Ancient Ayutthaya
Updated: Feb2013

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"The City of Gorgeousness" 
as described by the Ayutthaya Tourist Board
By Martin Clarke, Feb 2013

Just back from 4 weeks travelling around Myanmar and was amazed in particular by the temples of Bagan. But that's not what this blog is about. I'd flown AirAsia back into Bangkok and although I do like Thailand, the sudden rise in volume, in particular "Sebedekahhhhhh!" was driving me mad within the first few minutes. So, back to Thailand and back out of Bangkok!

In Myanmar I'd read about the conflicts between the Buddhists of the two countries and was surprised at the amount of artefacts that had been taken from one country to another and then onward again. In Mandalay, one temple proudly shows some bronzes that were taken from Ayutthaya which were originally taken from Cambodia by the Thais!

I wanted to know more. I wanted to see the Thai side of things and with the knowledge of "theft" or "adoption of relics" from Ayutthaya I jumped the early morning train the next day. 

I had a lose plan, that is I was going to hire a bike with my partner and we were going to see where are fancy took us. Upon arrival I was completely surprised at home modern the town was. Okay, I've come to expect a 7-Eleven on every street, but the town was quite built up which wasn't what I was expecting.

We arrived by train from Bangkok and crossed straight over to the ferry. A few minutes walk and we were on "Farang Street" aptly named since it's where all of the guest houses and few bars are. Bags dropped off, bikes hired and out!

Wat Mahathat

We'd picked up a very good local guide produced by the tourist board from our hotel so used that as our map and guide. We head straight through the busy town towards both Wat Mahathat (50B) and Wat Ratchaburana (30B). It was clear straight away that there was much more going on in Wat Mahathat forour 50baht entrance fee.

Wat Mahathat

The temple is located in front of the grand palace to the east near Pa Than Bridge. It was originally constructed in the reign of King Borom Rachathirat I and houses many holy relics of the lord Buddha, most of which were beheaded by the Burmese during an attack on the area. The above "body-less" head of Buddha is possibly the most photographed image in all of the area. We in fact missed it on our first loop because it was surrounded by tour groups, all bobbing down so that there heads were not higher than the statues on the instruction of the security guard posted there.

Wat Mahathat

You can easily see into most of the temples that have a charge, and in truth some of them really don't appear to be worth it. The images most ruined and any inscriptions long since faded. In fact the best photo opportunities appear to be outside the sites themselves.

Wat Ratchaburana

The monestary of Wat Ratchaburana was constucted under the command of King Borom Rachathirat II. The two pagodas were built on the ground where Chao Ai and Chao Yi engaged in single-handed combat on elephant back. Both were killed. 

Pharan Park

The day was already starting to warm up so we decided to take a slwo cycle around Pharan Park, which is the west of the previous two sites and in the direction of the royal palace area. The park has a mixture of small modern temples, ponds and copious amounts of large birds!

Large birds :-)

Wat Phra Pi Sanphet

Royal Palace Gardens

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a great example of one of those temple areas that are simply so much easier to photograph from afar. It was used as a residential palace in the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokkanat commanded that a new living quarter was built, this residential palace became the royal chapel without monks or novice inhabitants.

Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit

Phra Mongkhon Bophit

The original Phra Monghon Bophit (what a name), a large bronze cast of Buddha was originally enshrined outside the royal palace until King Songtham commanded that it be transferred to its current location. During the 2nd fall of Ayutthaya, the building and image were badly destroyed by fire. The one here today is a reconstruction of the original.

Our bicycles took us west again to some of the temples on the outer side of the area (Wat Phra Si Sanphet) but as you may guess by the lack of photographs  it was far from memorable.

Our original plan was to ride it all in a day. Our "weather revised plan" was to head back to the guest house. We hoped to get out to see both Wat Mahthat and Wat Ratchaburana that night, but mother nature wasn't having any of that!

Day 2
We were initially annoyed that we didn't complete the loop in a single day, but we're travelling long-term so it wasn't the end of the world. As it is, I think we were lucky because Day2 really was going to challenge Day1.

Whan Phra Wian 

We headed south this time, staying on the western side of the river. The plan being to loop back around anti-clockwise and end up back at the guest house. Our first stop was Whan Phra Wian. Set back from the main road and quite a distance from the temples of the previous day. 

Wat Phra Wian

Surrounded my "normal life" the temple was going through a detailed restoration period on the internal paintings. Some of the most detailed we'd seen in any temple. 

The local map shows this as Wat Sunwandararam, which is behind the temple.

Wat Suwandararam

We continued south again to the Phet Fortress. More rubble than fortress these days but it is a good target point on the map for the ferry crossing over to Wat Pananchoeng.

Ganesh behind Wat Phananchoeng

Although the Wat is the main listing on the tourist information there are several other places of religious import here. Our first site is Ganesh in all of his glorious colour, then a small Chinese temple before coming to the renovated Wat.

The bright orange sheets were purchased by worshippers and then handed to assistants who threw them up to a colleague who was aloft with the giant seated Buddha. These were then draped around him and passed over the heads of the worshippers throughout prayer.

Wat Phananchoeng

The wat is a main tourist point and it's easy to see why.

Out of the Wat and left towards the train line. Once over the train line it is easy to spot its large pagoda of Wat Yai Chaingkhon. We were heading to the main gate when we saw signs for an entrance. It wasn't until we were leaving we realised we managed to skip the entrance booths by coming in as a "tour bus" and also skipped the 20 baht fee (we paid this on the way out which took a lot of effort I can tell you!).

Wat Yai Chainangkhon

Breathtaking is the best way of describing this wat. The images of Buddha are swathed on bright orange and the grounds are immaculate. Though some of the building work is supported or repaired, on the whole this was the best Wat we'd seen so far.

King Naresuan the Great commanded that the pagoda be built to celebrate the victory of his combatant on elephant back. He also intended a huge construction to match the large pagoda of Wat Phukhao and named it "Phra Chedi Chaimongkhon".

Zooming down from the pagoda for images of the grounds.

We left here (having paid our 20 baht) and headed north further. Our disappointment is reflected in the lack of pictures. The floating market is a manufactured tourist attraction, the elephants hardly looked happy at the and the temples were in such a poor state it was difficult to even find a sign to tell us where we were (Wat Samanakothar and Wat Meheyoug).

We did finish the day on a high though watching this elephant wander around his barbed enclosure freely.

Well worth it!

If you'd like more information about Martin's day out, you can contact him through our email address, where you post will be redirected to him.
Elli xx

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