Most by-the-book tours are boring
and you're unlikely to remember any of your fellow tour
participants. I can remember all six.
There was a seriously obese Dutchman (seen in pic below) who
shaved his head like a monk and swaggered -- or more like
waddled about -- with his shirt off. He tried to sound
learned and wise and after speaking with him on the boat for
twenty minutes, I realized he was a sage of sorts, a true
maestro at living off the Dutch welfare state. He sponged
off family at home in Holland six months of the year, then came
to Asia the other six months to spend those Dutch welfare checks
in Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar. The euro checks
went very far back in '05, before the European Union's financial
woes, and he was getting and eating a lot of pad thais, tom yam
gungs, and mango rices based on the size of his torso. If
anyone knows how I, too, can milk the Dutch welfare state,
please send in your suggestions.
The person who helps me most lucratively soak off Holland's
generosity will win a 14" Sony Trinatron television set from
1981, which I willl likely get the Dutch government to pay for,
Ayuthaya in a nutshell (l to r):
Doug admiring the Chao Praya River after getting off
the boat; Doug posing in front of the many
500+ year old temples Ayuthaya is famous for;
Doug adjusting to life on land after a local
Ayuthaya boat tour; the Big Buddha at Wat
Phanan Cheong near the confluence of the Pasak and
Chaopraya Rivers and the Dutch settlement
There were two young Irish girls who spoke only to each other.
Then there was 20-year old Jake, a long-haired Australian on his way
back home after the usual stint working in Europe.
I was on my way to Australia
in the next few months and queried him with a few basic questions.
Jake spent the majority of his time at the guesthouse in the company of
British Dicky, whom I was later to share transport to the Ayuthaya train
station. Dicky and I traveled Khorat
together and stayed in touch for several years after. Dicky later
told me during our own travels that young surfer-looking Jake was making
the very best of the Thai female nightlife. The last two on the boat
trip were two Brits in their 30's, Roderick and Stefan. Roderick
was tall, thin, bald, not immensely attractive, and spoke in a monotone.
Stefan was a bit chubby, gregarious, and quite effeminate. I
confirmed that the two men were a gay couple when we got back to the
guesthouse and I got a look at their room housing just one double bed.
They were quite open about their homosexuality. Stefan
worked as a hairdresser and could be; Roderick had spent the first
three-and-a-half decades of his life working on the family farm and
hiding his true identity.
I dined with the two that night, and the next day, traveled about
Ayuthaya with them. Roderick was very good about staying in touch
by e-mail, much better than I was. I suppose I lost a lot of
interest in staying in touch when, months later, I was in Melbourne
(Australia) and found out, long after the fact, that the two of them
were in Melbourne at the same time and had made no effort to get in
touch. Sometime in 2008 or 2009, Stefan befriended me on Facebook.
In 2010, Roderick came back to Thailand for the first time since '05.
He let me know he was around, but I was not in Bangkok, the only place
he intended to visit, and didn't have the time or inclination to invite
him down to Hua Hin. He never even hinted at coming down for a
visit. As of early 2011, Roderick and Stefan were still together
after seven years.
Eight years later I revisted Ayuthaya for a day trip with my wife and a friend visiting from Korea. We got dropped off on the
outskirts of town, rented three ramshackle bikes, and visited 2 or 3 temples. I think by then, the other two had seen enough
Thai ruins for the days.
Is It Worth It To Come Around?
If you're only in Thailand
for a short two week holiday, I'd probably give Ayuthaya a miss. If you're plannign to spend 5 days in Bangkok, I
could advise you to trim one day off the Bangkok stay and devote that same time here.
I'd say it largely depends on whether you get off on visiting
ruins. Have you already been to the wondrous and much more
famous Cambodian ruins of Angkor Wat? Were you thrilled by
it? If Angkor Wat didn't light your fires, how is the much
less important and far more ruined Ayuthaya going to do it for
What about pay for play pickup action if that's your kind
of thing? Connoisseurs head to Ayuthaya's Grand Street
named after the Grand Street Hotel on the corner of Grand Street
and Rojana Road. Frankly though, if you're coming up to
Ayuthaya to dip your wick, you truly are desperate.
That's like flying all the way to Italy to eat Chinese food.
Thailand's best indigenous beer, according to Doug, which
then makes it an irrefutable fact, is Federbrau, supposedly
brewed according to the Reingeitsgebot, the German Purity
Law. This is Thailand, so anyone can state whatever
they want and not get called to task on it. At this point in
time, I wouldn't be shocked tomorrow to see frontpage
headlines that Federbrau is about as pure as the cheerleader
everyone on the football team has 'dated.' Federbrau
is brewed by Cosmos Brewery, owned by Chang and based in Ayuthaya. Could that be a reason to show up?
It'd me a lame one. Cosmos doesn't offer brewing tours, and
Federbrau, although not an easy brand to always find, can be
procured throughout Thailand if you're willing to spend the
time look for it.
Bask in the ruins or don't come at all.