Ayutthaya - Ruined Capital of Siam

Ayutthaya Travel Blog

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These are the bikes we rented. It takes a real man to ride a pink bike :)
So today, John and I headed to the island city of Ayutthaya which was the capital of Thailand for over 400 years.  During its peak, it had more than a million people and was larger than London at the time.  In 1767 however, it was sacked by the Burmese and the population reduced to less than 10,000 as the Kings moved their capital south to where modern Bangkok is located.  Today, most of the ruins are located on the Western half of the island, with modern (and relatively small) Ayutthaya on the east.   
John and I decided to travel by train (which was ridiculously cheap) so we met up at the Bang Sue metro stop which is located near the train station.
Ruins at Wat Ratchaburana
  John was running a little late since the motorcycle taxi that he took to get to the metro stop didn’t have any change and had to get together with the other riders to find some.  The train that we wanted to catch was at the station so we started running, but the train started to pull away, until one of the employees saw us and had the train stop so we could board.  We didn’t have tickets yet, but we thought since they stopped the train for us, maybe we could by them on board.  We settled in and when the ticket checker came by we explained we were headed to Ayutthaya and needed to buy a ticket.  He told us we could get off at the next stop to do so and that he would tell us when.  We were feeling pretty good about things.
  We arrived at the next station after about 10 minutes and the same man who had stopped the train and told us we could buy our tickets at the next station pointed out where we could go to buy our tickets.
Buddha at Wat Mahathat
  This is where things got interesting, as we were buying our tickets the train started to leave again.  We looked for the man who had been so helpful up until now, but he just shook his head this time and off the train went.  Even the guy at the ticket counter seemed really confused.  We couldn’t believe that they stopped the train for us at the first station, told us we could buy tickets at the next station, and then left us there!  Since that train had left, we had to wait for the next train in an hour, so we got some breakfast at the 7-11 (they are everywhere over here) and sat down until we could board our train.
  We caught the next train and rode 3rd class, which for the hour and half trip was perfectly fine, it was a standard seat with fans and windows that opened.
Buddha head in the roots of a banyan tree at Wat Phra Mahathat
  No air-conditioning but with the windows open it was plenty cool and for 14 Baht (less than 50 cents) it was great. 
  We got to Ayutthaya around 11:30am.  The train station is across the river from the island so we caught the river ferry (3 Baht) to the other side, then we rented some bikes so we could get around the island quicker (40 Baht for the day) and set off to see some ruins. 
  Our first stop was the ruins of Wat Ratchaburana.  We wandered around the ruins and climbed the Prang in the middle.  Inside the prang, some steep stairs lead down to the crypt that was built to house the remains of the two brothers of the King who built Wat Ratchaburana.  Apparently, they died in a duel for the throne, I don’t know if they were dueling with each other and that’s how the King who built it became King (which would explain his generosity in building the Wat) or if they were dueling with the King and lost (in which case, he was even more generous).
Giant Buddha at Phra Mongkhon Bophit
 
  After that, we rode over to Wat Phra Mahathat.  At one time, there was a huge prang in the center of this complex (150 ft high), but it collapsed a long time ago.  It is surrounded by some restored chedi, but the real attraction at Wat Mahathat is the stone Buddha head that has become imbedded in the gnarled roots of a banyan tree. 
  Our next stop was Viharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit, which was built to house the restored giant Buddha statue that had sat on the spot exposed to the elements since the fall of Ayutthaya.  The building seems almost too small for the giant (39 ft) statue.  Mongkhon Bophit is a busy place, there are venders lining the path to the building and the building itself is filled with worshipers.  One of the interesting things is that there are lots of smaller Buddha statues which are in the process of being gilded.
Three Chedi at Wat Sri Sanphet
  Worshipers can buy small pieces of paper with gold (or something similar) on it which they then rub onto the statutes.  Someone told us that the tradition started from the Queen asking people to help restore the giant statue and once it was completed, the people wanted to continue the practice of helping to gild the statues.  I have no idea if this is true or not, but it sounded good to me. 
  Next door to Mongkhon Bophit is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet (30 Baht), whose three identical chedi are probably the most iconic image of Ayutthaya.  They were built to house the remains of three a King and his father and brother.  The first two in 1492, and the last one was added in 1540.  At one time both Wat Sri Sanphet and the giant Buddha statue were located on the grounds of the royal palace, but after the city was abandoned, the bricks from the palace were moved to Bangkok to fortify the new capital, so all that remains are the foundation.
Me on the steps of one of the three chedi at the ruins of Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
  The palace must have been huge though as my book says it had stables for 100 elephants.  Speaking of elephants, there is the option at Ayutthaya to take an elephant ride around the various temples, and so as we biked around the island we passed lines of elephants several times which was kind of fun. 
  After Wat Sri Sanphet we stopped for lunch at one of the outdoor restaurant tents on the western side of the temple.  We both had some delicious Pad Thai (40 Baht).  Then we continued on our bike tour of the island.
  Our next stops were at Wat Tammickarat which is known for its lion statues and Wat Lokayasutha which has a giant reclining Buddha, before heading to the south eastern point of island, where the Na Pam Sak and Chao Phraya Rivers come together, so that we could take a ferry to see the active temple of Wat Phanan Choeng (20 Baht).
View of Wat Phanon Choeng from across the river
 
  We road across on the ferry (4 Baht) with one of the monks and the view as we crossed the river was very cool.  On the other side there was a dock where the fish are apparently fed frequently because there were tons of them in a feeding frenzy.  The temple has an definite Chinese feel to it as it used to be a favorite of Chinese traders.  Inside is another huge bronze Buddha, but it was currently being restored so was surrounded by scaffolding so I didn’t take any pictures.  While we were there they were taking down its saffron colored robbing, which is put on again every weekend.  The sheets of cloth are very long and there were at least 20 people helping to take them down.  In the other rooms of the temple we saw various worshippers (again helping to cover smaller statues in gold, as well as praying with incense and lotus blossoms).
John and I inside one of the rooms in Wat Phanon Choeng
  In one room there was a large group of young novice monks joking around with each other.  Next door to the main temple there is another even more Chinese influenced building and an outdoor pagoda with several impressive gold (or bronze) statues. 
  After that we took a ferry back across the river (4 Baht) and biked back towards the train station.  John’s bike seat had been giving him trouble most of the day because the bold was lose and so the seat tipped way forward, but on the way back the seat post bent and he had to ride standing up.  The man that we rented the bikes from was not too happy, but then again neither was John about having to ride a bike with a messed up seat all day.  Eventually it got worked out and we took the ferry back (3 Baht) to the train station to find out when the next train left for Bangkok.
Buddha at Chinese Pavillion at Wat Phanon Choeng
  We had a about an hour so we bought a couple beers (50 Baht) and went and sat by the river to wait.  Then we took the train home (14 Baht). 
  Once back in Bangkok, we decided to grab some dinner near the metro stop.  We wanted to try the pizza place, but there was no where to sit and eat so we ate at a Thai place instead.  I ordered fried Glass noodles (35 Baht) with chicken and was expecting some thin, translucent noodles, similar to I have had elsewhere (including Singha Thai, a great little Thai restaurant in West Allis, WI), but when my plate arrived, the glass noodles were large, bright green, translucent tubes.  They kind of looked like lime jello, but they tasted delicious.  You would never have known from the way they tasted that they were bright green, they tasted just like regular noodles.
Outdoor pavilion at Wat Phanon Choeng
 
  Overall it was a great day, and cheap too.  When you add up the costs of things we did and throw in about 40 Baht for water purchased throughout the day, my total comes to about 300 Baht, which is less than $10.  I love Thailand!

mom0104 says:
It was worth waiting for the stories to go with the photos! Nice kudo for Singha Thai...Remember, their Pud Woon Sen is made with bean threads. Happy eating!
Posted on: Jul 14, 2007
mom0104 says:
WOW...Great photos!
Posted on: Jul 09, 2007
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These are the bikes we rented.  It…
These are the bikes we rented. I…
Ruins at Wat Ratchaburana
Ruins at Wat Ratchaburana
Buddha at Wat Mahathat
Buddha at Wat Mahathat
Buddha head in the roots of a bany…
Buddha head in the roots of a ban…
Giant Buddha at Phra Mongkhon Boph…
Giant Buddha at Phra Mongkhon Bop…
Three Chedi at Wat Sri Sanphet
Three Chedi at Wat Sri Sanphet
Me on the steps of one of the thre…
Me on the steps of one of the thr…
View of Wat Phanon Choeng from acr…
View of Wat Phanon Choeng from ac…
John and I inside one of the rooms…
John and I inside one of the room…
Buddha at Chinese Pavillion at Wat…
Buddha at Chinese Pavillion at Wa…
Outdoor pavilion at Wat Phanon Cho…
Outdoor pavilion at Wat Phanon Ch…
Fried Glass Noodles with Chicken. …
Fried Glass Noodles with Chicken.…
Statues at Wat Phanon Choeng
Statues at Wat Phanon Choeng
Fish feeding frenzy in the river b…
Fish feeding frenzy in the river …
Statue at Wat Phanon Choeng
Statue at Wat Phanon Choeng
Decorative pole outside  Wat Phano…
Decorative pole outside Wat Phan…
Elephant Tours are available aroun…
Elephant Tours are available arou…
John in front of the reclining Bud…
John in front of the reclining Bu…
Stature at Wat Ratchaburana
Stature at Wat Ratchaburana
Some delicious Pad Thai
Some delicious Pad Thai
Lions at Wat Tammickarat
Lions at Wat Tammickarat
Ayutthaya
photo by: the_bloodsucker