What a luxury it is, to sleep in a wide, clean bed, and to wake up tangled in a pair of warm, floppy arms. This is what I think as I extricate myself from Tyler's embrace, now padding to the window, bare feet creaking on wood, listening to the sound of Thailand's rainy season. Pulling open the sheer curtain, there are slate skies and a river all polka-dotted with raindrops.
I shuffle back to bed, and we begin the day with one of our favorite activities: writing and programming together. The two of us quietly working, tapping away on our laptops, it's almost like we're settled in at home.
Except, we have no kitchen, which means that I can't spend the morning kneading dough or peeling apples for a pie, as I am yearning to do. But no matter. When the rain stops, I go in search of food, and return having visited a bakery, a coffee stall, and a traveling ice cream stand. Our breakfast is a sugary one, with a loaf of sweet bread covered in shredded coconut, two small cups of coconut ice cream, and a tall cup of iced coffee to share.
After eating, we get packed for the day, and head out on our bicycles to explore the town. Ayutthaya is famous for its temples, so I've picked one for us to visit from our guidebook: Wat Mahathat, with its iconic, oft photographed buddha-head-surrounded-by-bodhi-tree. This is our only destination on this wet, sleepy day.
A short bike ride, a quick ticket purchase, and then a quiet wander leads us to what we came to see: the Buddha's head. It is pretty awesome, so we wait until the groups of tourists dissipate, and slip into the roped-off area, taking turns capturing it.
The rest of the Wat is nice, but it is sprinkling again – soon, we're squishing through the mud just to see more old red brick walls. It is a sight to behold, but we're just not that into it. I have a sneaking suspicion that temples will become like cathedrals in Europe: beautiful, each one unique, but a bit uninteresting after awhile.
It is a special thing, to step away from one's homeland, where life often slips by unannounced and unexamined. The chance to observe so many foreign cultures firsthand, and to experience the shift in perspective comes with it, is something I have grown to cherish. Constantly observing and evaluating, measuring new experiences against old beliefs, it is an invigorating process of personal growth.
Today, it is with this in mind that Tyler and I approach an urban elephant camp. Here, I meet one of the animals for the first time! It is really exciting, but I'm a little nervous – even the baby elephant is bigger than I am!
Though this place doesn't seem to be overtly abusive to the creatures (in fact, it is run by a highly respected elephant rescue organization), it's the concept itself that I just can't get behind. These absolutely enormous, soulful-eyed creatures are here, on display in the city, for tourists.
Many have bright red seats fastened to their backs, and they're pacing antsily around in a pen, unable to get out, until someone pays for a ride around town. In the meantime, the elephants are chained…
…and made to pose in ridiculous positions:
…and prodded with sharp pointy objects if they don't do as they are told:
I suppose we do similar things at home. Horses are kicked with spurs and whipped, and huge, majestic whales are made to do silly tricks. I'm really not sure how I feel about all of this. What I do know is that right now, I don't want to be entertained, and I don't want to ride around town on an elephant's back.
I'd rather stand wide-eyed from a distance, experiencing the intensity of the single moment in time in which I've been lucky enough to witness such a noble creature in the wild. And if I can't do that, then I'd rather not see elephants at all.
It's not all depressing, though. My favorite part of our visit (the only part that doesn't leave me with an awful feeling in the pit of my stomach) is when everyone's attention is turned away from this baby elephant. It may seem impossible for such a huge creature to be stealthy, but I swear, the little dude sneaks over to a big basket of cucumbers…
And absconds with a few of them!
YEAH! Go baby elephant, go!
Back at our guest-house, huge barges bellow by, taking up the entire width of the river with their enormous loads. As we sit outside on the porch together, night falls, and along with it, a few more rounds of intermittent rain. Save for the boats roaring past, it's another quiet night in Thailand.