As most already know, Asia is known for its exquisite temples and the history behind them. I did not realize how many temples I was going to see when I got here. But after spending almost four months here already, viewing temples is just another part of daily life here for me. I see them everywhere, driving into the city, around the city, in local parks, national forests, etc.
I visited Ayutthaya which is the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Siam, before Bangkok became the capital city of Thailand. Ayutthaya is located 80 kilometers north of Bangkok and transportation is simple to get there. I paid 60 baht ($2.00) to catch a ride in a van. Ayutthaya was a prosperous international trading port from 1350 to 1767 when it was razed by the Burmese. Ayutthaya contains palaces, Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues. Arriving there, my friend and I noticed that there were no taxis in sight except tuk tuks who were only trying to scam you. Since Ayutthaya is huge and takes more than one day to see all the ruins and temples, we decided to rent a motorbike for a 100 baht all day pass ($3.30). It was much more enjoyable to ride around on a motorbike than to sit in on a tour with a large group of other people. This way we could visit certain temples at our own pace, and have a lax schedule where we could see whatever we wanted for however long we wanted. It was unbelievable walking around, I could definitely still feel the history here. The temples and ruins were amazingly beautiful and so intricate. It is so hard to wrap my mind around how these huge stone buildings were built so long ago with no modern technology.
As I mentioned before, stray dogs are everywhere in Thailand. Some nice, some not so nice. I had a little run-in with a stray dog while touring on our motorbike. We took a road that we thought was leading to the next temple, but turns out it was a dead end road leading to a man’s house. As we were driving up and quickly realizing that we were not on the correct road, a stray dog came running up to us barking and growling. Coincidentally our motorbike died right as this was happening. I have never been more scared in my life (this almost beats the first time I saw a gecko in our dorm kitchen). This was just our luck: taking the wrong street that lead to a dead end and having a stray dog attack us right as our motorbike died. Nevertheless, we quickly started back up the motorbike and zoomed off as fast as we could. I was sitting on the back laughing so hard and also still shaking at the fact my life flashed before my eyes! The rest of the trip we decided to only stay on main roads and avoid stray dogs as much as possible.
A few weeks after my visit to Ayutthaya, I took a trip to Chiang Mai, a city located on the northwestern corner of Thailand. The main reason we traveled here was for Loy Krathong, translating into English as “to float a basket”. This is also known to westerners as the Lantern Festival. This festival takes place on more than one day. One day boats are released to get rid of all your bad karma throughout the year, and most make a wish as their boat is released. We were very lucky to get to create our own boats with our hostel owner. He cut slabs of bamboo trunk as the center base, and picked loads of banana leaves to decorate our boats with. It was such a fun experience to get to learn about this holiday and be able to make it more meaningful by creating our own boats rather than spending money on one that another person created. We went to the river in Chiang Mai as a group, and one by one we released our boats making wishes and letting go of all of our bad karma. The next day was the releasing of the lanterns, symbolizing the same sort of idea: releasing karma and creating a clean slate for the year to earn good merit. Due to my class schedule and tests, I had to leave a day early and miss the releasing of the lanterns. I was pretty bummed about it, since it is such an amazing event to witness, but I was fortunate enough to look out the window and see the thousands upon thousands of lanterns floating in the sky as I was going home on a bus.