Ayuthaya, and Lopburi, city of monkeys

300px Prang Sam Yot Ayuthaya, and Lopburi, city of monkeys

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In the morning we took a bus to Ayuthaya, which was the Siamese royal capital from 1350 until 1767, when the Burmese sacked it. Its name is Sanskrit for “unassailable” or “undefeatable” – and for a long 400 years, it was. The Siamese had control over many of the countries surrounding it, and its population was over a million in the late 1600’s; it was supposed to have been one of the world’s great cities. Now it looked like an abandoned Efesus, and it was abandoned for good reason: it was 105 degrees outside. Unlike Bangkok, there was no shade, no refuge, no hope. We were at the mercy of the sun and the tuk-tuk drivers. Cos bought a cowboy hat and I bought a straw hat. They had elephant rides and nobody took them. I bought water for 50 cents, four times the normal price. The wats were in really good condition, better than Sukhothai, but the sun was melting my brain, and for the first (and only) time the weather was really getting in the way. We went for lunch in a Chinese-Thai restaurant and had a palm-hearts salad that was hotter than the heat. I went to the bathroom and a Chinese boy, looked like the son of the owner, was at the sink. Water was barely dripping out of the sink onto his hands. He looked deeply philosophical. He said: “Very little water today…but better than no water at all.” We went to the canal and took a boat trip. There was a sign before we got on: “You will see many wats and many smiling faces.” The river passed many wats. And we saw many, many smiling faces. Children bathing with their parents, splashing around in the filthy water below their teak houses, smiling and waving and seeing if we were looking and diving into the water for us.

We decided to take the train 1:15 north to Lopburi. Lopburi was a part of the Angkor empire, and then it was wrested from the Khmers in the 13th century by the Sukhothais in the north, and there are plenty of wat temples there, but we went for the monkeys. We were told that Lopburi was a city besieged by macaques, which frolic all over the wat temples, and it sounded like fun. The train there was a 3rd-class train. They had fans blowing every ten feet from the ceiling. The fans weren’t helping. I had sweat coming down my front, down my back, down my middle. I was feeling crazy. I couldn’t sit still. At some point the train reached a stop and I saw a lot of hands reaching out the windows and coming back in with some kind of snow-cone. I stood up and ran to the window and yelled “one!” Elif said make it two. There are points in your life where everything you hear about Hepatitus-A or dysentery or not drinking the water don’t seem to matter. Give me the ice thing, now. It was a cocunut-milk snowcone. It made me feel better for a minute.

We got off the train and there was a second when I wondered whether it was worth coming and where the monkeys were. Then we crossed the tracks and we were greeted. Hundreds upon hundreds of monkeys, everywhere. Coming to you, begging for food. Fucking in the streets. Tumbling with each other down hills. Scampering up telephone poles and swinging from telephone wire. Walking on barbed wire. Playing with bars on apartment windows. Food-fighting. Running across the street, causing traffic to stop and start and swerve. Jumping in the backs of pickup trucks for free rides. Elif took a picture of one who then made his face look fearsome. We took the 3rd-class train back. We made faces at the children of two families and they made them at us. We gave them some coconut candy and they gave us banana chips. I did not feel very smart today but I thought: People are very nice. Monkeys are fun. Life is OK.

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