Ayutthaya, according to the Lonely Planet Guide to Thailand (p. 195), "was the capital of Siam [Thailand] for 417 years between 1350 and 1767... At its peak it controlled an area larger than England and France combined, and was a melting pot of culture, art and trade. Its glorious reign ended in1767 when the invading Burmese army sacked the city looting most of its treasures." While its glory days are long past the city is still famous for its impressive ruins and still active Buddhist temples. In 1991 Ayutthaya was declared a Unesco World Heritage Site. It's located a little ways north of where I live, about 45 km form here which made for an easy drive last Sunday.
My sister Marguerite had mentioned it to me when she learned I was moving to Thailand saying it was one of the most amazing places she had ever seen - and she's travelled a lot and been to many cool places. So that got my attention. It was also highly recommended by a Thai friend of hers with whom she had put me in contact. I casually mentioned it to my friend and work colleague Dao and she recruited a friend of hers, Goong, to arrange an outing. Goong, a friend from their college days, is an English and History major (and currently studying law) and between her knowledge of Thai history and Buddhism, was the perfect person to lead the excursion. She put together an extensive itinerary that kept us busy and enthralled for the entire long day.
Ayutthaya is truly an amazing and beautiful place. Here are some more images from there:
Reclining Buddha at Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
I did an uber-touristy thing and rode one:
Kluaymai, my elephant, says thank you for the excellent tip!
Then it was time for lunch at the Floating Market, how do I describe this? - a series of platforms floating on a lagoon. On the outside periphery were numerous food stalls with an amazing variety of Thai foods. We purchased food coupons and indulged in a variety of tasty treats from the typical satay (grilled chicken with peanut sauce but served with bite sized "pillows' of crunchy noodles to deep fried flowers that varied in taste between slightly bitter and almost sweet by way of egg battered fried oyster, green papaya salad and coconut ice cream for dessert. Unfortunately I was too busy eating to think about documenting everything in pictures. Sorry. Here are some views of the place:
There was also a show: a traditional Thai story complete with music and singing, acted out on the water. I am going to pass on describing the story in detail but it involved love and betrayal and magic and a happy ending. How can you beat that? Dao and Goong explained it to me but there is no doubt that the Thai audience was very familiar with it.
Other Floating Market images:
After lunch we visited another historical wat: Wat Na Phra Men (which translates to temple in front of the crematorium - not a recent or current crematorium though)
The Wat Phra Mahathat was built in 1374 during the reign of King Borom Rachathirat I:
It is not known how this Buddha head came to be embedded in the roots of this tree.
We went on to visit the Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, which featured 3 stupas from the late 14th cent. Here are two of them:
A stupa is a mound-like structure containing Buddhist relics, typically the remains of a Buddha or saint, used by Buddhists as a place of worship. These were built to honor certain kings of Ayutthaya.
Our last stop of the day and the most spectacular (Goong saving the best - and her personal favorite - for last) was the Wat Chaiwattanaram, which was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother.
We watched the day turn to night at this magical place.
We drove back and finished the long day with dinner at the excellent Suan Thip Thai restaurant that is located next to my apartment building. It was a good finish to a spectacular day. I was tired and exhilarated.