The northward journey to Ayutthya began, not bright and early as I had hoped, but late afternoon once hangovers had eased slightly, Johnny and I were joined by Charlotte, a pleasant Dutch girl and Matt, a seemingly uneducated Canadian “Europe’s a country right?”… From Hualampong train station we caught a local train for dirt cheap, the seats were wooden and the cabin uncomfortably hot but the journey was not a long one. We chatted with a local chap, a farmer outside of Bangkok who had travelled into the city for the protests, he was well travelled and knew of Amsterdam near Johnny and of Manchester, near me.
One thing straight away that I noticed once arriving in Ayuttaya was the amount of stray dogs, they roamed the old city, and stubbornly guarded the door to our hostel. As someone slightly afraid of dogs, this was a challenge…after hiding behind Johnny as we sidestepped past the crowd of wild dogs to safety we were able to check into our old wooden school building hostel, in which mine and Charlottes bedroom provided a personal sauna, due to the lack of functioning fans or air conditioning.
Ayutthya was explored on bicycles, I seem to be overusing this word but the day was incredible. We did the main sights Wat Maha That, the Mysterious Budda head entwined into an ancient tree, and various other ruins which made up the ancient capital city. It was a scorching hot day and the breeze from biking was much appreciated, the freedom was also welcomed. We stopped regularly for food, freshly squeezed fruit shakes and photo ops, it also allowed us to follow and watch 3 elephants at a close range as they gracefully walked the pavements; unfortunately it was with tourists sitting upon their backs on wooden chairs harnessed on by heavy metal chains.
Whilst on our biking adventure we came across a park, the grass covered in hundreds of brightly coloured lanterns, after chatting with a few locals we discovered it was the Lantern festival, a festival for Peace. I was hooked straight away, and spent the next few hours in the park, sitting alone by the river. It sounds corny but it was a moment where I really appreciated what I was doing, sitting by a beautiful river, surrounded by monks, local families relaxing and safe in the knowledge that my new friends were close by, seeking out the nearest ice cream vendor and exploring the park. It was a sweet moment.
After taking it all in I thought I should probably explore this park, another beautiful temple was the result of this, I kneeled and bowed, as I had seen others do and admired all the golden delights inside. Outside I chatted with a couple of young girls, maybe 6 and 7, working a day out in the sun selling baby chicks. I’m not sure if these chicks were food or pets, but they were bright blue, pink, green and yellow! I held one and played with the girls, I said my goodbyes after purchasing a handheld fan, I would have been quite happy walking away with a pet chick, but I fear it would not enjoy nesting in my backpack as much as I enjoyed playing with it.
The afternoon resulted in me and Johnny being left together still engrossed by the Peace festival, a collection of monks were high on a wall chanting and speaking in Thai to a crowd of local people sitting, watching and praying. We stood at the back, hoping to glimpse the said Monks and watch their tradition, before we knew it we were pulled up by a lovely Thai lady and sitting directly in front of the monks, in front of the whole crowd being blessed and (attempting) to join in with the chants. The 4 Monks above us looked so peaceful, which is pretty good considering it was a Peace festival, they looked so happy and content. The main monk spoke such good English and translated what they were chanting for into English, he spoke of achieving peace, life after death and how happiness is the best wealth we can have. Such simple words, beautiful words. We both walked away afterwards feeling dazed and blessed by the experience we had just been given.
After observing the preparation for the street parade of Thai folk dancers, elephants and banners, Johnny and I dragged ourselves away to return our now burden of a bike, before collecting our backpacks and walking back to the dog infested train station to catch our overnight train up to Chiang Mai. It was a pleasant journey, full of food, card games and magic tricks, before we retired to our top bunks for a comfortable nights sleep. Upon waking at 7am my attention was immediately pulled to the window, where the view was a thick jungle, still misty in the coolness of the morning, the trees went on for miles as me and Johnny sleepily agreed over the train aisle that we were definitely not in Bangkok anymore.