I get on an old bus that brings me to Ayuthaya. I'm kicked out on the side of the highway. My map informs me that it's an hours walk to town, two hours to my hostel. But of course, a number of taxis are available. I don't want to pay the tourist fair, so I take a Vespataxi. However, instead of the official route, the taxi driver drives on the other side of the road. He even rides up the narrow slip road. He transports me to my hostel in, to this date, the worst twenty minutes of my life. The Vespa is much smaller than my last ride of this kind in Kunming (China). I have to keep my twenty-kilo backpack on my back. On the short trip, I pull a shoulder muscle (or something the like), which plagues me for the next four weeks. 100 kilo plus pulling forces are too much for me. And thus I decide to reduce my luggage for the second half of my world trip (but couldn't possibly be expected to do so momentarily). Only after three Thai massages, two mom massages, two Flo massages and four weeks, my shoulder is free of complaints. Lesson learned.
I get off in a small but friendly hostel. It flows over with German-speaking backpackers. I spend my day in the ruins of Ayutthaya with three compatriots and a Swiss lady. It's all charming until the three guys ask me if I used to travel like they did when I "was young". Apparently, they are something special in their village in the Eifel (a rural region of Germany). I take a while to recover from the question. Nobody has ever, to this date, inquired after my youth. For the first time, I am treated like an older woman, like the youth part of my life is over. My Swiss companion (she is the same age) and I laugh but are also horrified. That's some hard truth to swallow. We reminisce about how we used to travel. We didn't travel back then. We both lived abroad (in our opinion, a better way to travel). But that doesn't interest the guys. A peculiar gang.
We go on a boat tour on the canal, around the old town. Big tankers move through it. At the front and the rear of the connecting three tankers cavalcade are small ships which tow the huge tankers to ensure that all make it around the bends. Not a safe tactical manoeuvre necessarily. On this canal are some charming temples. One houses the supposedly largest Buddha in Thailand, or is it the largest in the world? But then again, he is not that big. One never knows... From a distance, the temples look great. Their many small and large turrets look charming in the evening sun. Only from close up, they lose their fascination. The decoration is often made of plastic, the ornaments and mirrors glued carelessly to the facade, meaning and purpose are usually a mystery to me. I don't even start to comprehend Thai Buddhism. Unlike in Tibetan Buddhism, I find no one to answer my questions. The two variants of this faith are broadly similar, but in the details, they do differ. To understand or even see the details, I would have to talk to people about it. For some reason, I can't get any of the monks I meet, to explain the difference to me.
Soon I get distracted by a stage next to an ancient and ruined temple. On stage, a group of handmade dolls are dancing in front of a reasonably large audience. I have seen them on posters and cars in the city. They seem to be a mascot. Here on stage, however, they dance with less beautiful and less handmade dolls. It's an international doll festival. The Philippines, Thailand, China, Malaysia and Indonesia, as well as some other countries that I don't remember, are competing.
Of course, I also see the main temple of Ayutthaya. That's why most of the tourists from Bangkok come to this little place: the head of Buddha wrapped in roots. It's, like the countless other Buddhas and small towers, overrun by tourists from every corner of the world. But as per usual there is a lack of information, of context and again I walk away disappointed.
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