When I got to Don Muang Airport in December, 2014, I took the train straight to Ayutthaya. It was hot and the tuk-tuks were all lined-up outside the train station. With map in hand, I waved them all away. A somewhat large road laid between me and a dumpy dirt path surrounded by shanty eateries and bike rentals. I crossed cautiously, more terrified of zooming cards than anything else, and walked the two minutes to my homestay. This is how I began my 3 week long adventure to Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
AYUTTHAYA – TEMPLES, RUINS, & MARKETS
I woke up early the next day and headed back to Bangkok City. My mission was to see the Grand Palace and maneuver to a hotel that was supposedly near the airport. The closer we got to the heart of Bangkok, the closer the buildings came to the sides of the trains. Mouth open, the train came to a stop, and I reached out the window to the tin roof beside me. I could run my hands through the brush, leaves, and trash that littered the home. The edge merely inches away from the side of the train. Incredible.
What a stark difference from the Grand Palace. While trash and dust covered the outskirts of Bangkok, the Palace was only diminished by tourists. Outside the gates, stray locals told tourists the Palace was closed. A ploy to get them into their taxi or to their hotel. I ignored them and pulled my pants over my shorts. Surely enough, the Palace was still open and soon I joined the flood of selfie-taking tourists among the gold and jewel bedazzled walls.
For the sake of time, I flew from Bangkok to Chiang Rai, the home of the White Temple and nearest airport to the crossing between Chaing Khong, Thailand and Huay Xai, Laos. Without a good public transportation system between airport and old bus terminal, I hopped in a cab and soon after found the right public bus, called a songtheaw. Like most public transportation in Southeast Asia, we waited for the bus to fill before leaving.
As the only tourist taking local public transportation that day, I attracted the curiosity of two women about my age. One had a plastic bag with local snacks and would occasionally tear off chunks of something white and sticky and put it in her mouth. After eyeing the curious food, she offered me some. “Are you hungry?” It was rice sweetened with the occasional black bean that had been steamed in a stalk of bamboo.