Thailand is popular for its nightlife, beaches and endless parties. However, Thailand has more to offer especially for those who are very much inclined to history, architecture and ancient structures. One of the country’s finest treasures is Ayutthaya. Magnificent and majestic, Ayutthaya is something which must not be missed when visiting Thailand.
I am the type of person who either plans trips down to the last detail or just wings it. Our trip to Bangkok was in the former category and while we were thinking about the places we can go to and dishes we should try, we came across Ayutthaya and we decided booking the day trip to the ancient ruins and it was one of the best decisions we ever made. For those who are planning a trip to Bangkok soon, Ayutthaya is commonly visited as part of the packaged day trip from the Bangkok, which includes stops at the Bang Pa In Palace or the Summer Palace.
Contrary to what most people think, Ayuttahaya is not just one single temple ground. It covers a large area and yes, you will need an entire day in order to soak up all the structures and the history that comes with them.
On the way to the temple grounds we stopped by Phra Noon, otherwise known as the Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokasayutharam. Draped in yellow and facing the east, the Buddha is made of cement and bricks. It is 37 meters long and 8 meters high. Although there are other reclining Buddhas in Ayutthaya, this is the largest. There are remains of temple buildings behind the Reclining Buddha however there is nothing much to see.
From afar, Wat Mahatat looks majestic and as we got out of the van, I couldn’t contain my happiness and wanted to start exploring the place right away. Although we were under the scorching heat of the sun in November, I couldn’t care less. The place is just too good to pass up.
Wat Mahatat or the Temple of the Great Relics, is located right in the center of Ayutthaya. It was the residence of the Supreme Patriarch or Leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. The main prang or tower collapsed during the Ayutthaya period but it was restored. However, it collapsed again in 1911 and today only the foundation of the main prang remains.
One of the most popular sights in Wat Mahatat is the Head of the Buddha. With tree trunks and roots growing around it, visitors queue to have their pictures taken with the iconic image. And yes, I got my picture taken too. I did not want to miss having my photo taken with one of the most well known images in the world.
Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. Destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century, what remains today are some of the gigantic monasteries, which are reminders of its early splendor. It is not difficult to get lost in the ancient grounds while marveling at the temples and thinking of how they looked in ancient times and how people lived.
Ayutthaya enjoyed a strategic location and the city was connected to the sea by the three rivers surrounding it. Located above the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam, it as difficulty for sea-going warships of other nations to attack Ayutthaya. The Burmese army attacked and razed the city in 1767 and while wandering in the grounds; you can almost see and hear the anguish and the helpless cries of the hapless citizens when the Burmese came to invade them.
After the invasion, the great city was in ruins. Today, the place is managed as a historical park and it is protected under Thai law. The private sector and the government allocate the budget for the development and conservation of the historic city.
It is great to know that efforts are being done to save this ancient city and prevent its loss. It would be a great shame if future generations are unable to set foot on it and see its beauty, history and splendor.
Ayutthaya’s magnificent temples look otherworldly and being in the ancient city is an incredible experience. However, there are always plenty of tourists and it can be difficult to get nice pictures at times. Overall, it is something, which must not be missed. It is worth the money, the time, the humidity and the scorching heat. Ayutthaya is a sight to behold. Although it lies in ruins now, you can still feel its ancient greatness reverberating through its walls.