“I’ve been meaning to go and see Ayutthaya. You wanna go see Ayutthaya with me?” I asked Ricarda.
“Are you tired?”
“What did you say?”
It’s easy to say you’re making plans, but when you have days on days to carry them out, it’s hard to make them happen quickly and efficiently.
“Let’s go tomorrow.”
Next day comes. It’s hot. Food in Bangkok looks good. Let’s stay in. At least we managed a visit to the gym down the road, but that’s literally all we did other than eat, and resolved to make it the next day instead.
Ayutthaya (according to Wiki) was founded in the 14th century and grew to be one of the largest cities in the world around 1700. With the invasion of the Burmese later in the 18th century, however, the majority of the city was burnt to the ground, and the capital was moved south to another city. What remains of the city are the pagoda spires that dot the city. These days, it’s easily explored by bike (cost us 50 baht a piece), and makes for a nice day trip from Bangkok.
Getting there is a little complicated, depending on how long you want to take in getting there and when you want to come back, and how big your budget is. There are trains that leave every so often from the Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok which only cost 15 baht, but this trip can take up to three hours depending on stops and delays. We decided to go to the Victory Monument in downtown Bangkok from which a sizable population of minivans leave hourly for various destinations around Bangkok. We just had to knock on everyone’s doors to ask, “Ayutthaya?” to find the right one, since the majority aren’t marked in English.
Having done some research the day before, I knew the cost was supposed to be 70 baht per passenger for the 90 minute journey, and when we arrived, I handed the driver 200 for the both of us and waited for change. He acted like he didn’t know what was going on and I held up my fingers, pointing to myself first and then indicating 70.
“I need change. It’s 70 per person.”
“Oh!” he said, playing dumb. The other woman who was with us had clearly also only paid 70, and he pretended to count on his fingers how much to give us back. That was weird. I hadn’t had this issue anywhere else in Thailand, but it pays to do a little research before you pay money, I guess.
So we rented bikes from down the street and took the entire day to tour the city, which is quite small and heavily populated by temples, pagodas, and chicken statues.
On the east side of the city, the entire side of the road is lined with people selling huge bags of what looked like cotton pulled into long, winding strips. I stopped for a taste, and it was actually cotton candy. As we stood there, trying their food, the merchant called over his buddy to take pictures of us eating and pointing at the food. I felt like a celebrity for all of ten seconds.
Getting back was even cheaper, as a man who was clearly not happy herded foreigners into his van offering a ride to Bangkok for 60 baht a passenger.
After another night of laziness and recovery from a busy day of looking at old things, Ricarda mentioned we should probably do something for Joy since she’s been such an amazing host to us for so long. We noticed she had been eating Krispy Kremes (or however the hell you spell it, because English [and business] orthography is stupid), so we went totally overboard and got a dozen of them and a dozen from Dunkin’ Donuts (omg seriously orthography why) to share with people back at the hostel. The result was a total and complete sugar coma for everyone involved.
I wasn’t sure what to expect, other than that Asian-style karaoke would be different from American-style karaoke. There were a few new arrivals at the hostel, and as soon as they walked in, I invited them to go out with us, and a surprising number of them agreed. We ended up with 11 people!
In Thailand, you have to rent out a private room where you can order drinks and food while you queue up songs and sing your heart out either one at a time or as a group. We split the cost of the room for the night, which ended up at 120 baht a person (or something), but that’s not the whole story…
People don’t want to sing when they’re sober; let’s be honest. So instead of having a boring night of sober karaoke, we decided to head to the nearest 7-Eleven, buy a bunch of cheap alcohol, get drunk, and make it back to “R and B Karaoke” in just under an hour. And that’s exactly what we did.
That night, I made friends with a Spanish couple (Javi and Laura) who invited me to come to “The Artist House” with them, in Khuha Sawan, Bangkok. I wasn’t expecting much, but I knew I really needed to get out and do things in the city I hadn’t heard of yet, and was pleasantly surprised. This neighborhood was another quiet area with many people living right on the river. Hell, half the neighborhood was in the water. The water absolutely teemed with some sort of fish that I assume the people in this area eat on a regular basis (despite the river being completely littered with garbage and probably other things…). Just throwing a piece of bread into the water resulted in an explosive fish fight.
The Artist House itself was a place where young Thai come to learn various forms of art; mask-making, puppetry, writing, painting. There’s a little cafe as well, making it the perfect spot to sit and get some peace and quiet in the middle of Bangkok.
We stayed for a while to see part of a puppet show, but left after the puppeteers came around collecting money, thinking that had been the end of the show (it wasn’t). What was different about the puppetry here was that each puppet required three people dressed like ninja to move them properly, and they moved around in a dance, almost more artfully than the movements of the puppet itself.
And funnily enough, I haven’t had nearly as much fun in Bangkok since she left. It’s been a long string of new, fleeting faces, coffee, and sweating. I’ve also been sick for a few days, but I fully intend to be better before moving on, so I haven’t done a whole lot other than rest and write and play around on my dumb erhu.
As it stands now, I have three days left until Japan. Three weeks there, and I’ll finally be headed home. I think knowing this and being so close to the end of my trip has caused this terrible sort of melancholy that can only be cured with more travel, so I’ll wait until my flight and hope that it jumpstarts my will to go on again. We’ll see.