For our 11-days Thailand trip, we not only explored different parts of the country. We also explored various modes of transport.
And finally for the last few days of our trip, we rented a car and drove ourselves.
If you follow our blog, it should come to no surprise that the road trip was my favourite part of the trip. While many may find having to drive themselves during their travels a stressful affair, self-drive has always been my preferred mode of travel.
I don’t think self-drive trips are all that common in Thailand. Yet. Most people still prefer to just book a private driver (no lack of those in Thailand!) to bring them around. I get it. There are numerous benefits of having a driver, including:
1) Not having to worry about getting lost
2) Being able to sleep through the rides
3) Having a translator when you’re in a country where you don’t speak the language
4) Having a photographer etc.
I thoroughly enjoyed having a driver during our time in Pattaya and in a previous trip to Taiwan where we engaged a driver to bring us around Cingjing. Furthermore private drivers are not THAT expensive in Thailand.
But I still enjoy the thrill and satisfaction of being able to navigate our own rental car around a foreign land. Getting lost is part of the fun. Coz you may end up finding something that was off your radar. Or enjoy a game of charade with a local farmer (or convenience store staff – depending on what you stumble upon) when you are lost.
Of course, I always have some backup plan so that I don’t get hopelessly lost. Sometimes I wonder how I survived road trips before GPS was the norm. We had to go to bookshops to buy paper maps, or flip through thick street directories provided by car rental companies that were kind enough to leave a copy in the car. Ah, nostalgia. These days, all we have to do is to rent a GPS. Or get a local SIM card and use Google Maps.
Considering this was our first self-drive trip in Thailand, and we don’t speak Thai, we had BOTH GPS and SIM cards for the road trip – Typical kiasi (afraid to die) Singaporean behaviour. But if we do another road trip to Thailand in future, I’m gonna ditch the GPS and just rely on Google Maps which worked much better for us.
We rented a car from Hertz Thailand in Bangkok (homepage) . If I have time, I would write more about my experience with Hertz Thailand. But for now, if you want to know whether I would recommend them, the answer is yes. I would rent from them again, but I won’t bother renting their turned-out-to-be-totally-useless GPS.
I thought toll fees were kind of cheap in Thailand. We passed by 3 toll booths along the way and the TOTAL toll fee from the 3 booths added up to 115 baht. 115 baht! I consider that negligible compared to what we have been paying for tolls in Japan.
Initially I only planned to visit Ayutthaya Historical Park during our short one-day stay at Ayutthaya. But after reading the rave reviews of ElephantStay on TripAdvisor, I just had to squeeze it into our itinerary.
I totally recommend visiting ElephantStay. There was no admission fee, and we only had to pay 50 baht for a ‘camera licence’. And if we wanted to feed the elephants, we could buy food for the elephants at 50 baht per bucket.
While we were there, we spotted a free-roaming baby elephant walking around with its mahout. Okay, maybe not exactly baby. It looked a bit bigger than the baby elephants that the kids were feeding, but not fully grown either.
The mahout invited us to take a photo with the elephant, but the boys didn’t dare to go near it. So I went ahead.
I didn’t check the exact location on the map before visiting, and just assumed that since it was a restaurant listed under Ayutthaya, it should be somewhere nearby. But gosh, the drive from ElephantStay to Ruay Kung Phoa took about 50 minutes. To put this into perspective, we drove about 1.5 hours to get from Bangkok to ElephantStay. And to get to Ruay Kung Phoa, we drove about 50 minutes back in the direction we came from!
So if we had gone to Ruay Kung Phoa BEFORE driving further North to ElephantStay / Ayutthaya Historical Park, that would have saved us a lot of back and forth driving.
Alternatively, you can try arriving at Ruay Kung Phoa in style via a jet ski. Lol!! That was actually how most of the other diners came to Ruay Kung Phoa. We were actually the rare few who arrived by car.
Despite its rather remote location, Ruay Kung Phoa was well prepared for tourists. They had English menu and some of their staff spoke a little bit of English.
Since we spent so much time driving there, we just had to order their biggest and most expensive super jumbo prawns which cost 1800 baht for 2 prawns. Bwahaha…
Super jumbo prawns aside, the rest of the food at Ruay Khung Phoa was pretty reasonably priced. So don’t let the price of the prawns drive you away. We may have paid 1800 baht for two prawns, but the rest of the dishes (fried rice, omelette, fish cakes and drinks) added up to just 400 baht.
After lunch, we drove all the way back North to Ayutthaya again to visit Ayutthaya Historical Park.
I frankly had NO idea where we were going when we arrived at Ayutthaya Historical Park – which was pretty huge. We didn’t know where to park and where to enter from. So we kind of just drove around the perimeter until we found an empty spot along Naresuan Road to park our car.
After getting off our car, we crossed a big open field towards the ruins and to our dismay, all the gates were locked??
We saw people climbing the walls to get in and out of the site and decided to just follow suit. Which on hindsight, I think may have been totally illegal. But as the saying goes, when in Rome, do as Romans do?
We wandered around Wat Langkhakhao and never found an unlocked gate – so I’m really not sure what’s the proper way to get in and out of Wat Langkhakhao. So we ended up climbing another wall to get out.
If you are driving to Wat Rachaburana first, you can park along Chikun Alley.
Unlike at Wat Langkhakhao, we found a clear entrance to Wat Rachaburana, complete with a ticketing counter, along Chikun Alley.
Which made me wonder whether we had accidentally visited Wat Langkhakhao without paying. *oops* But okay. Turned out all the admission fees were waived while we were there due to the passing of the King. I hope that was the reason why people were just hopping over the walls – since it was free anyway.
Usual admission fee to the temples around Ayutthaya Historical Park was 50 bath for 1 temple, 220 baht for 6 temples. It was not expensive so yeah, please don’t go jumping around walls and remember to purchase your admission tickets at ticketing counters.
Wat Ratchaburana was an interesting experience because within the main prang, there was a super steep staircase that brought visitors down two levels into a crypt. It reminded me of the time I entered a pyramid in Giza – but this was much smaller.
I didn’t bother going down because just looking at the stairs made me kind of dizzy. I swear my fear of heights is getting worse as I grow older. I very much rather be out in the open checking out the details of the prang.
Hey, this little fella below looks like Garuda. You know, the one in Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb that tried to warn Larry and gang about the Xiangliu? LOL… Clearly I spend more time watching movies than reading up about mythical creatures. But here’s the Wiki link to Garuda if you wanna read up. :p
When my husband and the boys came back, I asked them if there was anything to see at the bottom and they said there were actually some old wall murals.
The main entrance of Wat Maha That was very near where the Buddha head was, and there was a parking lot near the main entrance.
You can say Wat Maha That is a must-visit in Ayutthaya. Because you can’t say you have been to Ayutthaya without taking a photo with the famous Buddha head. I thought it was hilarious how everyone was gathered around the foot of the tree waiting for a turn to squat in front of the Buddha head for a photo.
But because we had wasted so much time driving to and fro during lunchtime, the sun was setting soon after we finally found the Buddha head. So we didn’t get to explore the whole of Wat Maha That.
Back at our hotel, Ayutthaya felt like a completely different city from where we were at earlier. I was starting to miss the historical park already.
I was pretty amused that they had named the shopping complex Ayutthaya City Park . You know, Ayutthaya Historical Park vs Ayutthaya City Park?
Anyway Ayutthaya City Park had a good range of restaurants and shopping – definitely worth spending the evening there.
The next morning, we had breakfast at our hotel before driving off to our next destination, Saraburi.
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