First: I have never traveled solo, until now. I've always had a friend, or been meeting someone. I'm not new to exploring a place on my own, but flying, staying AND exploring alone? That was new. Second: Ayutthaya was the perfect place to try this out. I'd been wanting to go for a while, and early this year I found a $20 round trip ticket to Bangkok from Chiang Mai (yes, I know), and knew that a to/from van to Ayutthaya was only another $4. Sold. I planned a spiritual retreat of sorts, a getaway to clear my head, think about all that God has done while I've been abroad, and prepare my heart to get back to America.
Ayutthaya city is one of the three ancient capitals in Thailand, alongside Lopburi and Sukhothai, which Katie and I visited the previous December. It's the one with the most tourism, I believe, and most tourists I met were French. Seeing local Thai-French translators walking around chattering fluently in a language that flew out the window when I learned the former was a little bit of a shock!
On my first full day in the city I spent the morning at my hotel, then decided to head out and explore Wat Mahathat, the central temple in Ayutthaya. This temple is known for the buddha head in the tree, as well as being the place many of the central Buddhist relics were once stored. The place was buzzing with tourists, and everywhere you looked another maze of ruins began.
As I headed out of the temple, it began to rain on and off for about two hours. In between downpours I made my way to Busaba Café, a beautiful dessert and coffee shop that also sells handmade Thai design fabrics and goods. I tried their passionfruit cheesecake per recommendation of the barista working that day, and it was delightful, and as usual the presentation of the place didn't disappoint.
Getting around Ayutthaya was fairly easy. Most songtaews (here they were very different from Chiang Mai) ran a flat rate of 60 baht anywhere in the city, which was how much it took me to get to the city from Bangkok... I guess you could say that you were getting ripped off, but for a city so full of tourists, it wasn't a bad deal to be honest. Especially considering my hotel was a little ways outside of all the hustle and bustle of the ruins.
I found Baan Tye Wang online pretty early on and fell in love with the style of it. The seven-room guesthouse is owned and run by a family who's lived in the area for ages. Each room is styled differently, and the natural and clean atmosphere made my time incredibly peaceful. Since I spent most of my time journaling, reading and resting, the shaded lawn was amazing: I could sit outside with nothing but a hand fan and still manage to not burn up while wearing a scarf... in July!
I stayed in the Thong Room, meaning gold, and all of the little details reflected the theme, from the golden Thai ceramics to the foil buddhas in the art on the wall. It was a oasis for sure, including the lovely outdoor shower (I had a ton of privacy), and the stone floors throughout. It was worth every penny I spent to stay, and it wasn't expensive at all.
Day two, I spent a little time wandering the Royal Gardens and Wat Si Sanphet, running into an amazing Thai musician and getting lost on the winding pathways through the garden. The brick pathways were completely nonsensical, but I didn't have anywhere to be and the weather outside was beautiful, what else was I gonna do?
For dinner that night I opted for going to a fancy restaurant instead of the hotel dinner (which was fantastic Thai food). I walked some back roads for about half an hour to get to Sala Ayutthaya, the nicest hotel in town, where I had a beautiful view of the river and a beautiful dinner to match. I ordered the Beef Massaman Curry, finishing off with a pineapple basil smoothie and molten lava cake.
I walked home and got very very lost on the way there, stumbling upon market after market after the sun went down. I finally found a motorcycle taxi driver willing to take me back to Baan Tye Wang, nice as can be as I gave him directions when I finally recognized something.
Ayutthaya was a perfect place to explore solo. It was a beautiful reminder of the culture and ways of Thailand, and of why I had come there in the first place. Such a joy to sit and remember what God had done over the past two years and the gateway towards my future solo travels.