touring Ayutthaya : temple cats + taxi drivers
last time I went to Thailand I wrote an entire post on cats. this post doesn't have much to do with cats, at least not directly, but I didn't get a picture with our taxi driver so I figured... why not?
last time we stayed in Bangkok we didn't have much time to tour around. coming back, we knew we wanted to get up north of the city to see the ruins of Ayutthaya. there are a lot of ways to get there -trains, buses, boats - but a friend of ours recommended hiring a cab for the day.
Ayutthaya was once the capital of Thailand [then Siam], but it was sacked and burned in 1767 when it was invaded by the Burmese army. there are at least a dozen separate ruined Wats [temples/monestaries] spread out through the area. to get between them some people will rent bikes or cars, take tour buses, or in our case: private taxis.
we asked the concierge at our hotel to book a driver and he was ours for the entire day. we left at 7am to beat the heat and the crowds. our taxi took us an hour north of the city, drove us to all the various temple ruins in Ayutthaya we wanted to see [he would just hang out and chat with the other cab drivers while we did our sightseeing], stopped at a friends place for lunch, took us back to Bangkok to see the Royal Palace, and dropped us at our hotel around 4 pm.
all of this for the low low price of 2500 baht [about $80 US]
we really lucked out with our driver. I wish I had his card so I could tell you all to call him if you go to Bangkok, that's how highly I would recommend him. Mr Mongkol was his name. he was not a crazy driver, spoke very good English, and made great conversation. he even loaned us small bills for buying snacks when the street vendors at the temple wouldn't take our 1000.
Mr Mongkol grew up in the farming country to the north of Bangkok, one of ten kids in a poor family. he was not university educated, but learned English on his own time to put himself ahead in life. he married a "city girl", moved to Bangkok, and had three children. he was very proud to tell us that all three went to university. one of his daughters works at a bank, the other is a school teacher. his son will graduate university next year.
and for twenty-six years he's been driving a taxi.
I'll share all the photos of the temple ruins with you [not just the cats] but I really wanted to share the story of Mr Mongkol. it was an incredible day of sightseeing and having someone like him as our driver really made it the great experience that it was. meeting him and hearing his story makes me feel - first - thankful for where I come from and the opportunities I've had, but also that no matter where on the globe you go, humans are human. [and, well... cats are cats.]