As we continue to try live in a way that we think is best and avoid thoughtlessly abiding by societal norms, we found ourselves on a stopover between Bangkok and Chiang Mai (Thailand’s two largest cities) and as we got off the train, our mild expectations were shaken a bit to the negative and we were forced to adapt.
Thankfully, a few days earlier, we’d learned some valuable lessons from fellow travelers Grace and Berna:
- Look at hotel rooms before you agree to pay for them (and check that the A/C works)
- Don’t be afraid to walk away
- Know that we can get a lot for our money in Thailand for lodging
- Only book one night at a time
Ayuthaya is a small town about 90 minutes by train outside of Bangkok to the north. It’s known in tourist guide books for its old temple ruins and therefore, it’s a common stop for travelers. We chose to go not because we’re necessarily huge fans of looking at old temples (or churches and museums for that matter) but because we thought it’d be a good experience to see something other than the big city of Bangkok, we’d break up the 700+ km train trip to Chiang Mai, and it would be neat to see what the temples were all about.
And as we got off the train, almost always a jarring experience as we all scurry about getting our bearings, figure out where to stay for the night, and figure out how we get there, all the while being mobbed by local touts trying to entice us with offers for various hotels and treks, we were overwhelmed with a feeling of disappointment. While we feel like we don’t need big city with modern amenities and fancy digs, there is a general sense of cleanliness and order that we appreciate, and we didn’t feel that at all when we arrived in Ayuthaya.
We hopped on a ferry boat to cross the river and made our way to the main drag in town, a fairly shabby sight compared with the glamour of Bangkok. It is true that we were probably a bit biased to the negative from the outset. Not only had we had a nice place in Bangkok, but we had also just gotten off a 90+ minute ride on a non-A/C train with tons of stops, high temperatures, and lots of dust. We weren’t in the best of moods and Ayuthaya didn’t come to rescue us.
This is when rule #1 came into play. We checked out one of the nicer hotels first. They immediately offered a price lower than the listed price but still around $40/night. We checked out the room (and the A/C) and noticed that there was also a swimming pool. However, it seemed like a steep price given the town, so we followed rule #2 and kindly said we were going to talk it over and look around more. We figured we could get more for our money and when we found a guesthouse with more of a backpacker guesthouse feel for around $15 we were sold. Thankfully, we obeyed rule #4 because shortly after catching our breath from the rush of train to ferry to hotel hopping we both shared our views that we weren’t too keen on spending much time here and rather than spend two nights, we began our search for trains out the next day.
We still wanted to see the temples though and give the town a shot. We also wanted to get a good run in. So we abided by another travel rule from our friend Keith in Camas, WA: get up early and run the city. He loves to fondly recall his days of running in the early mornings in Florence, Italy amidst all the tourist spots, long before the locals or the tourists were out and about. Granted, Ayuthaya is no Florence, but we thought it was a good plan none the less.
So we got train tickets out the next morning, late enough to allow a long run around the city, and then planned our route. There is a road that pretty well circles the town and passes many of the old sights so we figured this to be the safest and easiest to navigate. And it was, except for the hungry dogs.
Our guide book said to beware of packs of dogs that roam the streets at night. We figured that by 6:30 am, well after the sun had risen, that the dog packs would disperse and we’d only be dodging traffic, which we hoped would be light due to the early start time. Wrong on both accounts!
We got our first dog shock when I stopped to take a picture of a temple across the river. After a couple shots, we heard a deep bark and looked over to see a mangy junkyard looking dog trotting over towards us. He wasn’t alone either. We quickly noticed five or six big nasty dogs unhappy and running towards us. We quickly began walking back toward the road, keeping an eye on the approaching dogs and thankfully, when we were back to the street they let us be.
As our adrenaline came down, we said to each other that we hoped that was a one off experience. Not so. We were chased and snarled at at least 10 times over the next hour. We learned to begin walking upon approaching dogs and they were generally less aggressive. They seemed as if they’d been out gallivanting all night and were now tired and hungry, and like we tend to be when hungry, they were a little pissed off.
So while we did manage to get some good photos along the way, it was a bit more of a walk/run than a nice touristy long run. Our nerves were shot by the end and we were glad to get showered up and head out of town. Thanks to Grace and Berna’s rules, we’d only booked one night, didn’t spend much money, and we were on our way to a town that we hoped we would enjoy a little better, or at least be able to run more in, rather than be forced to slow down and walk.