“Old World Rituals” (Ayutthaya, Thailand)


I booked a room on a quiet street close to the main attractions of Ayutthaya. The hostel worker recommended I try traditional “boat noodles,” so I set out to find this food. Historically, people would make and sell it from wooden boats on the canal, but now they cook it in wooden boats on the street. It’s a small cup of noodle soup (I saw most people ordering 2 bowls each because of the size) with lots of fresh meat and vegetables. Only after I finished did I find out what it was truly made of… “Pork liver, pig blood curd, crispy fried pork skin, roasted pork and pork meatballs,” which sounds quite disturbing, but it was actually very tasty!

After pigging-out (literally), I went for a stroll that lead to a street market. I got an iced Thai coffee (which was basically sweet and condensed milk plus coffee) as the workers tried to have an English conversation with me. When they didn’t understand, they would close their eyes and smile uncomfortably. “So beautiful” was all the barista could say as she reached out to pet my skin. I continued through the market and found a huge bag of rhambutans (my favorite red furry fruit) for only 20 baht (around $0.50). As I handed the grandma my money, she called all her children and grandchildren to see me. The family started peeling and handing me different fruits to try. I had about 10 pairs of eyes gleaming with excitement as they watched me pop the fruits into my mouth. They giggled and squealed elatedly over my facial expressions as I tried each one. They called me beautiful over and over as they fed me their delicious fruits. I feel like a princess here!

A girl from my hostel asked if I wanted to walk, so we followed a grassy brick path, built up from the water on either side. As we set foot onto the trail, a huge splash came from something jumping into the water. Startled, we both jumped back and peered out to the swamp to see what it was. We spotted what looked like a small crocodile, panting and paddling his head above water. We sprinted out of the park and asked the first person we saw whether we could walk there. He smiled, laughed and nodded, but definitely didn’t understand us. We asked another guy, and got the same smile-laugh-nod reaction from him. After watching an older man walk across the bridge, we deemed it was safe and followed. Half way through, we were frightened by another large beast seated atop the walkway–he was blending in so easily! The old man laughed at us as we ran away, pointing at the animal with ultimate fear in our eyes. He walked right next to it and said, “Safe!”

We watched the sunset from Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, some of the most magical ancient ruins I’ve ever witnessed. Soft green grass grew within the cloisters, absurd birds chirped and the air was quiet and still. It’s amazing to see how in-tact this world heritage site still is, though it was built so long ago. We basically had the entire place to ourselves over the few hours we lingered, and most of the tourists that did come were Thai. Compared to Europe, so far, Asia has hardly any tourists. We were really some of the only white people I saw all day, and the girl I was with was quite a blondie. We turned around to notice two Thai guys taking photos of us in front of the temples, but we didn’t mind. A man also stopped my new blonde friend to take a picture with her, and another girl from the hostel said she was stopped by a monk to take a picture! A MONK!! Too funny.

Now that it was completely dark, it was an even scarier walk back through the park. My friend was so scared of the gator-lizards that I could hear her little short breaths as we trekked. I wasn’t scared of the lizards, but more of the packs of stray dogs that were lingering together in the park. Many of them are quite rough and scabby looking and I def don’t wanna add rabies to my trip itinerary. The flashlights on our phones didn’t work very well for nighttime adventures in the jungle, but we made it through unscathed and ended up stumbling directly into the local night market.

I had the biggest rush of excitement as I watched people cook and try fresh local foods. My friend convinced me to get a papaya salad as she’d been craving one all day. We waited in line with the locals (whenever there’s a line of locals, you know it’s good!) watching as the woman grated, chopped, mixed, seasoned and pounded the salad with a giant mortar and pestle. I also bought a bag of spicy bamboo-noodle soup I saw simmering nearby. Yes, I said a BAG of soup! Everything “to-go” here is served in a clear plastic bag, reminiscent of purchasing a pet goldfish as a child.

We wept as we ate both our meals. They did warn me, “it’s really spicy,” but so far I haven’t been shocked by the spice-factor in Asia like I thought I would be. It’s almost like the quicker you eat, the less you feel the spice and the moment you stop eating you start sweating and crying. My ears even felt like they were about to explode! After, we hung out at the hostel and played Uno among many cultures. We all had different rules and funny ways to play, so it was interesting sorting out the game. One worker played the guitar and sang Thai songs to his girlfriend while the other worker laid on the floor, repairing his bicycle by hand. It was a beautiful evening in Ayutthaya!


Alena Horowitz | Miss Potato


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