign tells sightseers to show respect to the Buddha by not placing their heads higher than that of the Buddha, so the tourists were all photographed squatting or kneeling near it

The sun was setting as we got ready to leave the ruins; Wat Ma Ha That turns out to be a pretty good place to watch the sunset

The tuk tuk driver dropped us all off at our hotel, where we dropped our backpacks, but before turning in for the night, we walked over to Walee’s house, picking up some beers on the way.  Chingchai made up a batch of sticky rice and mango, using the mangos he had found at the Chao Phrom Market and the sticky rice he had bought at the Muslim market. 

It was delicious.

A dispute with our hotel

Before leaving the hotel that morning, we had left our laundry to be done, relying on what we had been told when we checked in: that we could fill the laundry bag with laundry and have it done for 150 baht.  The laundry was nicely folded on our beds or hung in the closet, but there was a surprise: there was an enumeration of the individual pieces with a price noted next to them, totaled to show a charge of more than 1100 baht, plus a 10% service charge for a total of 1287 baht – $36 for a simple load of laundry.  The night clerk did not speak English well enough to understand what I was telling her (or, at least, to give me a coherent response).  We tried to challenge this at checkout and we were told that no, it was not 150 Baht for a load of laundry, nut 150 Baht if a guest wanted to take the laundry bag home as a souvenir.  Now, to be sure, 150 Baht was a very low price for a load of laundry, but that’s what the staff had said and we never would have done a laundry at the quoted price (that’s why we brought liquid soap on the trip).  We each strongly objected. but the highest ranking supervisor of the desk said that she could not honor the price that had been stated to us.  She offered a 10% discount instead – basically eliminating the service charge that had been imposed on top of the piece rate.  Had we been offered a half-way sort of discount I would have accepted a compromise, but this was not a real negotiation.

So instead of writing my signature on the invoice and charge slip, I wrote “paid under protest” on the invoice (there were some other incidental charges) and put the word “protest” instead of a signature on the charge slip.  We’ll see what happens with Visa when I protest the charge after getting back to the United States.

Despite the very nice breakfast and the fine room, this experience was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me.  As my brother had already noted on Trip Advisor based oin the front desk’s unwillingness to help with ground transportation, this hotel has a four-star building but only one-star service.  Only once have I given a hotel one star on Trip Advisor – I am still thinking about what rating to give.

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