Ayutthaya is a place bursting with history. The long and short of it is, the city was founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi, which back when Thailand was named Siam, was the capital city of Thailand; full of important monasteries and temples. Fast forward some 700 years and a destruction by the Burmese in 1767, the city is full of Ancient temple ruins, and little else.
Another long coach journey from Chiang Mai (broken up by a trip to KFC, in which they give you glasses instead of cups and bring your food over to you) brought us to Ayutthaya on a Friday afternoon: the place was literally dead. An honest description of Ayutthaya would be that it’s a contrast between the beautiful and…erm…the not so beautiful. An eery quietness of the area made it seem quite sleazy, we were warned by our tour guide to not even go to the 7/11 round the corner from our hotel on our own. The hotel we stayed in was actually lovely, when you walked in it looked as posh as The Hilton! Bit of a bummer that we only had the luxury of that hotel for one night, in a location that wasn’t so luxurious.
We took a larger version of the Tuk Tuks we’d experienced in Bangkok and Chiang Mai, to a beautiful looking restaurant that overlooked the river; the problem was, the service was terrible, there were bugs on the plates one of our groupies actually ended up eating somewhere else! But hey ho, that’s the beauty of travelling; not everywhere you visit will be quite up to your standard, and you will experience things that gross you out a bit. Anyway, we decided to go to Tesco (yep, UK people, Thailand have Tesco!), grab an ice cream and carry on.
The following day saw Ayutthaya redeem itself, as we embarked on a bicycle ride around the Ancient temple ruins. When I was a kid, my bike was my life, but I hadn’t really ridden one since! Riding a bike for the first time in the best part of 8 years, in a country where there’s seemingly no speed limits for cars, more motorbikes and scooters than cars and where traffic lights seemed to be ignored, with NO HELMET ON was a terrifying prospect. But, you guessed it, I loved it! (This seems to be becoming a pattern)
Riding a bike through Ayutthaya in all it’s glory, wind in my face, swerving in and out of all the vehicles on the road was a pretty amazing feeling – as cliche as it sounds – it was one of those moments where I felt really free, and really appreciated what I was doing. It also made me appreciate that Ayutthaya is in fact really beautiful, even the not so beautiful parts.
The first temple our bike ride took us to was the Wat Phra Mahathat, which is now a registered UNESCO world heritage site. It’s strange to think that what once was a full on temple could still remain so beautiful just as ruins. Some of the exact spots we stood in were walked through by the King as a celebration, and in the 20th century the temple was very likely surrounded by canals and moats…but no more. It was all very interesting, our tour guide went through some facts and history with us, if you’re interested in hearing all about it then…look it up yourselves lol.
We were soon back on our bikes to the next lot of temple ruins, Wat Lokaya Sutha, which is home to another massive Reclining Buddha (see previous posts for the Reclining Buddha in Bangkok).
After a quick stop to take a group snap with the Reclining Buddha we were on our way again, to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, in which the ruins of the ancient Royal Palace can also be seen. There were some very spiritual moments here: such as putting a coin on the Buddha statues ear, which represents a wish for a long life; and being given a wristband which wishes you good luck, good health etc.
Overall, my less than 24 hours in Ayutthaya was very enjoyable. It was short and sweet, but it was all the time we needed to explore the main attractions of the Ancient city.
We were soon back on the road again, heading for our island adventures in Koh Samui. A coach journey of a couple of hours took us back to Bangkok, where a 5 hour wait for the next public coach forced me to buy a load of crap on Khao San Road that I didn’t need, and we got caught up in a torrential rain shower! So folks, our mainland Thai adventures drew to a close, and we were so ready for some relaxation on the islands…stay tuned for my next posts to hear about my volunteering in Koh Samui, Snorkelling on Koh Tao, and the Full Moon Beach party on Koh Phangan!