Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s cultural highlights, its former capital, and home to an ancient civilization. Today it is popular among tourists because of its close proximity to Bangkok, which allows them to take a day out, see it all, and head back to Bangkok city; or make it a stop on their northern tourist trail towards Chiang Mai.
While the temples have a rich historic significant, to my guilt, I admit that my sole intention was to explore it to do some photography.
Ayutthaya has a total of six UNESCO World Heritage Sites, in addition to a few ruin structures, ancient pagodas and museums. You can get a day pass for all the six UNESCO sites for 220 Baht, or can pay 50 Baht for each.
The majority of the archaeological park is contained in central Ayutthaya, which is basically a small river island. You can explore much of it on foot. Rent a bicycle if you don’t want to look the odd one out. Hire a tuk-tuk if you don’t want to sweat on streets. The major ruins (2 out of six) which are off the island are accessible by bridge or by a ferry.
Wat Ratchaburana was built in 15th century as a cremation site for two royal brothers who killed each other for the throne. Sad! But what’s even worse is that the temple was left much unnoticed right after the Ayutthaya period, and only become mainstream when looted in 1950s. Much of the stolen goods were never found, except for 100,000 different artifacts, as well as gold weighting more than 100 kilogram. Imagine, how much must have been hidden inside the temple, for thousands of years.
A trip to Ayutthaya is incomplete without visiting the Buddha head nestled in the tree roots. The head was once a part of a sandstone Buddha image, but when Ayutthaya was defeated by the Burmese army, they destroyed the site, including the sandstone image of Buddha. The head fell to the ground where tree roots grew around it, gradually trapping it, and making it a (almost) a part of it.
Since it’s almost inevitable to get a selfie with The Buddha head, it is advised, and moreover cautioned, that you “do not stand over the Buddha’s head”.
Where the Buddha head is definitely the highlight of Wat Mahatat, the entire complex is no less than a wonder of the world. You can spend hours, reading each brick, which make different structures no less than an impossible artwork. The many headless Buddhas sit next to elegant, towering stupas, moreover give the entire complex an almost errie look.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Build during the middle period of Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Si Sanphet is considered as the most important temple of Ayutthaya, and is situated within the Grand Palace ground.
The three distinctive stupas of Wat Phra Si Sanphet is moreover the postcard image of Ayutthaya.
PS: Most of the Wat Phra Si Sanphet can be seen from outside its walls, without stepping inside the temple premises. So unless you own the full day pass to all 6 archaeological sites, don’t go in, and save yourself a 50 Baht bill.
Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Right next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the Wihaan Mongkhon Bophit, home to one of Thailand’s largest and most resilient Buddha statue. You can sit down here and see monks frequently visiting and paying their tibute to the giant gilded Buddha. A personal puja, for those interested, can moreover be availed here.
A few more shots from around the town
Read: Thailand Travel Guide and learn more about the country.
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