A miscue on my part as we prepared for the trip negated the original plan to acquire an extended Indian visa. This forced us to leave briefly and apply for a second e-tourist visa and return to finish our India exploration. We added a ten day tour through Thailand and Cambodia. Chelle and I were getting quite excited as we approached the jumping off point of the honeymoon. A couple of weeks prior to the departure Thailand experienced a national tragedy when their King, Bhumibol Adulyadej…the world’s longest reigning monarch passed away.
We arrived in Bangkok early in December. The typically vibrant colors of the city replaced by stark banners and ribbons. Still in mourning the Thai people were dressed in black, white or otherwise dark clothing. The mood was somber but still welcoming. All our conversations with the locals in any city we visited always included something about their King. One afternoon a large group of cyclists rode past our tuk tuk. A century ride in honor of their former monarch. It was evident to Chelle and I that it was a profoundly personal experience for the entire country. All Thai’s had lost a family member.
The food was phenomenal! Fresh fruit abundantly available on every street corner in addition to the more exotic scorpion-on-a-stick or deep fried spider. Having missed out on the Indian cooking class Chelle was excited about our Thai class. It was just the two of us and our instructors were quite the showmen, teaching us a traditional song and dance along with the cooking lessons. I’m thankful that no video is available. Chelle and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience, but we fell in culinary love with a chili paste recipe that will be a foodie fixture back home.
Our time in Ayutthaya was the crown jewel of our time in Thailand. An arduous shared minibus extravaganza was rewarded by a pleasant paradise. Our guesthouse exceeded our expectations and Chelle had been looking forward to this stop for several weeks. If I relocated to Thailand this would be the place. On a river with boat houses dotting the shore. A mosque, catholic church and Buddhist temple sharing the other bank of the river separated by less than a mile. We borrowed bicycles to see the sites at a leisurely pace.
Tourism continues to thrive despite the solemn mood around the country. There was a palpable solemnity whether we were in Bangkok, Ayutthaya, Phuket or Phi Phi. The crowds of mostly westerners cramming Kho San Road – the Bangkok version to 6th street in Austin, Texas. We went snorkeling in the rain on Phi Phi Island, pronounced PP. I managed to break a toe falling out of the slick, wet boat and my wedding band is resting on the bottom of a sandy bay in the Andaman sea. In fact, it rained all three days of our visit.
Not having the weather cooperate with our visit to Phuket and the surrounding islands was a disappointment. As was a disagreeable tuk tuk driver who essentially left us at the roadside when we did not wish to follow his sight seeing plan. We thoroughly enjoyed the temple ruins, meeting new people and making new friends. As stated previously, our time in Ayutthaya was precisely what we needed when we needed it. A respite from the busyness of Bangkok and chaos of Calcutta. Due to a scheduling error our visit was brief and I joked to Chelle that perhaps the taxi driver wouldn’t show. He did. So we bid a kind farewell to the owner/hosts at Athithara Homestay.