December 17th, 2016: Ayutthaya, Thailand

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thailand

Sweet, tropical Thailand…. It’s only been nine days since I left, and my heart aches to be back under your warm sun, eating your delicious food and (dare I say) back on your trains exploring…

On our second day in Thailand, we walked around and found a restaurant. The owner was a young person who spoke great English. He studied in Canada, and asked us about our travels so far, etc. He gave us some advice and explained that we should head to the train station and check out Ayutthaya Historical Park, where we went on the third day. The train ride was only one hour north of Bangkok (it felt long at the time, but it was nothing compared to the 10 hour train ride towards the end of our stay in Thailand).

We arrived fairly early in the day. There were dozens of taxi and Tuk Tuk drivers awaiting the train station, ready to pounce on all the tourists. We walked around for about an hour before I decided to give in and pay someone 200 baht to drive us to the city. Really, the walk was doable, I just couldn’t figure out which route to take to get to the park. The driver was the only girl I encountered as a Tuk Tuk driver. She spent about ten minutes trying to convince me that I needed her for three hours for 600 baht (!!) before dropping me off where I requested for the price I agreed to pay.

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Sometimes this is how I wave to people.

We came on an extraordinarily hot day. I learned to notice that Thai people look fabulous and well put together despite it being a million degrees outside. And in comparison, my eyeliner was running, my hair was damp from sweat and I probably didn’t smell that great.

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Along with everyone else who visits this park, I found that there was beauty in the ruins. Ayutthaya used to be the capital city, an important city for trade and it was attacked by Burma in the 1700s. This Historical park really gave me a good picture on the importance of religion in this culture’s history. Naturally religion is a large part of a culture, but there were temples, and Buddha statues everywhere.

I read somewhere online that Thailand is known as “the land of smiles.” I found that Thai people were honestly the nicest people I have ever met. Perhaps the countries religion has something to do with that — Buddhism is the major religion in Thailand, and the religion promotes peace. (Hm… I know many people in my life who could learn a lesson or two from how these people acted and treated others).

After spending two days in Bangkok, I felt that the break from the hustle and bustle of a big city was much needed. The air didn’t smell like pollution here. There still was quite a bit of traffic, but it wasn’t physically impossible to cross the road. In fact, one of the nice things was that there wasn’t much road traffic in the park, making it easier to get to where you wanted to go.

Before I came to Thailand, I had an image of this park in my head. I saw this image of a Buddha head interwoven into a tree branch on someone else’s blog, and I pictured a fairy-type forest. Mostly, I saw the red brick everywhere. After searching for this darn Buddha in a tree, I asked some people who I thought would speak English if they found it (there were French, and luckily they spoke great English! I really shouldn’t assume that someone speaks English based on what they look like, but desperate times call for desperate measures). Here it is in all it’s glory:

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Finding this was so satisfying. It’s like seeing a story book come to life.

On our way back to the train station, a restaurant owner who spoke broken English asked us where we were going. He gave us directions to get to the train station, although I struggled to understand him. Through body language, I thought I understood, so we headed off in the direction we thought looked right. After a few minutes of walking we were someone calling out at us while running. It was the restaurant owner! He told us, “wrong way! I’ll show you.” And walked with us until we found our way. I was so blown away by how friendly he was, and how helpful. This made me stop and reflect on myself and how I treat others, especially foreigners. Do they feel as welcome in America as I felt in Thailand? I’m not sure….but… my goal after this trip was to try to make sure they do.

Stay tuned for day 4!

-A

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Bangkok, December 16, 2016

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Instead of walking at my graduation, I thought it would be more meaningful for me to begin my traveling journey (with my best friend by my side).

We arrived early on December 15th after almost 30 hours on the plane. My initial reaction was terrified: my parents were not supportive of this trip, and they didn’t say goodbye to me before I left. I thought, “maybe this is an omen. Maybe something bad will happen.” And can you blame me?! This was the view from our hotel room:

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iSanook Residence, Bangkok

I imaged Bangkok to be chic, and modern. And, I soon learned that it was…in certain spots, but I am also really glad our hotel was here. It felt very local. The surrounding neighborhood included people who had small businesses in front of their homes selling food, smoothies, fruit, and store goods. We were about a 20 minute walk from the train station– Hua Lamphong, maybe a 40 minute walk from the biggest shopping center I’ve ever seen (it was a dream!).

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Toast Bar, Bangkok

After walking around China Town and getting lost, exploring some temples and meeting some friendly people who seemed excited to practice their English, we found a tiny cute snack restaurant selling toast. Toast is huge in Thailand (and SE Asia in general) and I love them for that. I got waffles this first time we went here (oh yeah we came more than once!). There were two staff people, and one them spoke pretty good English. She had a shaved head, and explained that she just got ordained to be a monk. I’ve never met anyone who’s Buddhist before, and it was just so cool to be immersed in a culture unlike my own and to learn from people like her. She also assumed we never had Thai Iced Coffee before and made us some to try (she was right and it was delicious!)

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Wat Traimit Withhayaram Wora Wiharn, Bangkok

After this TukTuk driver asked to show me a map, circled some touristy places in Bangkok, and tried to convince us that we needed him to drive us (nice try, mister. the pamphlet the hotel gave us warned us about people like you!) we stumbled across this temple where the Golden Buddha is inside. It was perhaps the only touristy thing we did in Bangkok. It was so crowded. I couldn’t get a good shot of the Buddha, and people kept posing for selfies with him and I just couldn’t handle it! I much preferred the less populous places after going here.

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As many people know, I am an animal lover. More specifically, a bird lover. This lady had all these wild birds cooped up in these cages. I bent down to look at them and to feel sorry for them, and next thing I know, she demanding 100 baht, shoving the cage into Nick’s hand and lifted up on the door so the birds could fly free…and I couldn’t even get a good shot because I didn’t have time to adjust the settings on my camera (total rookie move).

Nick says if we were going to pick a name for our trip, it should be: “Wait, let me adjust the settings on my camera.”

I am still learning, and Thailand was the perfect place for me to practice photography.

This was just day 2 of my trip…. stay tuned, it gets WAY better ❤

-A