Over Pchum Benh we took the opportunity to visit Thailand. It was my first trip there in three years, and Seyla’s first time. Fortunately for us, my brother from another mother, Med, lives there, so he was extremely hospitable and took us to see many great sights.
I am really interested in the history of Thailand, so we left Bangkok at 6:30am on a Sunday morning to visit Ayutthaya, a historic city that was founded in 1350.
The architecture was quite different to that of the Angkorian temples in Cambodia, particularly as most temples were made from small bricks. Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom, flourishing between the 14th and 18th centuries. The city was built at this location as it was located about the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam and prevented the attack of the city from other countries sea warships.
Unfortunately, the city was attacked by the Burmese army in 1767 and it was burned to the ground with the inhabitants fleeing. It is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and rightly so! We only saw a handful of temples as we were completely exhausted from walking around Bangkok the day before, however I am very glad we saw what we did.
The ruins are spread around the town, so unless you are incredibly fit an able to ride a bicycle, it is suggested you hire a driver to transport you around. Some highlights are:
Wat Mahathat – Possible one of the most popular spots in Ayutthaya, due to a Buddha head in the tree. It is thought that this Buddha head fell to the ground in the 1600’s, and the Bodhi tree grew around it, though nothing is certain. It is useful to note that this is a very sacred site, so touching the Buddha is not allowed, and you should kneel when taking photos as a sign of respect.
Ayothaya Floating Market – Even if you don’t purchase anything, this market is great for the atmosphere. You will find local delicacies, Thai fashion and knick knacks. There is apparently now an entrance fee, however when this author visited in October 2016 that wasn’t the case.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet – This site was originally used as a royal chapel. The highlight of the architecture is a line of three tall chedis (stupas) which have a peaceful, rustic feel to them. It is recommended you steer clear of the elephants there, as recently a banana vendor was seriously injured when trying to feed one.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram – This temple is relatively young compared to others, having been constructed in 1630. The size is astounding, and you will want to spend a fair amount of time exploring it. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was designed in Khmer style, which you will see in the temples in Cambodia.
Ayutthaya is a 1.5 hour drive from Bangkok when there is no traffic. However, if there is traffic, like there was on our way back, the journey can take up to three hours.