So after our stay in Bangkok, Josh and I hopped on the train for a day-trip to Ayutthaya, Thailand’s fallen kingdom that dominated the region from 1350 to 1767. Originally I was a bit hesitant to go there, since I hadn’t heard much about it and was not that interested in seeing old ruins, but I am so glad that I did!
Ayutthaya just might be my favorite city in Thailand. It had the feel of a quaint, friendly small town that just happened to be covered with old ruins. In a welcome contrast from Bangkok, our guest house was friendly, charming and had hot water! And despite having some of the country’s most interesting sites (in my opinion) it wasn’t yet destroyed by tourists.
One of the best ways to explore Ayutthaya is by bicycle, which can be rented cheaply at any of the shops around town, and we found them to be in pretty good condition. You just bike around the city and you’ll see ruins everywhere, and the best part is, you can go right in and walk all over them! You could spend days exploring all of them, but honestly, many of the ruins looked quite similar to me. When the Burmese took over the kingdom in the 1700s they burned and destroyed everything. What remains today are crumbling piles of bricks and chedis (big bell-looking things) that still hold some of the majesty and glory of their golden days.
In the interest of saving time, Josh and I just selected a few of the main ones. Our first stop was Wat Phra Mahathat, a beautiful temple with iconic images such as a peaceful Buddha face surrounded by tree roots that just happened to grow around it. Next was Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit, home of Thailand’s largest seated Buddha (yet another awe-inspiring moment) and next door to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the former site of the ancient royal palace when it was located in Ayutthaya. This palace/temple has three massive chedis that hold the ashes of former kings. One of chedis had this little entryway in it, and though I tried to convince Josh to join me to check out the inside, he refused (something about not wanting rabies, whatever). Luckily, I found some braver tourists around to join me and managed to enter into the little dirt hole long enough to grab a photo, ignoring the creepy-crawly noises around me and the overwhelming smell of excrement.
Later that day, Josh and I joined some other travelers at our guest house for a boat tour of some of the ruins off the island. This was pretty fun. Our non-English speaking guide drove us around this long, canoe-like boat and dropped us off at random places with virtually no explanation, simply saying “20 minutes.” Luckily, we managed to find Wat Phanan Choeng, home of another MASSIVE Buddha, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, a smaller, less impressive temple with an old chedi, and Wat Chai Wattanaram, the most picturesque of them all. Wat Chai Wattanaram was absolutely gorgeous. Of all the ruins we’d seen, this one seemed the most intact, the most symmetric and was, surprisingly, sparsely populated with tourists. We were there around sunset and the whole thing made just a beautiful silhouette against the sky. It was a great way to end our tour. Next stop, Kanchanaburi!