While Christmas is not celebrated by most in Thailand, New Years is full of festivities. In Chanthaburi where I teach, there is a big New Years market where people from all over the Chanthaburi province come and sell goods such as furniture, plants, clothes, and food. For about a week this market went on, and it was constantly bustling with people, filled with aromas, and with the sounds of live music that went on until late at night.
For New Years I went to Chiang Mai again, which was really fun. I met up with some friends I met at orientation, and we had a great time exploring the city, eating delicious food, and bringing in the New Year by releasing paper lanterns into the sky and dancing the night away. Chiang Mai is definitely one of my favorite places I've been in Thailand thus far. There is a lot to do and see, but the city is pretty relaxed and not far from many natural attractions.
On my way back home I took the overnight train from Chiang Mai, which got me into Bangkok early Monday morning. Initially I thought I would grab breakfast and maybe walk around Bangkok for a while, but it was still so early, and Bangkok is so big that I did not know where to start. I asked someone at the train station if he had any recommendations of places to go, and he suggested Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is the old capital of Thailand, and is a place I had been wanting to visit anyways, so I took his suggestion and went to Ayutthaya! Ayuthaya is is about two hours by train from Bangkok, and costed just 20 baht ($0.56)! When I arrived I got lunch and then found a hostel with an open bed. The hostel I stayed at is called Allsum Hostel, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone traveling to Ayutthaya! It is very nice and not expensive either. Oh my, I am so glad I took this impromptu trip! Ayutthaya is so beautiful and rich with history. There are so many ruins to explore, which is especially nice if you rent a bike for the day since the sites are somewhat spread out.
Here is an anecdote from my travels in Ayuthaya:
I am walking around one of the ruins, and approach one large structure timidly, because I am not sure if I am allowed to climb up or not. A group of monks walk up from the other side, and encourage me to come up as well. When I get up we greet each other, and then the monks ask to take pictures with me. First, each monk takes out their iPad, and takes an individual photo with me, and then we take a couple of group pictures. And the whole while I am just laughing, because yet again my preconceived notions of monks is different than reality. Yes, some monks have iPads and like to take pictures with farangs, some may friend you on Facebook, and just in general they are a lot more approachable to everyday people than I thought they would be. I've had some very normal conversations with monks since I've been in Thailand, which I really did not expect. Of course, it is important to always be respectful around monks as they are highly revered in Thai society. Some may just surprise you with their willingness to talk to you. If you do get the opportunity to speak to a monk, definitely do. Its a great way to learn more about their lives, and about buddhism in general.
Well that is it for now! Much love and courage to do something you've never done before!