We left the islands on a 12-hour overnight bus journey back to Bangkok. It was a very interesting evening to say the least. It is nice to save a night's accommodation, but you really never get much sleep, nor do you get to see any of the countryside. Also, the bus drops you off at 5:30 in the morning in downtown Bangkok, which is an adventure in itself. Having nowhere to go, we hired a tuk-tuk to drop us off at Wat Arun, a temple along the river, where we were able to see the sunrise.
Back in Bangkok, we were lucky to stay with Jup, Pum and Patty, the Thai family we have befriended thanks to Eric & Ying. The first night we were with them, they took us out to a German restaurant. We initially thought it was funny to be visiting a German restaurant in Thailand, but we stopped laughing when we realized they had dark beer on tap. Any of you who have been over this way will understand that the beer in Thailand is horrible, unless you like flavorless lagers (Brian). An interesting thing that we finally learned that night is that Thai servers will keep filling your beer unless you tell them not to, hide your glass, and run out the door.
The next day Jup, Pum, & Patty all took the day off and we headed out to Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand. We saw the ancient ruins that were abandoned in the 1700's when the Burmese attacked the capital city and burned everything that could burn and did their best to destroy everything else. They even cut the heads off all the Buddha statues, which boggled our minds, as the Burmese are Buddhists themselves. We also visited several wonderful temples and, of course, ate well.
A wonderful Buddha face being taken over by a banyan tree.
To get the scale, notice the person in his hand.
One of the ubiquitous portraits of Thailand's king, Bhumibol Adulyadej.
The lunch spot was along the Chao Praya River, where we were greatly entertained by spitting Tiger fish. Notice the piece of shrimp on the right is airborne.
Our final dinner.
From our experiences; Thailand is an assault on your senses. You are bombarded with smells, sights, and sounds everywhere you turn. The streets hit you with good (food) and bad (open sewers) smells; the temples smack you with incense, quietness, and colors; the beaches meet you with salty air, hot sunshine, and crystal clear water; the people greet you with kind words and leave you with a wonderful respect for their culture.
Thanks for the compliments on all the photos. I (Amber) must admit however, that Justin has taken a good share of these as I am usually off fiddling with my SLR - so he deserves at least half of the credit! Here is another one of his "award-winning" shots of a Thai "school bus".