Ayutthaya, Thailand, December 2015

  
The historic previous capital of Thailand, close to Bangkok, and ruins galore! An excellent combination for yours truly, and it had been on my list for weeks. We went on the train for about $0.60 each- yes sixty cents! It was slower than the minivans, so the 80 kms took about 2 hours, but I love trains. The windows were open to the air and the wheels clicked and rattled. 

    
   Oh, and Fiercely dyed her hair blue, if you were wondering! She just got a wild hair, no pun intended, and went with it. About time, I kept thinking, that one of us did something crazy in Bangkok LOL.

So, when we arrived at the train station, we declined the imploring tuk tuk drives and headed for the ferry. Five baht each ($0.15) to go across the river.    

 There, we got a tuk tuk to “a cheap hotel” as we requested. No, we didn’t know where we were staying; no one can accuse us of overplanning! We stayed at the first hotel we were taken to, it was fine, and went to walk around in the late afternoon.  

    
    
 We walked around the night market on the way back to the hotel. We found this adorable candy… 

   
…and these perhaps less adorable grubs we decided to try: 

    
   
They really weren’t bad. We didn’t go for the insects with all those legs and wings, just these slightly chewy guys who were salted and sprayed with lime. Really unremarkable if you could get over the ick factor, as I’m not sure we did! The night market was vibrant, and our walk was nice. 

    
 The next day we went to really see the ruins. Many had been closed the previous day since we got there after 5, but today they were open in all their splendor. We went to two areas (Wat Maha That and Wat Ratchaburana) near our hotel, and there are many more within walking, bicycling, or tuk tuk access. Here’s Maha That, built as a monastery around 1380.

      
     They say this Buddha head was left there by looters (most Buddha heads are missing due to looters) and the roots grew around it. Beautiful!!

    Wat Ratchaburana was built in 1424 by King Boromracha II to honor his two brothers who were killed dueling each other atop elephants. What?! Well, that is what we were told. 

The Wat is known for the crypt inside the tower. It was amazing to see! You go up these steps and enter the door, and here are some views from there:

    
 Inside are steep, narrow, cement steps: 

   And the intact wall paintings: 

    
   

There were other beautiful things there, too, of course.

    
  At this point, we split up and just Cleverly and I stayed in town. We walked to Wat Choeng Tha, said to be the most intact of the historic wats. It was a bit ambitious of a walk on some busy streets and perhaps a mile from the main area, but there were only two of us and we had plenty of time. We had plans to take the ‘sunset boat tour’ but we had a few hours before that. Here is Wat Choeng Tha. There is an active temple onsite and, for some reason, many rooster sculptures. 

    
    
  I’m not sure it was more intact, but I am glad we saw it. It was partly in use with obvious recent additions. It’s date and purpose of construction are unclear, but it had an important location with canal access and close to the royal palace in the peak of Ayutthaya’s activity. It is stunning to imagine it being in use for all those centuries and into today.

We walked back and felt we deserved a treat from all that walking.  We found a cute cafe and some decadent desserts!

    
 The boat tour was just lovely. I am so glad we did this. It is more of a shuttle than a tour- you are taken to 3 temples by the river for about 20 minutes at each site. It was a colorful long tail boat like we had ridden in Bangkok.  

 First was Wat Phanan Choeng, built in 1324, which predates Ayutthaya itself by over 25 years. It has a Chinese influence and a 19-meter tall Buddha. The Wat may have been built by Thai King Phra Chao Sai Namphung who mourned his Chinese wife-to-be who killed herself from sadness when the king was absent on her arrival from China. This was a legend written in “the Northern Chronicles”, according to Ayutthaya History.com.

    
  

  

Also according to that site, the 19-meter Buddha below shed tears when Ayutthaya was attacked by the Burmese in 1767. I kind of want to shed tears thinking about it, too- Ayutthaya clearly was a magnificent, beautiful place.

  
   
The next stop was Wat Putthai Sawsn, (according to the map we got in Ayutthaya but called Wat Putthaisawan on the Internet- spelling is kind of fluid here) with its reclining Buddha, gorgeous rounded tower or ‘prang’ and lovely courtyard. It was built in 1353 by the founder of Ayutthaya, King U-Thong. 

    
The sun was going down and the fading light gave an even more mystical glow about the place. And the prang- awesome.

    
    
    
       

Too many photos! To be continued… 

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