Time for New Pants

Trip Start Aug 03, 2008
Trip End Aug 18, 2009

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Flag of Thailand  ,
Monday, September 15, 2008

Ayutthaya was once the Thai capital, but it was sacked multiple times by the Burmese and other invaders, so eventually the capital moved to Bangkok. It is essentially a small island in the middle of a bunch of rivers that all converge there making it a perfect place for a capital in a country that used the rivers as the primary method of transportation.  At one point, this must have been a beautiful city; however, today there is little left but ruins of what once was.  Most of the ruins are just the brick cores of the temples and monuments.  There outer casings and decoration long since stripped away or destroyed by time.  But before I go into too much more detail about what temples we saw, I figure I should tell a little story since first.

We arrived on the train around 6 pm and found a great youth hostel that had private rooms with bathrooms, hot shower, air conditioning, and most important for Michelle a population of cats (I don't know if counts as cheating on Mojo, but every cat she pets she compares to him).  Anyways after dropping our stuff off, we were about to head out to get some food, explore the town, etc, etc; when it started raining.  We waited out the heaviest part of the rain, but after a while our hunger was stronger than the desire to be dry so off we went.  Since we were 20 minutes for the heart of town, and there was a restaurant just around the corner ,we headed to the nearby restaurant.  We probably should have turned around when we saw the name "Zeebs", but it looked like a decent place.  Inside it was very nice, one might even say a little posh though the cliental was not dressed any better than we were.  So after looking over the menu and not feeling that adventurous, I decided to get the fried fish.  Pretty safe sounding, I was hoping for a nice deep fried fish fillet, I was expecting to have to remove the head and some bones, but what I got was a plate full of minnow that had been deep fried (sorry no picture, I was not expecting to take a picture of dinner).  Needless, to say I did not have a lot to eat that night.

The next day we headed out to explore the temples in town, and since they were so spread out across the island and across the many rivers, we rented bikes to make the exploration a little quicker.  The first temple we stopped at was Wat Mahathat, which was once a huge complex consisting of a number of chedi's (spires where the ashes of important people are buried).  They were mostly in ruins, but it was still pretty cool to walk around and see.  There must have been about 10 different temples or other buildings surrounding the main grouping of Chedis.  In one corner there once was a huge Buddha, but now there is a large tree growing around it. And now it's quite famous, since its roots have picked up a head from one of the Buddha statues that was destroyed when this complex was sacked.  This head is entangled in the roots looking at you.

After that, we rode past a number of smaller temples occasionally stopping to take a break and explore some.  We went to the area where Wat Phra Mongkonbophit and Wat Phra Si Samphet were and started to explore.  Wat Phra Mongkonbophit is a newer temple built to house one of the few Buddha statues that was not destroyed.  It is a bronze statue with gold foil.  Since it only had minor damage, a new temple was constructed around it on the ruins of the older temple.  Wat Phra Si Samphet was next to the now completely destroyed Palace, and was the most important religious site in Ayutthaya.  It is pretty impressive even in its ruined state.  There are a number of Chedis still standing though in rough shape.  The temples around the chedis are pretty much destroyed, but it was still cool to explore.

After exploring these, we stopped for some food when it started raining.  We just happened to be in a market, so we did some shopping.  Michelle found some cool Thai pants and shorts that she liked.  Let me try to explain them.  Essentially you put the front half of the pants on and tie them in the back, so they look a lot like chaps.  Then you pull the second half of these through your legs and they cover the back of your legs, this time tying them in the front.  So now you have pants that cover back and front, but have a split that goes from top to bottom that is only covered by the fact that the pants wrap.  After looking all over and to find the perfect pair, we bought a pair of pants and shorts. 

I am now going to skip ahead a little to finish the story of these pants.  Michelle was excited about these pants because they were cooler to wear than some of hers, so she wore them for our bus ride to Chaing Mai.  During which she found out a couple of things about these pants.  First when you sit, the material falls down and the split opens up so you always need to be tucking them in to keep from showing too much leg.  And, secondly, but most important, to go to the bathroom in these pants, especially in shady eastern (squat) style toilets in bus stops that may have last been cleaned last century, you need to pretty much take you pants off to go because if you only untie the back part, they flop and drag all over the place.  Needless to say, I had to make sure the bus did not leave without her as she was in changing pants, during one of our stops.

So now back to exploring Ayutthaya.  We next rode to where a single massive temple once stood, Wat Lokayasutharam.  This temple once housed a large reclining Buddha but who now it is outside.  This was a huge Buddha, but not being in the building with the gold foil covering it just took something away and made it look smaller.  After this, we crossed the river to go to the best persevered ruin of Wat Chaiwatthanaram.  This had a large Prabang at the center that was in decent shape, but one could tell it had not being well taken care of since there were a number of plants growing from it.  Around it the walls still protected it with the number of large spires punctuating the wall.  Finally, on the front going towards the river there was a large platform with a number of Buddhas over looking the complex.  It was a cool sight to see, but once again the rain started falling making our ride back a little wet.

The next day takes us on a 9 hour bus ride to Chaing Mai, but I am sure Michelle will tell you more about this when she writes about our stay at Chain Mai.

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