I made the biggest mistake of my travelling life. I left my entire luggage in the hostel I booked for 4 nights without considering that I would be wandering other cities in Thailand with no window time to get back to pack up.
I woke up late thinking to just take it easy today. Maybe head to Ayutthaya at 9 o’clock in the morning. But I left at half past 10 already. I took the public bus to get to the nearest subway train station. It felt cool to mingle with riding locals, costing me only 9 baht. I then boarded the train bound for Hua Lamphong Railway Station. Emerging from the subway, I immediately noticed the ticket counters within the railway station. I approached the open window and inquired about trips to Chiang Mai. Knowing that seats with the express train are yet available, I bought one roundtrip ticket leaving at 735pm today and returning tomorrow at 6pm. Then I bought one way ticket to Ayutthaya that was scheduled to depart at 1120am. I mentally drew my itinerary that with 2-hour travel to Ayutthaya, I would just spend 30 minutes to 1 hour in the ruins. I needed a spare time to be able to get back to Cooper Hostel to pick and pack some personal stuff. I should be at the boarding gate before 735pm which train to Chiang Mai was already booked and paid.
Upon arrival at Ayutthaya Station, I walked across it towards the town past many tuktuk drivers offering expensive rides to the ruins. I was under the impression that the travel blog, I just read was true in tutu, that I would just come out of the train station, walk straight across, and then find the famous ruins. The huge map inside the station actually pointed interesting places in many different directions further than the station. I did stroll down and noticed pedal and motor bikes for rent until I reached a riverbank. There was this lady sitting behind a desk receiving payments from local travelers. The signage beside her said 5 baht for a boat ride. I asked to rent a bike and she said "rent it across the river," which I followed. I later learned that it would be hard hoisting a rented bike on board the tug boat which I observed with fellow foreigners exactly doing it.
For 40 baht I got my bike. I started shaky getting myself acquainted with the new bike. There was an unlabeled map only lines and circles of the route tourists like me should take to circle the town’s touristy areas. What I find with little difficulty in biking around was crossing the highway traffic. The first stop was at the most famous Wat Mahathat Ruins where a head of a Buddha is tangled tightly by a tree, then with a little turn to Bueng Phra Ram, a little farther to Wat Lokaya Sutha where the giant reclining Buddha can be found.
Then I realized it was already 3 o’clock in the afternoon. With 2-hour train ride back to Bangkok, I indeed arrived in the Hua Lamphong Railway Station at quarter of 6 in the evening. There was no room for going to the hostel. I took my dinner at the nearby KFC and looked for a convenience store after. I picked up bath soap, toothbrush and toothpaste, candies and chips for the road. I desperately wandered around the station to find shops selling men’s wear but only women’s and children’s. I ended up buying a cardigan to cover myself against the cold of the night. Then the boarding call was heard.
The express train was air conditioned; each passenger has assigned seat that would transform into a bunk bed. It looked like 2 double-decker beds facing each other for each section. I got one of the lower seats, which is more spacious and hence pricier than the upper. To my relief, the bed is equipped with addition foam, which Sam called “Thailand’s great Spongy bed,” white bed sheet, blue pillow, white pillow case, and a thick white blanket.
I initially was alone in my section when we departed Bangkok. The two Englishmen from the adjacent section were called by the uniformed lady from the restaurant section of the train to occupy the lower seat opposite mine to eat their ordered dinner. I later learned that these tall guys occupied the upper decks and so they don’t have much space.
Making more New Friends
I never thought I could win new friends on a train to Chiang Mai. Callum and Sam from England became my chatmates for 2 hours before we decided to finally sleep through the night. I learned that they were bestfriends working in Central London as baristas of separate coffee shops. They’re young at 24 years old. They’ve been travelling for 3 months now, starting in Japan, China, Hongkong, Vietnam, and now in Thailand. They stayed at least a week in every city. I envied them that they can do longer days of overseas travel. This was my longest travel so far hitting 2 countries for 10 days but I only spent about 2 days in a city at average. And I am missing home and work already.
We talked about anything and everything. It started with their great pictures of Japan, Kyoto most specially. I told them I am saving for Japan this coming spring. Then the conversation went on to real estates and related investments, as this is the college degree of Callum. Then we talked about architectures and construction based on what they observed in their Asian travels, as this is the college degree of Sam. They shared their experiences and personal views of China, particularly Beijing and Shanghai; also Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam; and the security measures employed by Thailand after the bombing incident.
We even talked about life, employment, taxation, penal laws in both our countries, England and Philippines. We exhausted all topics we could think of but the train was at halt for quite a long time already. We decided to snooze off to take advantage of the static condition.
A Day in Chiang Mai
I was more excited to hear good reviews Callum and Sam read about Chiang Mai. In fact they would be staying in the city for 1 week. But I would just have it in one day.
The trip was 2 hours delayed. The three of us reconvened in the morning and talked about a lot more of things. Callum tried his NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) studies on me, asking me questions then observe my eye movements while answering. We ran out of stuff to discuss that we remained quiet while going grumpy about the delay. They teased me about what to do with only 5 hours to make the city tour in Chiang Mai. I told them I narrowed down my list of attractions to go to. At 11am we bade each other goodbyes, they went on to find their hostel, and I was haggling with the red jeep (they called taxi here) drivers to take me around.
One older adult man agreed to 500 baht for a trip to Wat Doi Suthep at the top of the hill overlooking the city and then to Wat Phra Singh in the downtown area. I was trying to locate some other temples within the city center but at 3pm I was already ready to go back to the Railway Train Station. But I hailed a tuktuk to drive me to the nearest shopping center called KaLae Night Bazaar. Finding the shops around still closed, as it was yet afternoon, I went instead to McDo and Starbucks in the area, ordered a take away chicken rice meal and hot green tea latte, and headed on to the train station. With extra shirt and slipper bought and at hand, I paid 15 baht for the shower – my first ever shower that day and in a terminal.
The train travel back to Bangkok commenced on time (6pm). I had no more talkative mates, so I finished reading the Angelology novel instead until I went into a deep sleep.
Souvenir Hunting Day
The train parked at the assigned bay in the Bangkok Railways Terminal at 8am. Instead of heading straight to Chatuchak Market as initially planned, I went to my hostel to recharge my phone and my computer, take breakfast, wash myself, and change outfit. I also updated my facebook page with my photos in Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai journeys before shopping for souvenirs and pasalubong (welcome gifts).
I arrived at Chatuchak Market via the subway train. I was starting to feel at ease with riding the public bus to and from the corner of the road to my hostel and the Silom Train Station. I followed the crowd who I knew would visit the shopping center when I emerged from the subway. Circling around, I was initially picky but later found the rhythm and left the market fully loaded. The highlight was me picking for myself a new bag and trendy short pants and the elephant stuffed toy for Baby Wanwan.
I was back at the hostel tired but full; I dropped by the KFC to eat an early dinner. I gained a short nap after acquainting with my new dorm mate, who is from Chiang Mai.
With my 8pm alarm whining, I hurried to complete packing, head down to ask May grab a taxi, and off I went to the Suvarnahbumi International Airport. Then I met two Filipino gays, one crossdresser and the other a simple queer. We shared a coffee in the Starbucks joint within the terminal’s foodcourt. They were both Cebuanos so we conversed about Philippine politics and Thailand cosmetic surgeries using our own regional tongue. They were witty and flamboyant, and I really enjoyed their company. They were to meet a Filipino arriving from Canada so we separated ways as it was my check in time.