Ayutthaya

by FieryTree on April 23, 2013 · 6 comments

Post image for Ayutthaya

Saturday found at us the old capital city for Thailand: Ayutthaya. When I has here ten years ago, this was a favorite place visited and it did not disappoint. Our wonderful friend and guide took us to a few familiar spots and some new destinations.

First off, Bang Pa-In Palace, the Summer Palace of the Thai Royalty, originally build in 1632 and later restored in 1850. The Palace is still visited by the royalty and used to host visiting dignitaries. You can read a bit more here.

Below is the Divine Seat of Personal Freedom, the only Thai-style building on the grounds. King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), filled the palace with European inspired buildings and statues. In addition, there is an amazing Chinese Palace, given to the King.

Divine Seat of Personal Freedom (Aisawan Thiphya-At)

Divine Seat of Personal Freedom (Aisawan Thiphya-At)

Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode (Warophat Phiman) – sadly no pictures allowed inside, but it was beautifully decorated. Visitors had to wear proper attire, a borrowed long skirt for me and gentlemen had to be wearing pants. As usual, no shoes inside!

Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode (Warophat Phiman)

Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode (Warophat Phiman)

Sage’s Tower (Ho Withun Thasana) –  climbable tower providing a look out of the palace grounds –

Fun tower, love the heart shaped cloud too.

Fun tower, love the heart shaped cloud too.

Heavenly Light (Wehart Chamrun), the Chinese Palace, inside the rooms were decorated in rich reds and golds –

Lookout from tower onto Heavenly Light (Wehart Chamrun)

Lookout from tower onto Heavenly Light (Wehart Chamrun)

Inside the Chinese Palace

Inside the Chinese Palace

The grounds also had fun topiaries ranging in shapes from elephants to peacocks to bunnies.

Next, via cable car, we traveled across the river to see the Temple built in the style of a church, Wat Niwet Thamaprawat –

Temple built in the style of a church

Temple built in the style of a church

Inside the Wat was lovely stained glass and chairs to sit, but differed from any Church in the amount of Buddhas. [:D]

Inside of Wat, complete with stained glass windows.

Inside of Wat, complete with stained glass windows.

With a bit of a drive, we moved on to Wat Phanan Choengl. Honestly, I wanted to get to my tree but I’m so glad we stopped. It was built in 1324 and is know for its 19 meter Buddha.

As part of ‘making merit’, Buddhist purchase robes to adorn the Buddha. While there, we were able to see the change of his sarong. In the image below, the purchased robes are being tossed up to the attendants. These sarongs will be  used for draping over the giant Buddha.

Sarangs being tossed to helpers on the Buddha.

Sarangs being tossed to helpers on the Buddha.

Before the sarongs are hoisted over the Buddha, they are thrown back into the crowd. People in the crowd touch the sarongs, passing them back to their neighbor  for the entire length of the small area before the Buddha, connecting everyone, in this way. Prayers are said before and after the Buddha sarong is changed.

BuddhaRobeChange

Felt a strong feeling of connection to others during the ceremony.

A quick lunch at a wonderful restaurant and we were at my favorite site, Wat Mahathat, built in the 14th Century. It was invaded and destroyed in the late 17th Century by the Burmese. During the invasion, the Buddha statues were decapitated. Walking through the grounds, many Buddha bodies are on display but most are headless.

The Wat is well know for the tree cradling the Buddha’s head. One theory, I read is that this happened while the temple was basically abandoned through the mid 19th Century. Whatever the reason, it is a very beautiful tree –

Beautiful tree embracing the Buddha head

Beautiful tree embracing the Buddha head

One of the many decapitated Buddhas.

One of the many decapitated Buddhas.

On the grounds, a very large and complete Buddha, amongst the ruins –

One of the few complete buddhas.

One of the few complete buddhas.

With the sky baking us, we headed to Wat Phra Si Sanphet, built in 1448 A.D. The three pagodas hold the ashes of three kings (depending on the site the names are spelled differently, so we’ll go with): King Boromatrailokanat and his two sons, King Ramathibodhi and King Boromatrailokanat II.

We climbed the steps and listened in the hallway to the sounds of bats nesting, mixed with the sounds of a celebration at a nearby (active) Wat.

3 Pagodas at Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

3 Pagodas at Wat Phra Si Sanphet.

Other ruins on site –

Ruins at Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Ruins at Wat Phra Si Sanphet

The final stop is a must-see: Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The first time I went it blew my mind to think that it was real, I was so impressed by the unusual pagodas. I commented (frequently) to everyone, that it reminded me of a science fiction movie of an alien culture. Having shown you all the ‘Temple of Dawn‘, perhaps it will not seem as amazing but come on, it’s pretty darn cool. Those buildings are real!

Picture always makes it more and less real for me.

Picture always makes it more and less real for me.

The Wat was built in 1630 by the King Prasat Thong. Wikipedia informs “The temple’s name literally means the Temple of long reign and glorious era.” The tallest pagoda is  35 meter high.

Buddhas line the walls, decapitated as in other Wats in the area, by the same Burmese invasion. Previously, you could walk around the inner grounds but after the flood, last year, the grounds are deemed too unstable.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram Ayutthaya.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram Ayutthaya.

More pictures from our day –

U P D A T E ! How to get there!

On the trip above, we had the benefit of my friend’s car but the city is a short drive from Bangkok and there are plenty of tuk tuks to ferry you around to the sites or bikes are available to rent.

Note: The Summer Palace, Wat Niwet Thamaprawat and Wat Phanan Choengl are a bit of a hike from the central area so be sure to negotiate the price for your transportation.

Visitor tips – 

  • Coming from Bangkok, plan to have a full day here, there is definitely enough to see and to watch the sunset at Wat Chaiwatthanaram is magical.
  • Drink lots of water! You will not find much shade at the temples.
  • Explore! Each time I go I find a new temple with its own incredible secrets!

Visiting 

  • Temple ruins, especially in the center area, are 50 Baht for foreigners, each temple.
    • Newer temples are typically free to view although donations are certainly welcome.
  • From Bangkok –
    • Van Ride – An hour long, from Victory Monument, for 70Baht.
      • Take the BTS to the Victory Monument station, Exit 4 and circle around to the right, crossing Ratchawithi Road. Descend the stairs and head for the line of white vans and make-shift ticket booths (close to Fashion Mall).
      • Vans start early morning and leave when the van is full, running straight to Ayutthaya and their van depot. The last van is at 6pm.
    • Train ride – Over an hour (due to multiple stops), from the Hua Lamphong station.
      • Take the MRT to the end, Hua Lamphong station, and follow signs to the station through a short underground walk. (You will pass signs documenting the history of the MRT’s construction which is kind of interesting.)
      • Price is only 20Baht and a great option for the way home, if you miss the last van. They run every hour from about 5am to 10pm.

Seen any nifty sights lately?

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Renee May 24, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Another terrific post, Maria! You and James are seeing so many wonderful things, and the pictures don’t even do the place justice, no doubt!

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2 FieryTree May 25, 2013 at 10:53 pm

The pictures definitely don’t, even with as many as I attempt. 🙂
Great to hear from you!

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3 jennifer July 24, 2013 at 9:42 pm

That cable car would have frightened me because I am a scairdy cat when it comes to cable cars. It is ridiculous, I know.

These pictures are all so amazing. My first thought was that it must feel like walking on a movie set and then you pretty much said the same thing so I guess I am right!

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4 FieryTree July 25, 2013 at 2:49 am

It absolutely felt like that, it is so amazing there!
As for the cable car, it was only with peer pressure that I went along. It’s typical that I am more daring the further I am from a hospital though.

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