Ayuthaya was the Siamese royal capital from 1350. 33 kings of various Siamese dynasties reigned here until the city was conquered by the Burmese in 1767. The city was named after Ayodhya (Sanskrit for ‘unassailable‘ or ‘undefeatable’) During its hey day , Thai culture and international commerce flourished in the kingdom.
Ayuthaya historical park is an Unesco World Heritage site, and it’s ruins are scattered around this once magnificent city and along the rivers which encircle it.
I rose early this morning and hired a bicycle for the day (cost : 40THB until 6pm) to enable me to explore a large chunk of Ayuthaya’s ruins. Once i got off the main roads (which are a little bit unnerving, as no-one seems to take much notice of you if you’re on a push bike, including pedestrians, who kept walking out in front of me!), it was quite a pleasant place to cycle around. There were plenty of street stalls around selling liquid refreshments, and you will need plenty : Ayuthaya felt so much hotter than Kanchanaburi as there was no cross breeze to cool you down.
Wat Phra Mahathat
Built during the reign of King Ramesuan in the 14th century, it is home to one of Ayuthaya’s most photographed sites : a buddha head embedded in twisted tree roots. the Khmer style tower is one of the first built in the capital.
Over the road from Wat Phra Mahathat. It was established in 1424 by king Boromaraja the 2nd to hold the ashes of his elder brothers who killed each other in battle – on elephant back – fighting over the throne.
Wat Phra Ram
Built in 1369, the towering prang at Wat Phra Ram is an excellent example of a Khmer style temple from the beginning of the Ayuthaya period.
Wat Phra Si Samphet
This one was my favourite. It was built by King Boromatrailokanat (hope he didn’t have to sign his name too often!) in 1448. It was one of the grandest temples in the ancient capital and is still one of the best preserved.
Wat Na Phramane
Really out of tourist territory, this one. It was built in 1503 A.D by Angel Indra in the reign of King Rama the 2nd. It’s unique in that it managed to escape attack by the Burmese in 1767. It houses an impressive 4.4m wide and 6m high solid gold Buddha.
Wat Phra Chao Phannan Choeng
A ferry ride across the river, It was built in the early 14th century before Ayuthaya became the Siamese capital. It contains a highly revered 19m high Buddha image from which the Wat derives its name.
After cycling around Ayuthaya’s ruins for almost 6 hours, i was feeling seriously sunburnt and in desperate need of huge amounts of water. Can’t quite understand how i managed to walk around Kanchanaburi for a whole day and not even turn pink, yet after a few hours of cycling around Ayuthaya, i felt very much like an ingredient in one of the stir frys i’d been eating! I had my very own central heating system, which may have been useful had the outside temperature not been touching 35 degrees!
Beware : Savage dogs!
Although most of the dogs here (and there are alot of them!) will lie peacefully in the sunas you walk past, there are the odd few that will follow you and bark and growl at you, and it can be pretty scary. They’re not your cute, fluffy domestic dogs; they’re mean looking stray mongrels with sharp teeth!
Thoughts on Ayuthaya
Fascinating as all the ruins and the history of Ayuthaya are, i didn’t really warm to it as a place to stay. It’s very spread out, the only real centre being in and around Soi 1 (off Naresuan Rd) where there are a handful of guesthouses and eateries, Tony’s Place being the one with the best atmosphere and crowd.
Photo is of a Buddha head at the ruins of Wat Ratburana, Ayuthaya