I arrived in Ayutthaya by train from Bangkok. Though it said it would only be just over an hour, as I’ve read from other travelers, travel times should never be trusted as it always takes much longer than stated. The train was very basic. No air conditioning, only windows and honestly reminded me of a school bus on train tracks. People at each stop would hop aboard to sell water, bits of food, rice, etc for the journey. Leaving Bangkok it was amazing to see how many people live and set up work directly on the edge of the train tracks.
Along the way a very friendly Thai woman started chatting with me and as it turned out she lived in Ayutthaya and volunteered to make sure I got off at the right place :). Though they do have an intercom system on the train that tells you what stop is next, I was still very grateful I had someone to tell me for sure since my ears are not yet trained to hear Thai words correctly.
Just across the street and almost down to the end I found my hostel for the next several nights: Baan Are Gong GuestHouse. Originally I planned to stay 3 nights, but extended to 4 as I just got so comfortable there!! The people are very friendly, the accommodations are clean and the location couldn’t be better and easier as the train station is just down the road and the boat to get across the river is right next door! I stayed in a private room on the second floor (fan only) and adored that everyone has to take off their shoes before going upstairs.
The only perhaps, let’s call it ‘culture shock’ that I hadn’t encountered yet was the bathrooms… They were shared bathrooms and there were several sets of flip-flops in front of the bathrooms to slip on before going in. Inside the bathroom was a regular toilet, sink and mounted on the wall was a shower head and knobs. But no shower curtain… So when showering it’s literally like going into a standard single bathroom stall (except larger) and showering. Water of course goes everywhere and there’s just no way to avoid that! So it sprays all over the toilet, the sink and all over the floor. There is a drain behind the toilet to drain shower water away, but if it gets clogged with hair, well you then have a mini-flood going on… Definitely was a first for me and I kept having to remind myself that all the water on the toilet seat was from the shower, not from people peeing on it… I hope anyway, lol!!
But all in all, I adored this hostel!! They also have a little puppy that is just too darn cute for words and I just couldn’t help but play with him every second I got! The woman who owns the place is very nice to talk to and she gave me some great information on places to visit in the country.
My stay in Ayutthaya included going into town the first night to watch the street festival in honor of the King’s Birthday. One of the main streets was shut to traffic and they had stage after stage set up with live music, traditional Thai dancing, a muay thai boxing ring, and tons upon tons of street vendors selling everything from live fish (as pets), shoes, food, desserts, and my personal favorite to see: fried crickets and worms! No… I wasn’t brave enough to try any, but it was awesome to see!! A couple hours later once the sun set and the full moon rose high in the sky, fireworks started shooting off. It was such a fantastic time!!
Other activities included spending the whole day wandering the streets of Ayutthaya visiting the tons upon tons of temples and temple ruins they have available. From Wat Lokayasutharam (Buddha reclining) to the Phra Ram Park where several little Temples could be found, to Wat Maha That, site of an ancient Temple ruins, the Ancient Palace, Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit where one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand can be found and so many more! Though some of the Temples have been given the status of being World Heritage Sites, they do charge admission (50 baht) for foreigners. Some people I came across took issue with that, but it’s such a teeny amount, I really wasn’t that bothered by it.
One funny here: as I was wandering through the park, walking through the grass in my flip-fops, I was thinking to myself whether there were any animals in Thailand to be worried about. Before going to Costa Rica EVERYONE and their brother (mine included) warned about the fer-de-lance snake (highly poisonous and can kill you within a half hour!!) but I hadn’t heard a thing from any fellow traveler to Thailand of critters to beware of. Just as I was thinking this, up ahead on the side walk was… Is that??… What IS that?!?!?… No…. Is that a komodo dragon??? Do they have those here??? Of course, my instinct toward animals not always being on point, I stealthily rushed toward it so not to scare it off, but yes I wanted a picture!! Later I looked it up and it’s not a komodo dragon, but rather what they call a ‘water monitor’. Interesting stuff!
I came across a local fishing for shrimp in the river, which was fun to watch for a bit 🙂
They also have an Elephant Village in Ayutthaya in the center of town where people could ride them down and back on the street. I opted NOT to do this, but did buy a basket of food that I fed directly to the elephants hanging out at the ticket area. I have so much more to say on this topic, but will save it for another post as it’s too long for this one…
My last activity in Ayutthaya was of a boat tour. For 200 baht, the two-hour tour included a visit to Wat Phanan Choeng near the Japanese settlement that featured a bronze Buddha that looked larger than the one at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, then over to Wat Phutthai Sawan followed by the ever so beautiful and my favorite (especially at sunset!!) Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The tour ended by continuing along the river until we made a full circle back to our Guesthouse:)