To be honest, I had not heard about Ayutthaya before my trip to Thailand, but that’s just because I’m a jerk. It wasn’t on Entertainment Tonight. Perez Hilton didn’t blog about it. And The Amazing Race never schlepped contestants through here. Life was seen through television and the internet. But there’s so much more to see when you power down and go outside. Believe me, it’s better than cable.
Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam (the name changed to Thailand in 1938) for 417 years, until the Burmese got their hands on it in 1768 and burnt it to the ground . The government set up shop in Bangkok, and that’s where the capital has been ever since.
A few fellow Canadians and I took the morning train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, stored our bags in the cloak room, dodged the persistent tuk-tuk drivers out front of the railway station, and set out in the search for bicycles. That took about 2 minutes. Vendors across the street were renting bikes for 40 Baht (about $1.30 USD) – for the whole day. I know a deal when I smell one, so we hopped on and headed off.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya is an island, surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers, and it’s quite a mixture of old and new. It’s a busy town, but navigating through the traffic on bike has its rewards.
Here are some of the sights you can expect to see…
Wat Ratburana juts out into the Ayutthaya sky. (Wat just means temple).
Located at Wat Phra Mahathat is one of the most iconic symbols in Thailand. The Buddha Head engulfed by the roots of a banyan tree is arguably one of the most photographed places in Thailand.
When taking a photo of the Buddha’s head, better crouch or kneel or face un-nirvana like reprimands.
Buddha wrapped in cloth at Wat Phra Mahathat.
Tourists getting taken for a ride outside the Elephant Kraal, or enclosure.
A monk releases birds outside of Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit. The releasing of animals into their natural habitat is a demonstration of piety among Buddhists.
Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit is the site of one of the largest seated bronze Buddhas in Thailand.
Right next to Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit is Wat Phra Si Sanphet which was the site of the ancient Royal Palace before the Burmese sacked it. The three bell-shaped stupa (or large Buddhist religious monument) are all that remain after the site of the palace was turned into a temple.
Although there are plenty of options for accommodations in Ayutthaya, we decided to see it in one day. If you are coming from Bangkok and plan to leave in the evening for Chiang Mai, book your ticket as soon as you get off the train. All the overnight trains headed north were sold out when we returned to the station late afternoon.
Have you been to Ayutthaya? What do you think we missed?