09 May 2012

Zoo & Train South

Today was half a free day and people could do what they wanted until it was time to board the train south to Ayutthaya.

Some wanted to go zip lining in the rain forest. Others of us went to the zoo. Some did laundry. I went with the zoo group.

We got a song teu off the street and were on our way.

Entrance to the zoo was 100 baht (about $3.00) and it was an additional 100 baht to get into the panda habitat. There was also a new aquarium that was supposed to be the longest in southeast Asia but we only had a couple hours and didn't have time to do everything.

It was a really nice, well-designed zoo. It looked like the animals had decent environments and yet you could get a good look at them, generally. A lot of them, you could feed and a number of us gave bananas to the elephants, long beans to the giraffes (they have the most amazingly long tongues...) and chunks of meat to the leopards. The elephants and giraffes, you just kind of put the food out there and they take it from you. The leopards get a chunk of meat on the end of a metal pole.

It was definitely not designed to be handicap accessible, though. The whole place was built on a mountain side and the paths and roads were very steep. Some of the steps were twice 'normal' height. By way of compensation, they did have people movers that would take you from exhibit to exhibit. Or you could rent little golf cart-like things. But Thailand in general is not an easy place to get around if you're not able-bodied.

We planned to meet back at the entrance to the zoo at 12:30 so we could be back to check out of our rooms by 1:00. There was a song teu waiting and we asked about a ride back to the hotel. He didn't know for sure where our hotel was and wanted 100 baht more than we'd paid to get there to get us back. We started to walk toward another song teu and he relented, said he'd take us for 200 instead of 300.

None of us had a card or brochure from the hotel so we didn't have the exact address but we told him it was near Payap University and across the street from the British embassy. Well, he apparently didn't know where the embassy was either and took us to a different Payap University campus than the one by our hotel. All in all, we were a little late for our 1:00 check out but someone (bless them!) had moved all our bags to the office.

I'd gotten really hot at the zoo and went to the ice cream store on the corner to cool off then to the 7-11 to get snacks and water for the train, then back to the ice cream store because I'd left my hat and sunglasses there. On the way back to the hotel, I stopped at a little restaurant and picked up some chicken and rice, which I ate in the gazebo at the hotel. Then I joined the group in the office to wait for the minibuses to pick us up at 4:00 and take us to the train station for our 4:30 train.

My 4 the buses hadn't shown up. Lora had us move all our bags out to the street so that when they did get here, we'd be that much closer. By 4:10 they still hadn't shown up and Lora called to find out there was a misunderstanding and the buses thought they were picking us up at 4:30. They said they were on the way but we didn't know from where so Lora started flagging down song teu to try to get us there. She had one lined up that I got in with 5 others just as the scheduled buses arrived. Since we were already loaded up, we stayed on and the rest got in the buses.

There were 2 women on the song teu before we got on and Lora told the driver we needed to to straight to the train station. He dropped the 2 women off first. We were all checking our watches and got to the train station about 4:27. We rolled our bags as fast as we could and the train was rolling before we'd gotten all the way into the car, but we made it.

This train was configured a little differently from the last one. In this one, the seats sat 2 people and the aisle was agaist one window instead of down the middle. Also, the upper berths were permanent instead of folding down like murphy beds when you needed them.

Virginia, Lora and I were in one pod with an unused upper berth.

It was freezing on the train and Lora asked several times if they could make it warmer but was told they couldn't. We were getting creative with trying to block the vents, get blankets, and wearing extra clothes. I slept in long pants and my hoodie.

This time, we had most of the daylight at the beginning of the trip and looked out the window until it got dark. After that, it was just rolling train motion and trying to be warm and sleep until 6 am when we arrived at Ayutthaya.