Last Update: September 2020
A lot of funny stuff happens on the road while traveling. I vividly remember this one time in Ayutthaya, Thailand where we witnessed an incredible scene. The sheer ingenuity of a young backpacker when trying to rent a bike in Thailand left me both shocked and amused.
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Ayutthaya was once an important center of power in South East Asia. Nowadays it’s still world renowned, because of the Unesco listed temple site. The transition from Hinduism to Buddhism that took place here from the 14th to the 18th century is clearly visible in the various architectural styles. Every year, tens of thousands of tourists visit Ayutthaya to admire the partly renovated temples.
The temple site is enormous with considerable distances between the individual temples. Therefore, the best way to explore is by bicycle and that’s exactly what we did. There are plenty companies that offer bike tours. However, we were on a budget so we just rented a bicycle to go it our own. Most guesthouses in Ayutthaya rent out bicycles for THB30-40 a day ($1.25).
Some travelers opt to visit Ayutthaya on a daytrip from Bangkok. I guess it’s do-able, but with 2 hours to get there and another 2 hours to get back it’s going to be a long day. I prefer arriving in Ayutthaya the day before sightseeing with transport from 12Go.asia or Bookaway.
Start fresh the next morning to explore the temple grounds and relax a bit in the afternoon to avoid the heat. Then, visit the night market or a nice restaurant in the evening to be on my merry way the next morning.
From early morning until well past noon we cycled from wat (temple) to wat and finally stopped for an overdue lunch. Seated on the terrace of a guesthouse annex restaurant we enjoyed a fragrant massaman curry and fantastic views of the Wat Mahatat. I am still savoring my watermelon shake and contemplating the Buddha head entangled in a fig tree when suddenly I hear a loud noise.
Before I see it coming from around the corner I hear the wailing sound of a tuk-tuk engine. Its horn is blaring continuously as it approaches the restaurant fast. It comes to a screeching halt in front of the terrace.
Two twenty-something girls alight the tuk-tuk and their eyes follow the direction of the driver’s pointing finger. He points towards the reception desk of the guesthouse directly behind our table. Determinedly they make their way to the desk.
If I had to typecast for a movie about backpackers I would hire them instantly, since they sure fit the stereotype. The first girl has her brown hair raised in a careless bun, rounded glasses and a loose tanktop with a printed ‘Chang beer’ logo. Her jeans are cut off leaving the lining of the front pockets visible and she’s wearing flipflops.
The second girl has strings of long blond hair coming from underneath her American flag printed bandana. Her pierced nose is holding up a pair of dark Oakley sunglasses. What really gave her away are the Thai fisherman’s pants and the Vietnamese Ho Chi Minh sandals made from a recycled car tire.
Rent a bike in Thailand
Turns out they’re here to rent a bicycle. Why they don’t rent at their own guesthouse is beyond me. Now they will have to deposit their passports as a guarantee. This is normal practice when renting a bike in Thailand. Then, my mind starts wandering and my imagination runs free:
They’re on their way from Bangkok to Chiang Mai with an overnight stay in Ayutthaya. Yesterday night they got caught in a drinking game with those cute Swedish boys they met on the train.
A few drinks led to more drinks, which led to a drinking frenzy, until finally at 5am they passed out. Consequently, this morning they woke up late and got kicked out of their room, because the next guests were checking in. With a major hangover and coffee with cigarettes for breakfast it wasn’t until 12pm before they were finally off to see the temples.
They have some serious time to kill since the night train to Chiang Mai isn’t due until 7pm. After walking around the temple site for an hour they realized that their pace was too slow to cover any serious ground and that it might be smart to rent a bicycle.
Or maybe that’s not what happened at all…. I don’t know, and actually it’s not important for the rest of the story anyway.
‘No passport, no bike’! The receptionist is smiling ‘Thai style’, but the tone of her voice is decisive. The girls insist and after a few back and forth’s the receptionist offers a solution. ‘As an exception, 100 baht deposit per bike instead of your passport will also do’, she says. The girls look at each other with despair.
I am guessing that they don’t have the money for this and I am proven right.
They search their pockets, turn their bags upside down and all they come up with is a total of 80 baht. That’s just enough to rent a bicycle for the both of them, but it won’t cover the deposit. ‘No deal!’ the receptionist says. Her smile is still there, but the same goes for her decisive tone.
The girls are begging now and a verbal fight unfolds in front of us, in front of the whole terrace. The receptionist is not giving in. ‘Ok, ok’, the girl with the rounded glasses tries. ‘Look, this is my journal’ and she holds up a scruffy old notebook. ‘I wrote about all of my travels in this book and it is very dear to me. I really would want this back. So please take this journal as a token of the trust I put in you to keep it safe and guard it. This journal will be your absolute guarantee that we will come back to return the bicycles in one piece’.
I can see that the receptionist is tempted, but no, she shakes her head. ‘Sorry, no can do!’ There’s a moment of silence and the girls look finally beat, but then a strange look appeared in the eyes of the girl with the rounded glasses.
It was a look of hope that gradually turned into determination. The corners of her mouth started to curl up in a devious smile. There stood a woman with a plan, a genius plan. She was about to pull off her ultimate feat and they would give her the bicycles, no doubt about that.
She turned towards the terrace as if to make sure that all eyes were on her. Everyone had overheard the discussion and now everyone would witness her grand victory.
As she turned back to the receptionist the air was thick with suspense and the silence deafening. Then, she opened her mouth and spoke with a sweet little voice,…… ‘pinky promise?’
In Ayutthaya we stayed at the Siri Guesthouse, which I totally recommend. For this price you won’t find anything better in Ayuttaya. The place is spotlessly clean and the owners are super nice and helpful. It’s very close to the night market, the station and the temples. The beds were soo comfortable and the wifi worked like a charm.
A few years ago I heard stories about passports not being returned until alleged damages to rental bicycles or motorbikes was paid. Did you ever experience such an event? How did you handle it? Please share your experience in the comment section below. We might all learn something from it.
Bicycle tours can also be a lot of fun. Check my article ‘Bicycle your way to Silk Island‘ in Cambodia.