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Ayuthaya or bust!!!!! An Adventure of the Terrific Ten

NapPark Hostel and The Meeting of the TEN!

I have always loved staying in hostels and backpackers, you never know who you are going to meet or what you are going to see….

For example sitting behind the rather see through privacy screen on my lower bunk, a new traveler arrived and obviously or hopefully assumed he was alone. He stripped off to his boxers, then instead of facing the wall to be sure of privacy, he turned towards his bunk (leaving his lower half visible to me) and proceeded to reach in, pull out and give things a good jiggle… I wasn’t sure if I should cough, state “welcome to the mixed dorm” or just sit there silently… instead I tried to type louder but only when I zipped up my computer did I notice pants were replaced rather quickly… ahh yes you have got to love hostel life!

I stayed at NapPark hostel when I first arrived. The pics on the webpage are a little misleading, but the staff are friendly and always answer emails the same day. It is small but clean and comfortable and the lobby area is great to meet new people. On this time round I ended up meeting people from all over and on the first night we all went out to dinner, 11 of us in total.

Dinner with new friends

Dinner with new friends

I had been debating whether or not to fly to Laos or take the 2 day journey of train and bus. A turning point came when I asked the group if anyone would be interested in visiting Ayuthaya, the old capital of Siam, with me, I got a few yes’s so decided to fly (which turned out to be a brilliant decision).

Wrong Information

All the information I had found, from the internet, to guide books, to the hostel staff was as follows: Take the train (it runs every 20min), 20baht for a normal ticket around 130baht for aircon, the trip takes about an hour, then you are there.

So at 8am in the morning I was surprised to see 9 others show up, we ended up grabbing breakfast at the hostel cafe, the single cafe lady received a round of applause when she finished the last dish as she was truly fantastic. Then we were off to find taxis to the train station. Our adventure unfolded thusly:

A lot of the taxis wanted to charge 200baht to go to the train station, but it is important to insist on meters, some even offered to take us for the whole day 1500baht for 4 people per taxi. But we decided to stick to our plan and go with the info given.

The ride to the train station cost 71baht, another reminder to always use meters in the taxis. Then we headed to the ticket counter. The station has information clerks who speak english to help you find the right option. As it turned out the train did not go every 20min, rather ever hour and a half, the trip did not take 1hour, but rather 2hours, and the price for the aircon was 300baht not 130baht…. Well that sucked! We would either have to take the standing only local train for 15baht in 20min, or wait almost 2hrs for the aircon train. Since some of us had night trains in the evenings this wasn’t an option. Also once you got there the temples weren’t all in the same place so you would either have to rent a bike or a taxi anyway…

Rethinking the Plan

We stared at each other for a few minutes, Gina and I went even asked at the counter to make sure these ladies were telling us the correct info, they were. Then we decided to do what we should have done in the beginning find a taxi or van. The info ladies saw our decision and took us upto a tour service. In the end we bargained down to 450baht per person for an air-conditioned minivan and guide. Once again a brilliant decision was made. By minivan it is only an hour and since the temples are not all in one place the guide would drive us round from temple to temple. Most of the temples are free but a few of the best ones are between 20baht and 50baht to enter.

The Terrific Ten go on an Adventure

The Terrific Ten go on an Adventure

Well Worth the Effort

It turned out the whole trip was well worth the effort and the temples were amazing and the aircon in the van was a godsend, as it was hot as hell.

I think HOTLY would have been more appropriate

I think HOTLY would have been more appropriate

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

gold leaf covered Buddha

gold leaf covered Buddha

Line of Buddhas

Line of Buddhas

The Terrific Ten

The Terrific Ten

The second Temple we went to had something I have seen in books and postcards all over the world, the Buddha head surrounded by the roots of the banyon tree, it was stunning.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2015 in Thailand, Travel

 

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Naples Bound!!

Italian Train Ride

European living involves going to bed closer to the following morning than the previous evening… Me on the other hand tend to me a bit of a home body and head to bed closer to that evening than night! Am seriously suffering from lack of sleep. Luckily Italy has a fabulous cure, and Kate and I went for a morning tradition of a cappuccino and a pastry.

I was heading to Naples today and after very careful and clear instructions on what to do to get my ticket we said cheers. There are days that I am simply astounded at what good friends I have around the world, now if only I could have them all in the same place.

Somehow, in my diminished state of sleeplessness, I found the train station, got my ticket and found the train. Of course opening the door was a little beyond me, but with some help I got in and got a seat. Hopefully I am on the right train.

I was this close to getting a free seat, but with a minute to go a young man, straight out of a Jersey Shore extra Italian series, sat down next to me placing his numerous bags in such a way that there was no escape. He sat straight back with brillo’d hair, square jaw, huge muscles tattoos, tight white tshirt and blue and white striped pants. I think he was bordering on Guido status.

Luckily he only stayed on for a couple of stops and then I was able to spread out a bit…at least for about 20min till the next person arrived.

Never Know Who You Will Meet

During the last half hour of the trip a guy from Taiwan who is crew on China Air started chatting with me and asking if I knew anything about Naples. He was doing a day trip from Rome during his 3 days off between flights. We chatted about travel and opportunities and he was shocked at how much I had done. It always neat when you meet a stranger and just chat to pass the time.

My Lack of Direction Astounds Even Me

Holding very clear and concise instructions from the hostel explaining exactly how to get to them… I found myself getting lost almost immediately.

The instructions had said to walk to the end of piazzo and take the trolley to the harbor. Once there you essentially turn around, walk 20feet and the hostel is right there. However they failed to mention the huge construction site that now covered said piazzo and completely obscured it. I saw buses and honestly wasn’t sure if that’s what Italians called trolleys. So clutching the address in my little hand I went and tried to pronounce it and ask where to go. The men there were very helpful and soon I was on the bus. In no time at all, and with the help of fellow bus goers I found my stop. But when I turned around there was an old castle, and no sign of a hostel anywhere.

An Unexpected Tour of a Naples Neighborhood

So I headed towards the street, then turned left up a walk way that went passed the castle. Asking a few locals they all directed me in the same direction of straight across the road and then right. I turned right and headed that way, then asked some cops directions, they had never heard of the street or the hostel and had to get out a map to find it. They said keep going then cross the road to the right. This is starting to feel like a rather square circle…

I kept walking, going down some small streets, and, about 20 min later finally saw some signs that matched the map, and there, down a little alley right near the harbor and about a 5 min walk from where the bus dropped me off was the hostel bathed in a glorious light… I swear I heard angels singing. Good lord I think my mom held a magnet to my inner compass when I was born.

Hostel Of The Sun

Hostel of the Sun was set in an interesting location. Prime spot for anyone wanting to be near the harbor or the waterfront, but in a larger office building. You went up an ancient elevator that between the hours of 9 and 1 (or something like that) you had to put in a 5 cent piece (these aren’t made in Italy anymore but luckily the hostel had a supply). Lucky for me I was there during the free time and after about 5 min of trying to figure out how to make it go up I found myself on the floor of the hostel and found the door to the front desk, common area, bar and some of the rooms.

My room was on a lower floor. The English girl checking me in was super helpful and gave me lots of information of where to go and what to do. But before I could explore I had a mission to complete!

My Mission in Naples

Now as some of you may know, the whole reason for my coming to Italy was to join my boyfriend on a cruise, he was a bartender on MSC and was paying for me to come and see him. In addition, I was attempting to make contact with someone at MSC to talk about getting a job with them so that, hopefully, we could be on the same ship. Long distance is a killer.

Now as some of you may realise, writing these particular blog entries has been very difficult for me, as… let us just say things ultimately did not work out between us. For those of you who missed this little piece of news, please refer back to my Love Story entry a few months back, it’s a doozy!!

So, back to the task at hand. My mission for this afternoon in sunny Naples was to go to the offices of MSC cruises in Naples, which just so happened to be around the corner from the hostel.

I got myself tidied up, took a deep breath and headed to the office. As I entered I saw 2 guards, the following exchange is hilarious in hind sight, but at the time…
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, MSC office?
Guards: Appointemente?
Me: No, I need to speak to someone at MSC please.
Guards: You appointemente!
Me: How, how do I get an appointment??
Guards: you call, you appointemente!
Me: What number, who do I call.
Guards point upstairs… cause that helps me out I guess.

Finally, seeing how distraught I was getting at having been running in circles trying to speak to someone, anyone who knew something about employment at the blasted company, they got someone on the phone for me. Someone who was just upstairs and spoke perfect English and kindly explained that the Naples office only does reservations but I can try call this number. Taking a deep breath I said thank you, wrote it down, smiled (kind of) to the guards and said thank you and left.

I was so unbelievably frustrated, I had spent the first day in Rome playing phone tag with these people and getting no where.
Call this number
No, you call this number
No, you need to call this number (that was the number that just gave me their number).

Now it turned out, the lady from the office I couldn’t enter had given me the first number I had dialed back in Rome. Maybe they secretly tape these efforts and only hire people who are that determined to get on the ship. Or maybe it’s just Italian customer service at its finest.

Time to Explore…

Or not. By the time I got back to the hostel to drop off some stuff and go exploring I felt completely and utterly exhausted. The kind of wave of exhaustion that hits you from your toes to the ends of your hair, emotionally and physically. I had been so certain I would get somewhere with someone at the office so that I could tell my love that I was making progress to be with him… but nope, not to be. At least not yet. I sat on my bed and woke up 3hrs later with a fairly impressive drool stain on the pillow. Guess I needed a wee nap then.

Grumpy the Dwarf

Being on 5 ft (1.5m) and decidedly grumpy, I fear I may have given off the impression of a character from Snow White. But pulling myself together I went in search of some kind of food and managed to get to the store just before closing. After the amazing mozzarella and cherry tomato pizza I had had in Rome, I wanted to see about getting something similar. Apparently, Naples is the home of buffalo mozzarella. I found some cherry tomatoes, a yummy loaf of bread and a small container of buffalo mozzarella balls. I figured I could make some toasted cheesy tomato type thing.

New Friend

As I was sitting exhausted and waiting for my crustini invention to broil, I was joined by a Canadian girl and we soon struck up a long conversation that led to a travel partner for Pompeii the next day. And that’s how I met Kristin… someone who would become a great friend.

After my yummy meal, am now addicted to buffalo mozzarella, a good chat and a hot shower I decided to try be a little social and headed for the hostel bar. The official “Drunk American” guy offered me a free shot. Sure why not. Not to sound like a generalist, but I fear there always seems to be an official drunk guy and he is usually American…or Australian. Luckily for me, the Americans are more generous with free drinks.

I spent the next couple of hours chatting to folks, and being entertained as the drunk American tried desperately to seem cool and mysterious and trying to pick up Kristin. Eventually it just became too painful to watch, I think Kristin (who has a wicked sense of humor) was rather enjoying baffling him at every turn of phrase.

Is That Noise Human

I wanted to try stay awake to the end of my boyfriend’s shift, usually around 2.30am, I made it to 2.40am and then had to go to bed.
As I walked into my room I regretted not going to bed much earlier, I had a dorm room goers worst nightmare, other than bed bugs, I had 2 snorers.

The one was a “nice” light regular snore. The kind you can actually time and get in sync with. But then I had the other kind. The kind made, most often, by a male middle aged hostel goer, who possibly has some sinus congestion. The kind that is grating and uneven and occasionally sounds like he is struggling to breathe. The kind that lulls you into a false sense of peace and then jars you awake just milliseconds from sleep. Not only that, but it was interspersed with groans… Solution attempts were as follows:
– headphones
(I could hear him over the music)
– I went to the front desk and asked for earplugs
(didn’t have any)
– I asked if I could sleep on the couch
(hostel policy not allowed)
– I woke him up
(he apologized and went right back at it within 5 min)

Finally I could see only one dreaded option. THE BATHROOM!

Yup, I grabbed my pillow and blanket and went to the farthest toilet/shower combo I could find. Curled into an uncomfortable ball and fitfully got less than an hour of sleep. Then someone tried to open it and I was just too unnerved to stay.

My final option was coffee, by now it was after 6am and the coffee was on. After a couple of cups, I went back to the room and discovered them packing. Thank the heavens! I passed out!

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Italy, RTW, Travel

 

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Contemplation of a train journey

Eugene, Oregon to Portland and on to Seattle, Washington, a trip I have made many times and one of my favorites, by train.

I can honestly say that traveling by train is one of my all time favorite forms of travel. There is just something about relaxing in your seat and watching the world go by, the rhythm of the movement and the sound of the whistle. You can be completely alone or you can converse with travelers around you. You don’t feel trapped like you do in a bus or as caged in as you do in a plane. It always lends me to moments of contemplation, to reminiscing of other train trips I have done, places I have seen, people I have met. I have been lucky enough to take train trips through England, Scotland, Spain, USA and even an old coal train in South Africa called the Banana Express. All journeys were very different and yet inherently the same. Same same but different…

Train trips, especially when a nostalgic song comes onto your mp3 player, make you relook your life, contemplate regrets, what you might do different, if upcoming trips or journeys are what you want. You often feel like a spectator to the world going by, things that might look plain in everyday life seem to take on a new feel. Such as the stack of hay bales we just passed or that old farm house, a misty lake in the evening with the great blue heron. Train journeys just make you notice things more, make you appreciate it more. Then again it might just be me thinking too much.

Long bus trips I avoid like the plague, although I fear there will be a few of them in the upcoming months of travel in South America. I have a 2-3hr limit on bus trips and the thought of doing anything longer than 5hrs makes me cringe. I have never been very good at sitting still and at least on a train you have the entire length of the train to walk, a food car and sometimes a sightseeing car to explore. On a bus I feel trapped and fidgety. I always pity the person who sits next to me, in all forms of transport, as I am constantly adjusting my position, perhaps I have a case of ADHD when it comes to long journeys.

My favorite parts of a flight is take off and landing, I always feel the sense of adventure heightened as we lift off the ground, almost a childlike glee. On a plane I can usually handle the feeling of being in a large tin can thousands of feet above the earth for about 8hrs and then the fidgeting begins in ernest. I used to love window seats, but these days, I have to stretch my legs more often and so am forced to get the aisle seat for the sanity of my seat mate. I still remember my first flight, South Africa to the US in 1983 when smoking was still allowed and us kids could curl up on the floor at our parents feet to sleep. Oh how times have changed. Now we often get dirty looks from the flight attendants when we get up to stretch our legs too often. I have always found the key to enjoying your flight is to make friends with the attendants. Smile, say thank you and joke with them as you wait in line for the loo (bathroom).

I have not had many opportunities to go on long boat trips. A 5 day scuba trip to the Channel Islands off California was perhaps a highlight in my travel diary. I loved every minute of being on the ocean, but there I had scuba diving to distract me. An 8hr whale watching trip in Alaska, where I ran around like a 5yr old at the sight of Orcas, also doesn’t really count. So I guess the occasional ferry rides in Washington state to get around are the closest I have come to transport by boat. I must admit I loved it and would love to do a full on trip, but in a boat small enough to feel the ocean, not a floating city.

All in all I love travel and will take whatever form I have to to get to new and wonderful places. I just hope its not a 27hr bus trip.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

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