On the way to Ayuthaya I called a couple guest houses looking for somewhere to stay. My first choice told me to call back later because they thought they’d have a vacancy after someone checked out. Upon calling back I was pleased to be told they would have a room available.
When one arrives in Ayuthaya by train one has two choices. Take a ridiculously over-priced tuk-tuk from the train station the “long” way around to cross a bridge and then into the city, or to walk 20 meters, take a 3 Baht ferry across the moat, and then find cheap transport to wherever one wants to go. This is one of the few things I really do like about carrying a guide book, typically they point things like this out. I knowingly walked past the tuk-tuks and took the ferry across. Then rather than take cheap transport to my guest house decided I’d just walk there… This wasn’t the smartest thing. It wasn’t far, per se, but I was carrying my packs and it was hot… and it was further than I thought it was.
When I made it to my guest house, Baan Lotus, I was saddened to discover the person that was supposed to be checking out hadn’t and so they had no space available. The woman however was very apologetic and offered me a bottle of water and a car ride to a nearby guest house (more of a mini-hotel) that was the same price in her own car and that if I didn’t like it she’d drive me around until I found something I liked. The place she took me too was satisfactory, it was clean and nice, but didn’t have a guest house feel to it. I took it and figured at worst I could move somewhere the next day.
That evening I rented a bike and took a ride around Ayuthaya. Ayuthaya is smaller than I expected and I say all the Wats I wanted to see that afternoon. The top of the list was Wat Prha Mahathat, which is home to the often photographed Buddha head wrapped in strangler figs. I also went inside another Wat with a large Prang, but the rest of the Wats I just toured from the outside. In Ayuthaya it seems like there is a Wat on every corner, or at least one per city block. Unfortunately they’ve taken to charging foreigners 30THB to enter each one, which adds up quickly. That’s ok, many are beautiful from the outside, especially as night falls and some are lit up at night. The ride didn’t have the happiest of ending though… After riding through the big central park area, watching joggers and some locals playing football (soccer) I was on the other side of the city from my guest house when my rear bike rim bent to the point of not spinning any more. It’s been a bit out of true all day, but suddenly it got much worse and now it was firmly contacting the seat and chain stays. I tried to “bend” it back to usable… Unsuccessfully I was happy to see a tuk-tuk driver sitting nearby reading the paper.
The tuk-tuk’s in Ayuthaya a different than any I’ve seen elsewhere in Thailand. Each city has it’s own flavor of tuk-tuk in terms of design and size. These are the only ones I’ve seen however were instead of having a single seat where 2-4 people can sit facing forward, these have two benches facing each other like a Songtaew. This came in very handy however since I could easily load my defective bike into the back. The bike rental was 50THB, the tuk-tuk ride back to my guest house was 50THB. I’m sure I could have made a big deal about it… but I I don’t think I would have enjoyed it any more than the guest house operators. The guest house had another bike brought over from where ever this bike had come from and in about 15 minutes I was back on the streets to explore the evening market and get some food.
I wasn’t really thrilled with Ayuthaya. I thought I’d spend several days here, but I’d already seen what I wanted to see and didn’t like the heat after being in the cool of Khao Yai National Park the previous few days. I’d told the guest house I’d stay two nights (to start), but I was thinking about leaving the next day for Chiang Mai. For better or worse I couldn’t get a train ticket the next day to Chiang Mai, so I got one the following day.
I spent day two in Ayuthaya again riding my bike around, which is a really great way to see this city. On a whim I headed out of the city towards and elephant camp. Along the side of the road reaching over the fence I found an Australian woman, I think named Kate, feeding the elephants some bananas. We chatted for a while and traded advice on Ayuthaya. I shared that I was thinking about taking a little sunset boat tour around the city that afternoon and she mentioned a place she’d been the night before that had live folk music that was fun.
We rode back to the city together and shared lunch which is nice since you get to try twice as much food in one meal. Then she joined me on the boat ride around the city which turned out to be much better than I expected. I thought it was just a little tour around the moat, but it included stops at several of the temples on the far side of the moat. It was a really a nice way to see the temples that are not within the moat as well as see life along the waters edge. After the boat ride we grabbed some more food at the market before heading towards the tiny little bar she’d mentioned earlier.
She, like me, is traveling alone with a partner at home. Hers however was coming out to met her in a few weeks, whereas I have a bit longer to wait for Elena. It was nice to know I’m not totally alone in this and share some feelings about it…
The music was not by most standards good music, expect when she was singing, but it was a lot of fun. The Thai guy alone on stage played great guitar, but he wasn’t the best of signers. She would sign along so some songs with a fabulous voice and all of the four people in the place including the guy on stage encouraged her to get up on stage and sing. She obliged for a couple songs, but it seemed if he knew the melody she didn’t know the words and if she knew the words he didn’t know the melody. Regardless it was a lot of fun for everyone.