After just 20 mins sleep for a whole night, I decided to sign up for a full day tour to the old capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. Guided day tours are not really my style of traveling and I knew that the city is easily reachable from Bangkok via train (it’s about 80 km far). However, in all fairness, I was physically and mentally too exhausted to do such a thing on my own.
This place has been listed as Unesco World Heritage since 1991 and it remained capital of Siam for 417 years under 33 kings, so I was kind of confident I was gonna get a good day out of Bangkok.
The original urbanistic planning of the city seems to be the most important feature. Built around the middle 18th century, it originally lied on 3 different rivers and had such an advanced hydraulic system which influenced even the way Bangkok was remodeled. It allowed the Siamese kingdom to take advantage of natural elements which were used against enemies during the war, but also contributed to people’s wealth, prosperity and glory in peacetime.
During the 17th century A Dutch trader-cartographer created a detailed map of the city based on the information he collected:
The tangled net of diversified elements showed in the map can still be found today. Most of the different sites spread across the area are still accessible (some are partially under restoration work). The feeling of walking through these ruins gave me a deep sense of territory and belonging which seem to be rooted among the locals even today.
Talking about temple architecture, the chedi, prang, and prasat of Ayutthaya are very peculiar, having a specificity which can’t be found anywhere else in Asia. This is the place were the traditional Thai style was born and it’s still visible through what remains of the ancient glory.
The first place where we stopped was the Wat Yai Chai Mongkol which is still an active temple. There are different sections within the sites, including a reclining Buddha and a huge chedi. I have to say I was speechless and loved strolling around to take pictures, smelling the incense and listening to the chants.
The second stop was at Wat Maha That, the royal temple housing Buddha’s relics and monastery, built around the 14th century. Besides the different prangs, the site is filled with images of sacred animals which were brought from other sites and installed as offerings. Of the original main pagoda placed at the center, today remains only the base.
The most famous element is probably the head of the sandstone Buddha image. During the Burmese ransack occurred in the 18th century almost all the statues were decapitated but one only sandstone fell into the roots of a banyan tree…where it stays since then.
The image of the Buddha beautifully integrated with nature and born from such a tragic event made me reflect, giving me a peaceful, reassuring feeling…sometimes good things come out of the most inexplicable places!
When we arrived at the reclining Buddha at the Wat Locaya Sutha I felt like fainting. Well, one huge mango ice cream seemed to solve the issue…at least for a short while. This is my first experience in a tropical country and the physical distress is constant. Another reason which made me sign up for this tour was knowing that the van has air conditioning: at least traveling from site to site gives some temporary refreshment. I hope I will get used to this humid and sticky weather with the passing of the time.
This huge statue is 42mt long and there are lotus flowers supporting the head. In 1954 went under major restoration to get to the final form of today.
The last stop before lunch was at the chedi called the golden mountain (Wat Phu Khao Thong). This monument lies among rice fields and was built to celebrate a victory against the Burmese. It really is as huge as it looks and can be seen from far.
A 12 mt high Buddha can be found inside the Wat Mongkhon Bophit complex, where we stopped at the end. In this place, there were lots of people coming to pray and the dimension of the statue is truly impressive. Mantra wouldn’t stop singing – my favorite part of visiting temples.
However, at that point, I have to admit I was a bit tired. For most of us was impossible to understand the English spoken by the tour guide so we were basically left at our fate, which at that point for me started to feel uncomfortable.
So I was very happy when we boarded the van for the last time. Going back to rest at the hostel in Bangkok felt…like a pure blessing 🙂