Jan 1st, 2015
When I was in Bangkok, I was walking almost every minute. Everyday I would cover at least 13 km. I could have taken public transport, but hey, I had ample time and I loved the way of feeling a city by walking. To be added, I was already used to the intensity and excitement of hitchhiking, so used to it that I was spoiled and could not stand the boredom of organized transport anymore. I felt much more alive when walking, being grilled by the spicy sunshine, being annoyed by the noise and dust, being bumped in by strangers and in the meantime greedily letting everything sink into my mind from my eyes, all the colours, the lush thick tropical plants and all the faces of different people.
I shared this cheapest hostel of Bangkok with mice and some beings of my own species for two nights. On Jan 2nd, I checked out because I found a place to spend the night for free — a 24-hour open McDonald’s near the night market. Free electricity! free toilets! WOWO! That’s simply too tempting! 😛 At that time I still did not know that it’s widely accepted in Thailand and other South East Asian countries that travellers could stay in Buddhist monasteries, in exchange for some labour work or just nothing.
I stored most of my luggage in the hostel. During the day I went to the Myanmar embassy to apply for a tourist visa. Near the embassy there was a Hindu temple, with very colourful decorations and sprightly architecture. It’s a popular spot, filled with worshippers, smoke from countless incenses and every passer-by would bestow an admiring eye.
When night fell, I arrived in the McDonald’s. To my surprise, nobody minded that I actually did not buy anything there and stayed all the time. Soon I noticed that I was not the only one overnighting in this “exotic” location. Several older men and women, most already in the age of grandparents arrived rather early to occupy advantageous spots and gradually dozed away. I got an okish spot and had an okish sleep.
In the morning I woke up, went to the hostel to get my luggage and then I headed for Ayutthaya, an ancient city just a bit north of Bangkok city. Bangkok was huge, too huge to get out on foot, at least not within one day. I took the metro to the most northern stop and from there I would hitchhike. When I got out of the metro stop and stood on the road under the ruthless and penetrating sunlight again, I immediately realized that the road system here was far more complex than in Laos and it’s impossible to tell easily which way to go. I went to the nearby train station to ask for the right road. The guy in the ticket window did not speak much English, so he did not really understand my question, but when he heard the word “Ayutthaya” he immediately gave me the price of the train ticket — “14 butt”, half a dollar…… temptingly low. I could tell you “I chose to take the train instead of hitchhiking because it’s more time-efficient and it’s cheap enough.” No, that’s not true. I was lazy. I felt lazy after days of intensive hitchhiking and sleeping in a McDonald’s. All these made me feel lazy right then. That’s the truth. Hitchhiking does save money, but to hitchhike purely for saving money is never my purpose. I decided to take the train and bought the ticket. I waited for the train to come, while watching big rats running around among the railway tracks and under the seats where waiting passengers were sitting. Nobody minded and nobody was surprised. The sun was shedding beautiful slanting rays on the tracks, on the dark furs of the big rats. Everything looked so gentle and mellow.
So I took the train, which was a bad choice…… For it might be the slowest train I had ever taken up until then (soon the record was broken)… It was about 100 km and took more than 2 hours…… Nobody checked the tickets… I regretted that I was such a legal person to have bought one. When I landed in the train station of Ayutthaya. It was almost nightfall. On the way from the train station, where you could see a lot of tourists, to the ancient city, I passed a monastery. I was excited “Yeah! I can find shelter there!” Nope! No shelter, even no monks inside… How about toilets? At least I could use the toilets for free there (those in the train station were not free)?! Nope, the toilets were locked! Is there anything they DID have there? Yes, they did have something — a gang of ferocious dogs! scarily ferocious! When I got in the yard, they started barking and following me and one of them actually attempted to bite me. It would have succeeded if I had not walked away fast enough! Mind you, dear friends, when ferocious dogs were after you, do not run! Otherwise their hunting instinct would be triggered! Instead, walk away calmly like nothing was happening. When I finally arrived in the ancient city of Ayutthaya, it was already pitch dark. There were several parks, with ancient pagodas inside the parks. It was still open at this hour (about 9pm). There were ferocious dogs guarding them and the guards told me that it was about 5 USD to get in. That’s too much for me… and it’s dark already. Tomorrow, tomorrow I would find a way to get in, for FREE.
I went to a big monastery. To be exact, that was just a temple since no monks actually lived there. In front of this golden temple whose appearance was as magnificient as a palace, there were hundreds of people quietly gathering there, forming a half circle and in the center there was a chair. On the chair sat a monk, cross-legged, old, calm, as thin and dry as a dead tree trunk. He was totally wrapped in his monk dress. He was speaking, very calmly and he had such a respectful and serious face. All the lights of that vast space were on him while the rest was filled by darkness. All the others, the audience, mostly young people were dressed in white. They sat on the ground, on the grass, or on chairs, mostly cross-legged. They, most of them at least, were listening attentively to the only voice (some did fall asleep……), also the only sound of that sphere — the monotonous telling of the reverend monk. I had no idea what he was saying but he looked important and what he said seemed to have the function of enlightening everybody’s life and saving the universe. There were even professionals filming it, with all the equipments one would see for making TV shows. Yes! It’s like a TV show and the dry monk was our star! I was more in the need of a quiet place to read and take a rest than listening to his amazing theory, so I walked away and found a mansion beside a small lake. There were chairs just outside the mansion. Obviously the chairs, lights above and the toilets there all belonged to the mansion, which was empty. I thought it was all always like that. I sat down on the chair leisurely and started reading an electronic book on my shitty cell phone. To be mentioned, there was even power sockets, where I could charge my cell phone. WOWO! Amazing! I enjoyed all these facilities until a car arrived, with a dog running behind it. It turned out to be the owner of the mansion. I apologized to him. He smiled and looked confused but let me as I were. He did but his dog did not…… What a mean dog! It could not stop barking…… I left and found a bench just beside the statue of an ancient Siem king and continued reading while fighting ferocious mosquitoes at the same time. The other disturbance there also came from the ferocious dogs guarding that place…… Yes, ferocious dogs, it’s always them! 😉
More than one hour later our star finished his grand speech and the pious audience headed home. The ticket controllers of the parks also left their posts and there were only those ferocious dogs around the entrances.
Where to sleep? This question finally occurred to me although I always believed that the answer would present itself when the opportunity was mature. I was also thirsty and had run out of water. I went around all the pagoda parks and found one huge museum. At the entrance there was a guard in a small room, watching TV while having his late dinner. I said hi, asked him if he had water. Yes! He gladly took out a big Coca Cola bottle from his fridge! fully filled with cold water!! WOWO! How lovely! That served as my water supply for the next 20 hours. I had the evil plan of jumping into one of those pagoda parks and sleep under an ancient monument. The main challenges were the guards of my own species, the army of the ferocious dogs and the walls. i was near the three white pagodas, perhaps the most magnificient pagodas in Ayutthaya. Yes! It would be them! 🙂 I first approached the official entrance, hoping to enter from there by squeezing, jumping over the gate or whatever necessary. The human guards were gone! No lights on! but some people who were organizing the “TV show” were not far from the entrance. Before I could make up my mind to jump over the fragile entrance, the ferocious dogs immediately jumped out! Their anger was huge enough to devour me alive! Seriously, these beasts were much more stubborn than our own species. Humans could be reasoned with but dogs no! I had to abandon plan A. Ok, plan B then! I strolled around the wall of this park. Soon I noticed that the walls were unbelievably low. I found a corner far enough from the dogs and crossed over the wall without much problem. Yeah!! I got in the park!! Then I tiptoed towards the three white pagodas and suddenly heard the ferocious dogs barking outside the wall. At once I stopped and only moved again when the barking subdued. “They would not jump inside the wall to catch me, right?” That was my biggest concern. I tried to be as careful as possible. Eventually I reached the pagodas, which housed the remains of King Borommatrailokanat and King Bo and I chose the side far from the entrance, thus the dog army. I still heard their barking so clearly but none jumped in, as I believed. Sometimes the barking suddenly became nearer! which would strung up every single muscle and nerve of me! I would stand there, stupefied and clenching my fist, ready for a dog-human battle. Eventually no dogs came in. I opened my sleeping bag and put it just below one of the 3 big white pagodas. There was a bit grass on the ground, but not much and the stone pieces did not feel very comfortable. There was not much wind, but quite some mosquitoes. 🙂 When I already lay down and started to enjoy the starry sky and the creepy atmosphere created by the hundreds of years old pagodas, the ancient statues whose colours had already half faded, I could still hear dogs suddenly barking occasionally. “Don’t they sleep?! These animals…” I suspected that there might be night patrolling, with armed dogs and torches, but none eventually come, or they did come, but I just did not know, because I soon fell into sweet dreams.