Sunday, 6 April 2014

Ayutthaya - The Ancient Capital of Siam

On Friday our adventures took us north of Bangkok to an ancient city called Ayutthaya. Founded in 1350, it became the capital city of the ancient kingdom of Siam, and over several centuries it grew into a major trading hub in Asia, becoming one of the largest cities in the world. Many visitors from Europe and other parts of Asia described it as one of the finest cities they had ever seen, with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies, and a huge float of trading vessels from around the world. During the 1700s the city was destroyed by the invading Burmese, and while there remains today a modern day town called Ayuthaya, most of the ancient city was destroyed. However, some of its temples and palaces remain, since they were among the few structures built with stone, and they continue to attract many tourists and visitors, ourselves included.

Our first stop was at Wat Phu Khao Thong, or "Temple of the Golden Mount," which was built in 1395. The name refers to the golden figurehead built onto the monastery's stupa, or chedi as it's known in Thailand.

From the top there are some great views of the nearby plains and ruins.

There seem to be stray dogs everywhere in Ayutthaya, none of them neutered or spayed, which means an abundance of puppies.
Next we went to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, or "The Great Temple of Auspicious Victory." This was probably the most beautiful area we visited in Ayutthaya.

The temple was built in honour of monks who had gone to study Buddhism in Sri Lanka, and encircling the main chedi are hundreds of statues of Buddha, each enrobed like a monk.

Embracing the zen.

Next, we went to Wat Phra Mahathat, or "Temple of the Great Relic." Just like its name, this place evoked a very Indiana Jones-like vibe, with its abandoned, crumbling ruins that (I like to imagine) were hiding some deeply hidden treasure inside.

Wat Lokayasutharam, or "Temple of the Reclining Buddha."
At Wat Phra Si Sanphet, a local Thai girl opened a cardboard box and poured out a dozen or so multicoloured chicks.

These three chedi were the most impressive part of the temple.

More stray dogs. They were quite friendly, but we didn't go near them for fear of fleas!
King of the chedi.

Nearby was Wihan Phra Mongkol Bophit, the last place we visited, and home to a giant sitting Buddha statue.

After a busy day exploring ancient ruins, that evening we relaxed at a quiet restaurant in Bangkok.

Despite the stiflingly hot temperatures of the afternoon, during which our clothes became drenched with sweat, we had a great day exploring Ayutthaya. I feel guilty for never having heard of the place before coming to Thailand, since these were some of the most impressive ruins I've come across on my travels.

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