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When I was seven years old, my parents decided to travel to Thailand for two weeks and gave me a choice: I had the option of staying at my grandma's house in Eugene with my cousin, or I could accompany them on a trip across the Pacific.
The decision was a no-brainer to me at the time. As a seven-year-old, my grandma's little backyard was my world, and my cousin and I spent countless hours enjoying its every nook and cranny. It is where we climbed our favorite cherry tree, played makeshift baseball with with fallen apples and twigs and filled our desire for adventure by digging holes to China.
I saw no reason for accompanying my parents, aunt and uncle across the ocean to Southeast Asia because, to me, there was nothing that Thailand had to offer that my grandma's backyard could not give me.
But as years went by and my worldview began to change, I dreamed of following my parents footsteps and visiting Thailand myself.
Eighteen years later, I had my chance.
My decision to visit Thailand last November was the result of a Facebook thread between myself and an my childhood friend, Camille. Camille had moved away from Eugene when we were in the fourth grade. Yet, throughout the years, we kept in touch--first as pen-pals and later by e-mail and Facebook.
We had always talked about meeting up again somewhere, but—aside from a short visit in seventh grade—our paths never seemed to cross.
When I saw on Facebook that Camille had moved to Thailand after graduating college, I remember commenting on one of her photos. In my comment, I asked how long she would be in Thailand and expressed my own desire to visit the country.
"I''ll be here indefinitely. Come visit!" was her reply.
And then I got to thinking. As an airline employee, traveling--even internationally--is essentially free and getting at least two weeks off work can be fairly easy to arrange. Plus, I'd long wanted to go to Thailand--a country that has often been proclaimed as one of the best solo backpacker destinations in the world due to its natural and architectural splendor, its plentiful street food and its unbeatable prices.
There was nothing holding me back, so I replied with an unequivocal yes.
Within a few months, I listed myself on a flight to Southeast Asia and traveled alone across the Pacific. For two weeks, I lounged on picture-perfect beaches, visited dazzling temples and found myself at one of the world's great festivals. I ate delicious food, trekked through the mountains and made wonderful new friends.
But the highlight of my trip was undoubtedly during my last few days in the country—when I reunited with Camille for the first time in thirteen years.
Camille teaches at the Panyotai Waldorf School in Bangkok and lives in the outskirts of the city. I stayed with her for a few days, met some of her friends and got a taste of what life must be like as a resident of Thailand’s capital.
I also used my return to Bangkok as a time to continue my exploration of the surrounding area and visit Thailand’s ancient capital of Ayutthaya. Since Camille is a full-time teacher and was required to work during my stay, I decided to take a day to visit the historic ruins of Ayutthaya—once a flourishing hub of commerce and trade and the historic capital of ancient Siam.
|Buddha Head Trapped in Tree Roots at a Temple in Ayutthaya|
Ayutthaya lies just to the North of Bangkok and is a popular day trip for visitors due to its accessibility and historical significance.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and flourished until the 18th century, when it was invaded and burned to the ground by the Burmese army. Inhabitants of Ayutthaya fled the ancient city for Bangkok and left an extensive and impressive patchwork of ruins in their wake.
Today, the ruins of Ayutthaya are incredibly well-preserved. Temples of worship can be found along nearly every street and down many alleyways. Crumbling stupas soar above the rooflines of the surrounding city, adorned with relics of Buddha statues.
|Reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya|
|Stuppas in Ayutthaya|
I decided to explore the ruins by renting a bike for the day. Though it was excruciatingly hot and I frequently found myself pedaling down roads that I had difficulty locating on the city map, I found biking to be a lovely and rewarding way of exploring the city’s temple-lined streets.
I must have visited at least ten temples throughout the day. Some were crowded with tourists and perfectly preserved, while others lay mysteriously secluded and overgrown with weeds.
|Ruins of Ayutthaya|
In the evening I returned to Bangkok, where I spent the remainder of my trip. There are other things I would have liked to see in Thailand’s fascinating capital, but I decided to spend my last day in the country visiting Camille’s school.
As I stepped into the little courtyard of the Panyotai Waldorf School, I was at once greeted with a rush of memories and transported back to my childhood.
Camille and I had met at a Waldorf School in Eugene Oregon and, though Panyotai’s setting couldn’t have been more different from that of my little school in the Wilamette Valley, the similarities were striking. Watercolor paintings adorned the colorful classroom walls, recorder music filled the air of the courtyard and students busied themselves in the classroom with lessons ranging from English to painting and from handwork to Math.
During the day I spent at the school, I helped Camille’s boyfriend lay the framework for a compost structure near the school’s garden. I was immediately struck by the school’s commitment to holistic education, health and sustainability.
Visiting the Panyotai Waldorf School brought Camille and I’s friendship full circle to where it all began—to a Waldorf school where we first met, yet halfway around the world.
It was both the perfect conclusion to my Thai adventures and the perfect rebirth of a friendship that I hope will continue to flourish.