Pai & Ayutthaya

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I never thought keeping up with a blog would be so tough! I mean even before I left, I had every intention of blogging once a week to reflect on my experiences and record everything so I’d never forget. But reality came in Chiang Mai and my life got busier than it’s ever been – which I love more than anything! Unfortunately taking the time to sit and write about what I’ve been doing just hasn’t been on the forefront… After going to class, doing homework, researching travel plans, actually traveling, and building new friendships, the blog never finds time :(

So! Before I talk about LAOS I want to catch you guys up on two little weekend trips we recently took – to Pai and to Ayutthaya.

Pai is a little city in the middle of the mountains just three hours north of Chiang Mai. The longest part of the minivan ride is the continuous curves that add up to an infamous 762 curves altogether. I didn’t feel as sick as I thought I would, and between nodding off and hitting my head on the window, I got to enjoy beautiful scenery and a random cow or two. This trip was the original six of us again, and we had some good talks on the long ride.

Our two days there were well spent. We stayed at the Phu Pai Art Resort, which was a bunch of cozy bungalows overlooking the paddy (rice) fields. It was breathtaking. Since we knew the resort was out of town a ways, we rented bikes right away and found the ride there to be cold (which was refreshing) and peaceful. The following day was spent exploring the natural beauty of waterfalls. It was so nice to swim! We got to see so much of the countryside and more shades of green than I ever thought existed. We visited a China-town like area that is being newly built. While there, we rode on a do-it-yourself ferris wheel with four seats that you held yourself in while others pushed you around – pretty scary! We also saw a snake that some local children tried flinging at Ka & Kong while they were on their bike. Interesting experience. Our resort had a beautiful infinity pool and we ate some good American breakfasts (you can attribute that to Pai being a “backpackers’ heaven”).

The following weekend, Fou and I joined a different group of friends to travel to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s second capital after Sukhothai. There are two World Heritage sites there, and the city is filled with ancient ruins. Since we learned a little of the history, we wanted to see it in person. We started Friday evening taking the train from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya overnight. I love the trains in Thailand. The bunks are just the perfect size to cuddle up and sleep really well all night. Then you wake up in your destination! It couldn’t be anymore perfect. We arrived in Ayutthaya around five or six in the morning, so our first concern was finding our hotel to nap a little more. Unfortunately, it didn’t open until seven, so our next mission was to eat. We had some really good chicken over rice at a little random restaurant (one of the only ones open). We could see out into the street as the monks collected their alms through the sunrise. It was so calm and peaceful.

Finally able to get into the hotel, we pushed three twin size beds together and all seven of us napped for about an hour. Feeling refreshed, we went downstairs only to find out we were required to rent more rooms (haha!). After sorting that out, we were on our way. We arranged a tuk-tuk tour, which is the thing to do if you ever go to Ayutthaya. We picked the destinations we wanted to see out of a guide book, but they already have tours if you don’t know exactly what you want to see. These tuk-tuks are reasonably small, mind you, but we fit our group of seven, the driver, his wife, and their grandson. Only in Thailand.

We were able to see both World Heritage sites, which were absolutely amazing. There’s an indescribable feeling that overwhelms you when you stand in the midst of so much history and importance. I could imagine what these places looked like in their prime, and how chaotic the Khmer’s destruction was. Some of the sites we could walk through, explore on our own and actually touch parts of history. Such a neat experience.

Sunday, we took a boat tour to a few different temples. It was so relaxing riding down the river, watching the people go about their daily lives, and stopping to wave to us. The boat was really low, so when the river’s currents crossed paths, we got splashed and Andrew, sitting up front, got pretty soaked! One of the temples we stopped at contained Thailand’s largest ancient Buddha. That was impressive. So many people were crowding to get inside to pay their respect, so just looking in from the doorway, I could barely see higher than its chin! Later that night, we almost missed our bus thanks to the restaurant we ate at (which was right next door to the travel agency). Luckily, we made it on. The bus was about 300 Baht less than the train, but much less comfortable. We studied Thai Language together for a while since our midterm was the following morning. Upon waking up back in Chiang Mai, around six in the morning, we went back to our apartments, got cleaned up, and went directly to school.

It’s amazing to think how many opportunities are here in Chiang Mai to travel out to see Thailand. Stepping outside my own comfort zone of having complete control over the plans has really helped me grow as a traveler. Buses, trains, and taxis are my preferred mode of transportation (as well as motorbikes). That’s definitely one thing I’ll miss back home. Can’t wait to tell you all about Laos! But for now, I have to sleep – our program is going on a Hill Tribe Trek this weekend and I cannot wait! (You’ll hear about it next week so don’t worry!)

Until next time!

Sawat-dii Khaa :)