Fresh from a night of beer-induced sleep, I was wide wake through the hour-long trip to Ayutthaya while everybody else slept. The Northern Thailand countryside, save for spirit temples, was akin to the Philippines in terms of infrastructures and vegetation. Her people, gentler.
With me in a hired van were four people I only met that morning– a Thailand-based English travel guide, a British-Kiwi tax accountant and two Dutch backpackers- a software engineer and a social worker. I was quiet all the way through, unsure if I was ready to make friends that early in the trip. But I wanted to hear their backstories, and for that, I played nice.
Matt, a tax accountant from New Zealand, came to Bangkok from Kuala Lumpur, around the same time I did. He was the one I felt most comfortable with, thanks to our identical Kathmandu backpacks. Having the same brand of gear proved to be a very good conversation prompt, as was the case between me and Matt.
Jelena, a social worker from Holland, wore a tan after frolicking on the beaches of Bali and Phuket. The year before, she did some volunteer work in Nepal. I could only wish I had even half her fortune.
Matthijs, whose first name I wrongly pronounced (I still do)as “Matthias”, was redoing Indochina after a maiden trip just 6 months back. He didn’t say much either, if he ever said anything at all.
Lydia, an English traveler, fell in love with Thailand through language. She first came to the country when she was nineteen. Save for brief vacations to visit family, she has never left “home” since.
ITINERARY – Ayutthaya Day Trip
0800- Free breakfast at the hostel; check out
0900- Currency Exchange (1AUD=30THB)
0930- Viengtai Hotel – meet up point
1030- V- Hire to Ayutthaya (1 hour)
1130- Drop off bags at Good Luck Hostel (Free)
1200- Lunch at Tony’s Place (THB 60)
1230- Rented Bicycle (comes with a free map) at Good Luck Hostel (THB 40)
1230-1530- Temple Hop (free)
1600- Tuktuk (THB100 for 2 pax and 2 bikes :P)
1630 Sunset Cruise (THB 200) and Temple Hop (THB 20 – most temples were free but one asked for an Entrance Fee)
1900 Sleeper Train to Chiang Mai
EPIC TUKTUK RIDE
After biking for around 3 hours under the heat of Asian sun and through traffic in a land with no traffic rules, I gave up. Matthijs and Jelena, coming from a country with the most number of bicycles in the world, seemed to shed zero sweat. Matt, on the other hand, just waited for my cue, I guess. It was a bit embarrassing to be Asian and complain about the Asian sun. But hey, where I came from, we never rode bikes in the city. Factor in the fact that prior to the trip, I did zero physical fitness too. So yeah, me being lame at physical pursuits such as cycling for lunch, was expected.
So Matt and I hailed a tuktuk and forced our bikes in. I sat beside the driver and he stood up at the back, pushing the bicycles in with his body and cursing under his breath, willing that his mom should never know that part of the trip. When we got to the hostel, his mood changed though, realizing that he just ticked off a daredevil stunt in every tall white guy traveling through Asia’s bucket list.
TEMPLES BY THE WATER
The Sunset Cruise, on the other hand, was a welcome reprieve. It happened towards sunset when the heat wasn’t as raging. We had time to bond as a group and asked about each other’s travel plans. We have also basked on the scenery more and even spotted a couple of small crocodiles.
We also hopped around temples by the water, which, in contrast to the ruins, were inhabited and well-maintained. We noticed that lives revolved around religion in the sense that family compounds ad residential complexes were built around temples.
We were collectively impressed by how rich the Thai culture was/is and how Buddhism played a pivotal role with that– and how, amidst modernism, a country that is as progressive and as tourist-friendly as Thailand, is able to remain true and loyal to her roots.
We capped off the night by riding one last tuktuk through the filaments of Ayutthaya and to the railway station to wait for the train that will take us to Chiang Mai. That was the nearest I could get to my dreams of the Hogwarts Express, so I waited like a giddy Ginny Weasley, though was not particularly on a lookout for a boy with a lightning-shaped scar on his forehead.
Well, I pretended I wasn’t.
This post is part of a travel series featuring a month-long (supposedly) solo jaunt to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia