Andrei and I went to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s ancient capital in the middle of 14th – 18th century. We took the first train at 6:40 a.m. and arrived exactly two hours later. It was the slowest train ride we’ve ever been in and it’s the ugliest, too. It’s noisy. We passed along the shanties and shabby houses of Bangkok’s poorest where some children were conspicuously playing near the rail tracks that posed dangers anytime of the day.
Inside the train, there were no safety precautions to passengers and Thai people have this habit of extending their legs to the seat opposite to them. Though we bought a Standing Position ticket for 20 Baht, we still managed to charm some people to squeeze a space for us. The windows were open and the fresh air of the countryside was a welcome relief from Bangkok’s polluted air. Right after we arrived, we followedadvise: rent a bike. We located the shop for bike rental opposite the train station.
We paid 40 baht each for a whole day biking excursion. They didn’t even ask for a deposit or our passports. They just told us to write our first names. That’s it. They trusted us too much, eh? Andrei chose a red bike while I chose a pink one. I had difficulty in biking because in Thailand, driving is always in left. And the most tiring part of the trip is crossing the river. We had to carry down and up our bicycles to the little boat to take us across the river. Our bike ride was smooth. We took our time exploring temples that we liked and rested well enough under tree shades. Armed with a Guide Map, we traced temples after temples after temples. There’s nothing much to see here, except ruins of ancient temples of bygone eras. They were remnants of what was left when the Burmese attacked and sacked Ayutthaya eons ago.
This is a big temple. This looks like Cambodia’s Angkot Wat. It’s famous for a contemplating Buddha’s head wrapped in roots of a Bodhi tree. It looks like it’s being strangled by nature.
The temple was built in the early days of Ayutthaya in the late 14th century by King Borommaracha I. The story goes that the King had a revelation, and relics of the Buddha then suddenly appeared. The temple was built to house the relics.
Most Buddha statues here have broken or missing body parts. But the caretakers still arranged them to where they are supposed to be attached to. It’s weird to see a Buddha without a head and with broken arms and missing fingers.
We didn’t go inside. From the look outside, they seem to be similar with Wat Mahathat, except that this temple has a stupa surrounded with mosaics. This was built in 1424 to hold the ashes of the King’s two older brothers who killed each other fighting over the throne.
It is known for its lion statues and a huge head of a Buddha on top of a lotus flower. One notable thing here are the columns that look like that of Parthenon in Greece.
This a UNESCO-protected temple due to its histoical significance. The three bell-shaped chedis of Wat Phra Si Sanphet have practically become a symbol of Ayutthaya. The temple stands almost in the center of the main area of the old capital. Look for the three large Chedi as they hold ashes of individual Kings who once ruled the Kingdom.
The Miss Universe 2005 candidates had a photo shoot here when the country hosted the event to encourage and boost tourism industry after the devastating tsunami disaster that killed thousands of lives.
Wat Morcheta Ram
Though the whole temple are already devastated, there are still two huge statues of Buddhas that stood against time and invasion.
Wat Lokaya Suttha
This is known for its outdoor huge Reclining Buddha but smaller than the Reclining Buddha you see in Wat Pho in Bangkok.
We passed a lot of temples but didn’t bother to check all of them out. The scorching sun already burned our skin and my butt was already aching. After biking around for 5
hours, we were completely exhausted and we decided to go back to the train station.
On our way, we saw these elephants crossing the streets. We followed them to their “sanctuary” and saw some baby elephants chained and others had scars on their faces and toes. It was scary and heart-breaking to look at them in the eyes when they look back at you. As much as we wanted to try this “tour”, we decided not to when we saw the wretched plights of these gentle giants. They might be decorated with fine Thai silk but their hearts are broken. All the ancient temples we saw during our 5-hour ride around Ayutthaya were forgotten. An accidental encounter with the elephants changed our impression of Siam’s ancient capital. We left with the piercing eyes of those plant-eating mammals carved in our memory.
This blog post is moved from an old blog of mine.
Visited here in February 2008.