Hi all. Well, today’s let’s take a wander over to Thailand shall we? The capital Bangkok is not one of my favourite cities in the world, although having said that I don’t pathologically hate it either, but if you’re spending any sort of time in Thailand odds are you are going to have pass through it one way or another.
To be honest I probably need to get back there and explore it a bit more away from the backpacker scene centred around Khao San Road, where I’ve usually ended up when there. It’s perhaps the ultimate in backpacker havens, full of restaurants, bars and travel agencies. Budget hotels and guesthouses also abound in the area, although you won’t find them as cheap as I did when I was there in 1999. One thing’s for sure, the area is a lot cleaner that it used to be, so that’s something. But it’s also still full of jewellery shops too which I found odd.
As the world continues to show little signs of emerging from the pandemic, Thailand is one of the countries that has dealt better with the virus than some, and there is talk that it may be one of the first countries Australians will be allowed to visited post-pandemic, although exactly when this will be is completely up in the air right now and I would say ‘don’t hold your breath’, listening to radio the other night they were saying international travel looks at least twelve months away if not 2022 or 2023. So, watch this space I guess.
BUT – today I’m talking about an ancient city not that far from Bangkok, an easy day trip in fact. Ayutthaya is certainly not Angkor, but at the same time it was a city that was the centre of power for over 400 years in the region, and there are plenty of temples and ancient buildings to explore. I’ve been trying to find out exactly when the place was in operation, it seems some of the temples were built in the 15th century. Founded in 1350 actually which means done by the end of the 1700s.
1991 saw it listed as a UNESCO historical site. The ancient city is in a town of roughly the same name (Phra Nakhon si Ayuthayya) and is surrounded, at least partially, by a moat. I went nearing the end of the dry season (I think it was early March) and so it was certainly very dry and dusty at the time. The streets of the town were actually very wide, plenty of taxis plied them and I can’t remember exactly but I think it was a bit of a walk from where the bus stopped to finding an entrance to the historic site.
It is one you’re going to see a few tourists at I guess, and so there are people with little carts selling water and other cold drinks and other stalls around the town catering to the foreigner to some small extent. You’re going to want water too as it is pretty relentless – the heat – here. You could try an elephant ride if it suits you, I saw a few although I don’t promote this as the poor elephants don’t enjoy a happy life.
One really special feature at Ayutthaya is the Buddha’s head that pokes out of the roots of a tree. It invokes a bit of the ‘Wat Ta Phrom’ (Jungle temple in Angkor) on a much smaller scale, but there really is something quite magical about this beaming face of stone. Of course, it is a bit of a ‘selfie’ hot spot. But still special in its way.
The wats (temples) are in variable condition and set out over a reasonably large area, so walk from one to the next at your own pace. Again, this is not Angkor or indeed Bagan, the temples are less grand but nevertheless this is a significant historic site.
Some temples are still crumbling, others have been restored. Personally, I think the crumbling ones are a bit more interesting and certainly make for better photographs. I won’t write about the individual temples here – but I have them in the photos which I think gives you as good an idea as you’ll get about what you’ll find at Ayutthaya. It’s a worthwhile day trip from the capital and can take anywhere between one to a little over two hours (the train takes longer).
Transport from Bangkok:
I’m sure that there are minivans and small group tours you can organise from Khao San Road which will make things very easy for you. Personally I decided to do it independently, and so I actually had to make my way to a different part of Bangkok and take a public bus. Basically, it was a bit of a hassle to find – but that is balanced by the fact that you get a sense of accomplishment from doing it all yourself! The bus, of course is far cheaper than any organised tour – which is often just a drop you off/pick you up affair.
Ayutthaya is a very worthwhile way to get out of Bangkok for the day, and it is much easier to get to compared to other historic sites in South-East Asia and not nearly as costly either. There are plenty of buildings to explore as well. Although I didn’t have a meal out there, there are a number of eateries around the moat area which would cater for tourists. Thanks for reading today, take care, and May the Journey Never End!