The friendliness of the Thai people (& a hostel review)

Sunset Ayuttaya

Before I came out to to Thailand, I was informed on more than one occasion that the Thai people are known for their friendliness. I even hosted a whole photo essay from a fellow blogger all about Thailand being the land of smiles.

But third party information is only worth so much. I needed to find out for myself what the situation was, and handily my review of our Banbua hostel in Ayutthaya is a tale interwoven with general friendliness. First though, let’s hear it for:

The motorcycle lady of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is notable for a few things. One of these is that the city is on an island created by three rivers. Another is that it is home to enough temples to keep even Indiana Jones busy for a while.

After one heady day of Indiana Jones like temple exploration, where we had broken free of the city isle and were exploring the surroundings, we found ourselves in a bit of a pickle. We were standing on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, with the sun setting quite magnificently to one side, and our hostel a mere fifty metres away. On the opposite bank.

Boats on Chao Phraya River at sunset

We had planned to catch a boat to the other side, but those we had spied earlier lined up along the banks had conveniently vanished. We set off along the river in the hope that the ferry crossing we had seen some days previous was still operating.

After wandering for a while we had definitively managed to not find ourselves a ferry. Instead, darkness was rapidly falling and our options seemed to be shortening to walking all the way back the way we had come, some six or so kilometres in the dark.

Even the ever present tuk tuks were nowhere to be found. We paused to take stock, and peered in a vexed sort of manner at our map, which failed to mark anything useful like ferry routes.

At this point, a lady appeared on a motorbike. She asked us what we were attempting to achieve. At least that’s what I think she did, because she spoke Thai. We pointed at the far side of the river, and indicated we wanted to achieve that. She shook her head at us, gesticulated that we were going about this all wrong, and motioned at the back of her scooter.

I’m all for trying out new forms of transport, and I’ve certainly seen scooters carrying more than what I would suspect to be the manufacturer’s passenger rating whilst in Thailand, but I have to admit to a certain amount of nervousness as to piling ourselves onto the back of a stranger’s scooter, and heading off, helmetless, into the darkening night.

Still, what the hell, the other option was a long walk, which seemed less appealing. We hopped on and hurtled off, legs all over the place, as our driver chatted at the various oncoming traffic and I repeated in Vera’s ear the likelihood of death being round the next pothole.

Death obviously wasn’t round the next pothole as otherwise I’d not be writing this, and a short while later we were deposited at the actual ferry crossing, instructed the price was three baht, and sent on our way, with many a thank you tumbling from our lips. The yellow scootered lady of Ayutthaya who saved the crazy foreigners from a lengthy walk, I think I love you.

Prang temple Wat Ayutthaya sunset

The Banbua House encounter

Last time I reviewed a hostel with +HostelBookers, I relayed the sad story of a broken down bus and my inability to read a map, followed by some magnificent customer service.

Arriving into Ayutthaya, I was determined not to make the same mistake. The hostel we were staying at was called the Banbua House One, which indicated that perhaps there were more than one of these properties out there. This turned out to be the case, as there are two, named Banbua House One and Banbua House Two.

With the right directions, and a savvy tuk tuk driver, we made it to the correct hostel, where we were welcomed by a trio of incredibly cute cats. Yay us!

Banbua review Ayutthaya post

Unfortunately, it turned out that the power to the neighbourhood was out, which meant that the rather lovely looking old wooden house we were meant to be staying at wasn’t going to be much good, what with nothing actually working.

The chap who met us at the property though, the son of the owner, wasn’t going to let a little thing like a lack of power spoil our stay. He bundled us into his car, and drove us to Banbua House Two, where we were put up for three out of our four nights in Ayutthaya.

From our perspective, this turned out to be A Good Thing. Whilst Banbua House One was incredibly lovely, it wasn’t as central as Banbua House Two, which was located within easy striking distance of the main sights, and near to a whole host of restaurants and shops. It was also handily on the banks of the Chao Phraya river, affording ample beer drinking at sunset opportunities.

Sunset in Ayutthaya from Banbua House Two 2

Naturally everything you’d expect of a hostel these days was available to us – free wi-fi, cheap laundry, bike hire, city information and so on. And of course, an incredibly friendly welcome.

On our final night Banbua House Two was fully booked out, and as the power problems had been resolved, we were able to spend our last night in the old wooden house, on the edge of town.

The owner of the son again ferried us there, even stopping off to let us pick up some dinner at the local night market on the way over. The following morning, he took us to the train station so we could continue our journey in Thailand. Which was all rather lovely of him.

Thoughts on the Banbua House experience

I am a little torn on Banbua House. What I would like is for the best parts of the two hostels to be combined. I absolutely loved the building of Banbua House One, with it’s classic old Thai style, wood throughout, and charming rooms.

For exploring Ayutthaya though, it’s not that centrally located – unlike Banbua House Two, which was perfect for getting to the majority of the attractions very easily. It’s also beautifully situated on the banks of the river with gorgeous sunset views – even if it didn’t have the traditional wooden house thing going for it.

On the other hand, if you don’t mind being a little bit outside the action, then Banbua house One is a really wonderful old Thai property. The owner of the hostel has had it in her family for some time, and was in fact born there.

They have bikes available for free, making the main temple area a mere ten – fifteen minute journey away rather than a forty minute walk. It’s peaceful and quiet, and you’ll be able to arrange transport with the owners should you need to.

Wat Mahathat ruins temple skyline Ayutthaya thailand 2

Overall, if you’re just passing through Ayutthaya, and want somewhere central and easy for one or two nights, then Banbua House Two would meet all your needs.

If you want to get under the skin of Ayuttayah over a longer period, and maybe you have your own transport or don’t mind cycling a bit, then Banbua House One could be the perfect combination of relaxing location and local experience. Choice eh. It’s always nice!

We were hosted for our stay at both Banbua House One and Banbua House Two thanks to HostelBookers. Our ability to get lost and rescued by friendly locals remains our own, as do our thoughts and opinions on all the services we encounter!

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