Okay, let’s now head to Ayutthaya! We exclaimed after visiting the Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. Our cab driver scratched his head and told us that we’d arrive there by four in the afternoon and by that time, the temples would already be closed.
The Ayutthaya Historical Park is about 170 kilometers away from where we were and it would take two and a half hours to reach it by car. But promises are promises. We held our cab driver to his word that he would be taking us to Ayutthaya right after our Floating Market tour, be it open or closed.
|WE KNEW WE’RE ALREADY AT AYUTTHAYA|
After a couple of hours of zipping through unknown highways, our taxi crossed over a river and brick chedis towering above a copse of trees finally came into view. We at last arrived at our original destination for the day, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayutthaya.
|AYUTTHAYA’S TOWERING WHITE PRANGS|
Research really wasn’t our strongest suit and we we’re totally unaware how freakin’ huge the Ayutthaya Historical Park was. We thought it’d be like the temple runs we did in Siem Reap where a single temple can be explored in an hour or two. As soon as our cab entered the park, we knew we’d be there until late evening if we were planning in seeing everything.
What we did was to simply ask our driver where the best temple was and let him drive us there, trust issues notwithstanding. To be fair with him, he directed us to Wat Mahathat, one of the five UNESCO inscribed-temples in Ayutthaya, not to mention one of the most picturesque too.
|ONE OF THE CLOSED OFF TEMPLES BEING RESTORED|
My previous assumption was that all the temples in the Ayutthaya Historical Park were all World Heritage structures. It turns out that only five of them are; Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wat Phra Ram and Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit. All of these temples are located on the island-like Old City of Pattaya.
|INSIDE WAT MAHATHAT IN AYUTTHAYA|
We paid the requisite 50 baht (1.50 USD) and entered the ruined temple grounds without a guide. Our eyes were totally all over the place, there were so much to see and so little time. And yes, we have no idea what these ancient ruins were for.
|A SURVIVING BUDDHA STATUE WITH HEAD INTACT|
We should’ve gotten those headphone-guided tour that they were renting out near the ticket counter for a few baht. But since we didn’t, we simply explored the area totally clueless on what we were looking at. Well, we knew that’s a statue of Buddha (aha, so this is a Buddhist temple). We knew those pointed things are called stupas. We knew… Err, that’s all we knew.
|INTRICATE CARVINGS AT A RUINED PILLAR BASE|
I noticed that the architecture in Ayutthaya is quite similar to those found on the temples of Siem Reap. And I wasn’t too far off with my assumptions. The old city of Ayutthaya, which was founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi I or King U Thong, which translates to source of gold by the way, has its architecture rooted with those of the Khmers.
|VANDALIZED BUDDHA STATUES|
I don’t know how they do it back in the day, but Siem Reap is after all just an overnight bus away from Bangkok. So it isn’t that hard to imagine how Cambodia’s ancient architecture, as fine as it was, could have easily influenced those of its neighboring lands.
|TEMPLE RUN, AYUTTHAYA EDITION|
One of the things I didn’t see at Siem Reap though was the distinctive gigantic white prangs (reliquary towers) of Ayutthaya. Although the Khmers have something similar, the Thais have modified it in such a way that it became something totally different. It was just too bad that we were not able to visit one up close since everyone in the group was already templed out.
|BUDDHA STATUES WITH SEVERED HEADS|
The Old Kingdom of Ayutthaya was said to have been one of the world’s largest ancient cities at one point in time. But those days ended when it was sacked by the Burmese army in 1767. Its massive gold Buddha smelted, their holy statues beheaded, its temples looted, and the city itself razed to the ground.
|THE RUINS OF AYUTTHAYA|
What we were seeing that day was only a ghost of a once mighty city. Remnants patched up by restoration artists, wanting today’s people to witness what the Thai (then Siam) people were capable of constructing even before the advent of modern building apparatuses.
|AYUTTHAYA’S FAMOUS BUDDHA HEAD|
We exited the park just as the sun was setting down. I knew we were missing the most beautiful part of the day, but alas, mine was the lone (silent) voice of dissent amongst my travel mates that want to go back to Bangkok in jiffy. My only consolation was seeing the famed Buddha face intertwined by the growth of a banyan tree as we were about to go out. It seemed peaceful in its repose, like it was sleeping on an arm of a friend.
I knew right then that I would be back in Ayutthaya. I want to see more of its ruins. I want to know more about its past. And yes, I want my Ayutthaya sunset too.
Ayutthaya Historical Park
Address: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya, Thailand
Contact Number: (+66) 0-3524-6076-7
Open Hours: 8:30am to 5:00pm (last entry 3:30)
Entrance Fee: 50 Baht or less per temple
GPS Coordinates Map: 14.355656, 100.558527