As a final trip, in my last weeks in Bangkok, I booked myself on another tourist trip, this time to Ayutthaya, one of the previous capitals of Thailand. It’s an early start, travelling by coach from Bangkok at 7:30am, visiting the summer palace en-route (see report 10) and then on to Ayutthaya. In Ayutthaya we visit three of the main temple sites, and have a quick stop at a tourist gift shop/handicraft centre, and then it’s down to the pier to join the boat, for the leisurely cruise, with dinner, back to Bangkok.
From the mid 14th century until its catastrophic destruction by the Burmese in 1767, Ayutthaya enjoyed enormous prestige. By the 17th century it was a cosmopolitan trading centre of world renown with a population composed of 40 different nationalities and greater in number than contemporary London. Unfortunately the Burmese war saw almost total destruction of Ayutthaya, the city is home to the ruins of some 375 monasteries, 29 fortresses and 94 city gates. The whole area has been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco.
The first temple we visited is now impressive ruins, with hundreds of sandstone Buddha icons, all with the heads removed, the result of the Burmese invasion and the desire to destroy what was dear to the Thai people. This wat (Thai for Temple) dates back to the 14th century. Built in three distinct styles, the site gives a real feeling of historic importance. The temple also contains one of the most photographed sites in Ayutthaya, a Buddha head around which tree roots have grown.
Wat Na Phra Meru
The second wat we visit is the only temple to have escaped destruction in the war, this is because it is slightly to the North of the city, and was used as a base by the invading Burmese army. The picture of the Buddha image above is from inside Wat Na Phra Meru.
Wat Lokaya Sutha
The third temple houses a large reclining Buddha, the third largest in Thailand. (The second largest is in Wat Po – see report 9). This ends the trip – but there are often surprises, on this one, it was the elephants!