Heather's Thairy

Heather's journey to Bangkok, Thailand: a year of adventure!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A Capital Time

On Friday we (Tony, Moira, Ilda, Louis and I) took a train to Ayuthaya, the old capital of Thailand (then known as Siam). The school is relatively close to a train station, and we got on a train bound for Ayuthaya by 5:30. It cost 12 baht (36 cents) and got us there in about an hour and fifteen minutes. We were completely impressed- it's so nice not to sit in traffic.

Ayuthaya at night was a bit unimpressive- the city seems to shut down around 8 PM- we walked around a bit to have dinner and look around, and the "night market" was closing at about 9 PM (just one example of how Ayuthaya doesn't really have a night life). We found a busier strip and had a few drinks; it was an early night in preparation for the next day, which would prove to be quite busy.

We got up fairly early (aided by the constant crowing of the masses of roosters and chickens outside our hotel- yech) and headed out to rent bicycles. Our Lonely Planet books informed us that this is the best way to tour around Ayuthaya- I would have to agree; it was terribly convenient, cheap and fun.

My bike, the so-called Master Crocodile, at first seemed pretty sweet, but I soon discovered that the handle bars were loose (and would rotate forwards when I braked and in all directions when I steered) and the gears were non-existent. Still functional, though, and for 50 baht/day ($1.50), I didn't complain. Plus I felt pretty swank on my bright orange Master Crododile with its cool AND practical carry-basket on the front.

Armed with several maps given to us by various people of Ayuthaya, we went in search of ruins. Ayuthaya was at its peak around 600 years ago- there are several locations where ruins of the original capital still stand. I wasn't really sure what to expect- what we saw was far more impressive than I imagined.

Our first stop was Wat Mahathat. It is immense, and around each corner there is another incredible surprise to look at. I never imagined the ruins would be so intact or vast.

The Wat consists of many large, brick towers that are of various sizes (some HUGE), walls, platforms and archways. Many of the towers are in the style shown above- circular, with doors on them that are bricked in. I am not sure why the Thais constructed temples with these solid towers- I'm sure the architecture has special significance but I don't know what yet.

Other towers look like this one shown above: pointed. Again, I don't know the difference between the two styles of towers nor the significance of either; they are incredible to look at, though.

Some of the Wat is in fantastic condition, other parts are crumbling away. It is all protected and supervised now, with admission fees charged that go towards upkeep and preservation. The grounds are fairly immaculate and visitors generally are very respectful of the ruins.

There are many Buddha statues throughout the Wat- hundreds of them, probably- and the vast majority are headless. We discussed possible reasons for this- we weren't sure if it was thieves, original design (with some meaning we aren't aware of), natural degredation or some unknown cause. Not all are headless, though...

One of the most impressive parts of Wat Mahathat was the Buddha image- the head only, actually- that a tree has grown around.

Our next stop was just across the street- we hopped on the bikes and headed to Wat Ratchaburana. This Wat was not nearly as large, but was in better condition and had a very large building that you could walk up and go inside.

After Wat Ratchaburana, we went to The Grand Palace ruins. I was surprised at the size of the ruins of the Grand Palace as compared to those of Wat Mahathat- I thought the Grand Palace would be larger. It turns out that when these places were in use, the Grand Palace was quite a bit larger than what stands today.

Some of the Grand Palace ruins are a different colour than those at the Wats- and I think they are a different material. There is also a higher concentration of the pointed towers at the Grand Palace.

Some of the ruins at the Grand Palace are really unique: this crumbled arch looked like it defied the laws of physics; it also was visually stunning.

Beside the Grand Palace ruins is a modern temple that is still in use. It is quite large and impressive from the outside...

...and even more impressive on the inside. It houses one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand- it is ENORMOUS. I cannot even comprehend how people could create such a thing.

After we had some lunch (crab with spring onion sauce- delicious!) we went to our last stop for the day- the Ayuthaya Historical Study Centre. The map said it is "a must-see for those wishing to become better acquainted with the history of the former capital". It was much smaller than expected, and no photos are allowed of the inside, so here's the outside:

The inside of the museum is as beautiful as the outside- it has one level of displays that inform visitors about historical Ayuthaya.

Our trip to Ayuthaya ended in the evening when we caught another 12 baht train to Bangkok- we were back in the city in about an hour. I was truly impressed and know that I will take another trip there sometime- we spent an entire day searching the old capital and, according to the map, we barely scratched the surface of what Ayuthaya has to offer.

Until next time,


  • At 12:25 AM, Anonymous auntie Bonnie said…

    Hi Heather,
    Way cool pics. Trains are so cheap! Kinda expected to see Lara Croft springing out of the ruins (oh, that was you!). Yep, this kinda makes you wonder how the H... did they do that?
    Love, Auntie Bonnie


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