Ayutthaya: The Ancient Capital

Trip Start Sep 01, 2010
Trip End Jun 18, 2011

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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

After our brilliant visit to Bangkok we decided to spend a few days in the ancient capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya. If you're not that interested in temples or ruins of old temples or museums about ruins of old temples then Ayutthaya is a pretty boring place… luckily for us we love temples so it was a great place for us to spend a few days relaxing and sightseeing. There are about 10 main sites of interest here, with about 50 smaller ruins dotted all over the city and we managed to see about 7 of the big ones during our time here: we would have visited more but I came down with a head-cold on our third day and wasn’t feeling up to much. The temples and ruins at Ayutthaya are amazing; as you are walking down the street you will stumble across the ruins of an ancient temple filled with broken statues of Buddha dressed in orange sashes. Most people only visit Ayutthaya as a day-trip from Bangkok, but since we have all the time in the world we decided to stay for a few days to take it all in and I’m really glad that we did. Over three days we were lucky enough to see Thailand’s largest sitting Buddha statue, a huge outdoor stone reclining statue as well as tons of other ruins, temples and towers. But the most beautiful thing we saw while we were there was a statue of Buddha’s head which had fallen into the roots of a tree and over hundreds of years the roots have grown around the statue and engulfed it: now the statue sits very peacefully surrounded by the roots of a huge Bodhi tree.

There was a lovely park in the center of the city which reminded us of home as we spent afternoons wandering through the park chatting away and drinking iced coffee. While we were in Ayutthaya the temperature dropped significantly and we spent the first 2 days bundled up in jumpers- it was only 24 degrees, but as we are so accustomed to the heat here our bodies couldn’t cope with a sudden 10 degree drop in temperature and at one point I woke up shivering in the middle of the night! Ayutthaya also has an elephant park in the middle of the city which does elephant rides around the main temples. It was amazing seeing dozens of elephants wandering down the street alongside the normal traffic, but in all honesty I wouldn’t have wanted to do it myself: I would have felt like a right wally riding an elephant down the main high-street just so you can visit a temple that is only about 350 yards away. Apart from the elephants the other main wildlife we encountered were mosquitoes…hundreds and hundreds of mosquitoes! I don’t know if Ayutthaya sits in some kind of hotbed for mozzies, but we were practically eaten alive every single evening. They were even biting us through our clothing: I was wearing cargo trousers, socks and trainers and I still got bitten about 20 times on my feet and legs! The wildlife in Ayutthaya was a bit strange in general, at one point we were sitting in bed and when we looked up there were about 100 flies buzzing around the light. We have no idea how they managed to get into the room because all the windows and doors were closed and we couldn’t find any holes in the room through which they could have entered. Needless to say we weren’t too happy about going to bed with a room full of flies, so Tom gassed them with his body-spray and then splattered them with our Thailand guidebook: when we got up the next morning there were loads of dead flies lined up along the skirting board and we felt really bad because it looked like we’d been on some kind of fly-killing rampage.

 In the evenings we would visit the night food-market to get our dinner. The food market was brilliant and we got some amazing food there: we tried some deepfried flowers and leaves one evening and they were delicious although it felt a bit strange eating battered pansies. We also tried some local curries: in Asia when you buy a curry from the market they put it in a big foodbag and then tie the whole thing up with an elastic band so it looks like a little bomb filled with curry. I don’t know how they manage to tie the bags so they are so full of air but you are terrified of opening them in case they explode everywhere. So after a few days in Ayutthaya it was time to move on again. Our next stop was the northern city of Chiang Mai. It takes 9 hours to get there on the overnight bus so we booked our tickets through the hostel and got picked up by a tuk-tuk driver to be taken to the bus at about 8pm. In Thailand there are different classes of bus, some with aircon, some with toilet, some with bigger seats. We have learnt the hard way that it isn’t worth scrimping on your bus tickets: for an extra pound or two you can have a much nicer journey and a better nights rest,  so we booked the nicest bus we could for our trip to Chiang Mai. We had arranged with the hostel that a tuk-tuk driver would pick us up and take us to the bus, however when he collected us we found ourselves being taken to the side of the motorway. Apparently we weren’t going to a bus station: the tuk-tuk driver had to flag down our bus on the motorway! So there we were, standing at the side of a 6 lane motorway in the pitch darkness, carrying our backpacks, while a little Thai man nearly got run over trying to flag down a speeding coach. Luckily a coach pulled over pretty soon and it said Chiang Mai on the side, so that was good enough for us. It turned out to be our crappest journey so far. The bus was already full of backpackers from Bangkok and we couldn’t sit next to each other because there weren’t enough seats. So Tom ended up sitting next to a man wearing a cowboy hat and I was behind a Korean guy who kept on reclining his seat so far back my legs were getting trapped. Because we weren’t sitting next to each other, we couldn’t spread out and get comfy in our seats so neither of us got any sleep during the journey. Plus the air-con wasn’t working so it was a very hot and stuffy night. All in all it wasn’t a great journey and we were pretty pissed off because it was supposedly a 'VIP’ bus, which is the best kind you can get. Oh well, you live and you learn…   
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