My ENP friends (Natalie and Lauren) and I decided to tear ourselves away from our beloved Pai to head down to Ayutthaya, where we thought we’d get a little history and culture in our lives. Unfortunately, we got a lot more than that.
After the vomit-inducing minibus ride back to Chaing Mai (no joke, two Asian ladies in our van were puking in bags for half of the drive), we took an overnight train ten hours down to Ayutthaya. This was my first Thai train experience and let me tell you… wow, it was SO much nicer than Indian Railways in every way! It was on time, air-conditioned, clean, quiet, it had running water for hand-washing, teeth brushing, etc., and around bedtime an employee came around and made our beds for us with clean sheets, a blanket, and pillow! Mind blown! I had a great night’s sleep, which was good because we arrived promptly at 5:00am, before sunrise, and had to wait three hours outside of our hostel because it didn’t open until 8am. I was thankful that I had good company: Lauren, Natalie, and I played “Would you rather?” for about 2 hours straight. Would you rather have one giant ear or an enormous upper lip? Would you rather be rich or beautiful? Would you rather be able to teleport or heal people? Tough questions, right?
As I mentioned, our hostel finally opened at 8:00am, but we weren’t allowed to check in to our room for several more hours, so we just dropped off our stuff and immediately hit the town on bikes (of the bicycle variety; around here a “bike” is a scooter or motorcycle). Ayutthaya is the former capital of Siam and was a hugely prosperous kingdom from 1350-1767. The historical park is a UNESCO Heritage Site and is full of some pretty interesting ruins, temples, and statues. But they’re pretty spread out all over the city so renting bikes is the best way to see them (although unfortunately you can also ride elephants, which we saw many ignorant idiots doing).
I won’t go into all the crazy Thai names of the ruins and temples because they’re confusing and you DGAF, but if you ever go to Ayutthaya, take my advice: Just get the pass that includes all the ruins and spend your entire day biking around to them, sweating your butt off until you think you’ll either die from heat exhaustion or freak out if you see another old temple. That’s what we did and I would DEFINITELY recommend it to others.
After our epic day of ruins, we kept our precious bicycles and rode around the city in the dark trying to find a night market (yet another highly recommended suggestion if you’re ever in Ayutthaya). We finally found it and discovered that it was mostly a food market with stalls selling mystery meals. Being vegetarian, I didn’t want to risk accidentally ending up with pig intestines in my noodle soup, so we rode on to Ayutthaya’s happening “downtown”: one block with about three open restaurants and a convenience store. Woo-hoo! We found a place with an English menu, had a mediocre dinner, and called it a night… or so we thought.
That morning at 1:30am I was abruptly awoken by Lauren. I was so out of it that it took me a minute or two to realize she was frantically telling me that we had bed bugs in our room. I jumped out of bed and looked around. There they were: about a dozen large, red, blood-sucking hell-demons on and near my pillow! If you’ve never had the pleasure of experiencing bed bugs, then you have no idea just how disgusting they are and how gross it feels to know that they were crawling on you and biting you while you slept. You also can’t begin to understand how pervasive they are. All six beds in our dorm room had them.
We spent the next two hours trying to rid all of our belongings of them, finding them on our backpacks, our clothes, and our skin. (The bites, on the other hand, would surface later). The work was intensive, often requiring a flashlight, fine-tuned eyes, and tweezers. Natalie’s backpack was covered in tiny, white babies. She and I had stupidly kept our bags on our beds (NEVER DO THIS WHILE TRAVELING!).
Around 4:00am we finally felt like we had done everything we could and tried to get some shut-eye in the lobby of our hostel. Lauren was in a hammock, I was on a couch, and Natalie (poor Natalie) was sitting on a chair. The other folks from our dorm room had already claimed the other “sleep-able” surfaces.
Four hours later, at opening time, the manager showed up and refunded our money. You’ve never seen three people leave a place faster than we left that hostel. We were supposed to stay two nights there, but instead we got on the first minibus we could find to Bangkok… with our giant black trash bags that we labeled as “safe” and “unsafe” depending on its exposure to the bed bugs.
In Bangkok we spent an entire day doing laundry; and by “doing laundry” I mean we basically washed every possible item in hot water, followed by the dryer. We made sure to book ourselves into a hostel with a washer and dryer on site so we could hang out in our room between cycles. Again, thank god for the great company. It was such a long day!
I also had to blow-dry my backpack because it wouldn’t fit in the dryer.
That night we treated ourselves to Thai fine dining at an amazing restaurant called Clic. We basically had a 4-course meal and it cost each of us about $12. We declared, “We deserve this meal!” Anyone who ever deals with bedbugs deserves a 4-course meal. Remember that.