When I saw that Ayutthaya was in my 100 Journeys for the Spirit book, I knew we had to incorporate it into our Thailand trip if possible. The Siamese kingdom of Ayutthaya used to be the capital of Thailand and reigned from 1350-1767. It was peaceful and open to foreign trade. In the mid-eighteenth century, the Burmese invaded and burned it to the ground. The ruins that remain offer just a glimpse of its former power.
Ayutthaya is about 80 km north of Bangkok and thus an easy day trip via train. The Bangkok train station was impressive.
There was a smattering of tourists headed to Ayutthaya, but most passengers were locals commuting to one of the many stops along the way. The ride itself was an interesting array of sights, sounds, and smells. The windows were open with welcomed gusts of warm air slipping in and cutting the density of the humid, sunny day. Vendors wandered up and down the aisles selling all sorts of food and drink, calling out their wares and prices. And the expansive views of the countryside offered a drastic shift from Bangkok’s bustle.
Our first job upon arrival was to dodge the pushy tuk-tuk drivers outside the Ayutthaya train station and make our way to a combo restaurant and bike rental shop across the street. There we got our bearings and planned our bike route.
After careful planning we hopped on our bikes and promptly got lost. Have I mentioned yet that maps in Thailand aren’t very clear? After a few stops for directions with minimal success and several ‘words’ uttered in this sacred locale, we gave up trying to find our first planned stop and instead stumbled upon this one. We still have no idea its name, but it was very cool. The first three photos show a ruin that is now engulfed in tree roots.
A cool shot of Alex’s bike is below with the engulfed ruin in the background. I think this might have been the spot where my bike seat fell off and I was trying to hammer it back on with a rock. But I digress…
Next, we rode onward to our second hoped-for stop, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya’s largest temple back in the day. Guests had free rein to wander around here and learn what each structure had been.
Many of the statues were headless, part of the Burmese destruction as well as weathering over the past several hundred years. Some had replacement statues in the place of the heads, making them fresh, active places of prayer.
More headless Buddhas.
You may have noticed, but trees weren’t prevalent and shade was at a minimum. Here is Alex seeking out one scrap.
On to Wat Phra Mahathat, the site where the Buddha head is engulfed in tree roots. I had seen this familiar image years earlier and actually had a photo of it in my studio so it was a little surreal to see it in person.
Another lesson in Buddha etiquette – never position yourself higher than the Buddha. Thus the photo of me crouching down in front of it. (My sincere apologies for the severe hat head situation.)
The area around that Buddha head was also beautiful and warranted several photos.
We had hoped to catch the afternoon train back to Bangkok so pedaled our way back to the bike shop and walked to the train station just in time. And we didn’t get lost! A cool drink and a Popsicle helped us cool down a bit, but still so dang hot. Had we to do it over again, we would have either braved the motor scooters or hired a tuk-tuk driver for a few hours to cart us around.
We decided to splurge on the air-conditioned car for the train ride back. Oops. One of those novice mistakes. We know better. ‘Air-conditioned’ in Thailand means that the windows are closed but the temperature is the same. Nonetheless, it was a day trip worth taking. I’ll leave you with one more gorgeous view lest you only remember our hot and tired faces. A great panoramic from Alex’s camera. Click on the image to see it larger.
On a happier biking note, you can read about our trek through the coconut groves by clicking on the link further down this page.