It was May 11th, and I had just arrived to Ayutthaya from Bangkok by the local train. It was 4:20pm and I begin my walk from the station down a road with some small stores and restaurants on both sides. It was hot and the sweat immediately started to trickle down my back as soon as I stepped into the sun. I walk up to a dock by a brown river and look across. I wasn’t quite sure but the city center seemed to be just on the other side. I didn’t see any boats but I did see a bridge to the left of me in the distance and wondered if I had to cross it. I backtrack and decide to eat something first.
I sit down in a patio restaurant and was greeted by a Thai woman that wasn’t too welcoming. I sit, say hello in Thai and she plops a menu in front of me. I flip through it looking at the pictures but before I even order, I saw a western girl sit at a table right behind me. She was skinny with long brown hair and was wearing a trucker hat. Something about the way she dressed told me that she was American and I just had to know. I turned around and said hello to initiate some small talk. She spoke English with a slight accent and was quite friendly, so I asked if she wanted to join me. She smiles and sits in front of me. Her name was Lauréline and she was from the French part of Switzerland… I was off. She had large light green eyes and a kind smile. We order some food and talked for a while exchanging pleasantries. I had some Pad Thai and she a Papaya Salad. We pay after our meal and thank the lady whose mood had changed. Lauréline finds out that I didn’t have a place to stay for the night and recommends me the hostel that she was at. We walk back to the dock and find a brightly painted longboat with a long tail boat shaft coming our way. We pay 5 baht each to get across and on the other side she unlocks a bike that she had by a side street. We stop at a small guesthouse by the river, so I could have a Thai tea but also to ask for pricing on a room, since it looked nice from the outside. A small Thai lady shows me the private room she had available and it was decent enough but I decided to see Laurélines hostel first.
Lauréline leads me to Allsum Hostel on Bang Ian Road where she was staying. The hostel was very clean and modern, so I paid 400 baht for two nights, which is about $12.70. The place had several floors, some common areas, had breakfast included and even some bikes to rent. I lock up my bag in my dorm, rent a bike and we went to a popular weekend night market in town. It had just finished raining and it was already dark, so we quickly ride down two long streets, pass some roundabouts and reach the market that was next to some ruins. We lock our bikes under some trees in the front and begin to walk around. There was a long stone path that wrapped around a small creek flanked by tall leafy trees with hanging lights on both sides. Along this path there must of been more than a hundred bamboo stalls selling all sorts of very delicious looking Thai street food and delicacies: All kinds of skewered meats grilling over binchotan charcoal, crepes, vegetable curries, coconut desserts, insects, ice creams, teas, sodas and other regional foods I didn’t recognize.
The path was illuminated by the hanging braided bamboo lights which gave the entire area a beautiful glow. All the locals were out and about and some of the young kids would stare at us, as Lauréline and I were the only foreigners there. The night was warm and everyone was smiling and enjoying themselves. We strolled by a little girl singing Thai pop music on a karaoke machine and other vendors selling handicrafts. They would smile at us and say hello from their stalls, saying “Sawatdee Ka” and giving a slight wai. I felt that Thai people were friendliest people in the world that night and it gave me a really good feeling about my upcoming journey through their beautiful country. Feeling curious, I walk up to one of the stalls and a buy a semi-sweet coconut dessert that was green in color. It came in eight pieces and it was delicious but kind of chewy. I share some with my new friend and we talk back in forth in English and in some French. Her English was quite good but at times she would have to say some words in French, which I would understand…despite my mediocre command of it.
We reach the end of the long path and ended up at a small square. There we saw some teenagers dressed in classical Thai costumes performing a show depicting an ancient Siamese battle with warriors, kings and demons which was very entertaining. They all fought against each other with swords and had elaborate make-up. One even startled everyone by quickly drawing a pistol that let out a very loud and unexpected bang. One side emerged victorious and the crowd gave a hearty applause after they all bowed. We leave the square the same way we came and then bike back to the hostel in the dark. We stay up and chat for a while before calling it a night. Lauréline was to leave the next day and I had plans to see the town. I had read that the historic city of Ayutthaya was once the capital of the Siamese kingdom and I wanted to learn much about it.