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Published: January 22nd 2018
Ayutthaya was once the capital of the kingdom of Siam. It's hard to believe that when you first arrive, but as you explore outwards from the centre, it soon becomes clear what an extensive site it really is. Sadly the weather was a bit of a let down when we got there and also on our first day which rather curtailed our wanderings. We stayed at the Ban Boonchu
guest house which sits somewhere between a B&B and a homestay. It is not the cheapest place around by a long shot but we found the landlady to be friendly and helpful, providing a wonderful breakfast, and there are also two really cute little dogs wandering around.
We set out on foot with umbrellas close at hand, and we certainly needed them at times. Our guest house was located near the historical park and away from the main backpacker area, although we did venture over there for some very good meals. Our first port of call was the visitor centre which is all the way over the other side of the park! Along the way we saw some teak craftsmen at work, tutted at the litter which is an eyesore in any body
of water, and tutted even louder at the elephant rides being given on huge carriages which dig into the poor beasts' thick skin. The visitor centre was quite a surprise. Inside there are modern displays giving an insight into the significance of the town and most of it is in reasonable English. It is a good place to start because you can get an overview of which places you wish to visit, as otherwise the choice is a little overwhelming. On the upper floor there was a wonderful art exhibition. We had planned on buying some postcard replicas of some pieces we particularly liked, but to our surprise they were not for sale. No, they were free gifts for all visitors.
There are far too many temples around Ayutthaya to talk about without boring you to tears. Some blogs have done a wonderful job and they also provided a handy reference for us. Have a look at Kris and Kate's
take on the city for more inspiration. The historical park is on an island surrounded by rivers, and you can buy a pass at any of the temples which charge, or just pay at each one if you only plan to
visit two or three. That's what we did. The large reclining Buddha on the West side of the park was free, and it was a really good temple to see, even in the rain. We had planned on walking back to the iconic Wat Phra Mahathat where a Buddha head statue is trapped in the roots of a tree, but the weather put paid to that idea. We had a look at a few Buddhas before flagging down a tuk tuk to take us there. Although you have to pay to enter the temple, it's worth the miniscule entry fee. There are lots of stupas and statues to explore as well as the overly popular head. It can get crowded but it's quite easy to turn a corner and have the illusion that you are alone. The weather then scuppered any plans for further exploration, and it almost had us eating a few crumbly biscuits instead of venturing out for dinner as well!
The next day was better weather-wise. We rented bikes and set out to see some places beyond the island. First though, we went to Wat Ratchaburana, just over the road from our final visit the previous
day. The coachloads from Bangkok were yet to arrive and we had a great time with the place more or less to ourselves. Directly opposite are a handful of places to rent bikes from. The quality isn't great but the price is embarrassingly low so what do you expect?! On our way off the island we first stopped to see a statue of an ancient king before paying our respects at the temple of the huge cock. Now, it's probably not called that at all, but there are so many statues of cockerels, big and small, that it simply seemed an apt name. There was also an enormous Buddha head in the garden too, as well as some statues of mischievous monkeys outside.
Once off the island we found some temples which seemed to have Italian busloads as their only other foreign visitors that day. They were beautiful places though. They were only a stop gap on our journey to see the monument to King Naresuan the Great and its nearby gleaming white temple which is breathtaking when the rain finally gives way to blistering sunshine. From there we continued out into the middle of nowhere and didn't see
another tourist in sight when we eventually found the statue of Queen Si Suriyothai riding into battle on an elephant. The location is fabulous, set on a man-made island in the middle of a lake. It deserves more visitors but we were only too pleased to have the place to ourselves.
Back on the island we continued around the edge stopping to see the French Colonial church on the south side. We also saw the women making dosas
which they then wrap around a type of candy floss to make a sickly sweet treat. Luckily it was free to try as I don't imagine we would ever have bought one, especially having tried one!! It was quite a tiring day, especially as the bikes are not exactly high standard, and the appearance of the sun raised the humidity to incredible levels.
Ayutthaya was a great place to spend a few days.Of course we didn't do everything but a culinary highlight was eating in a riverside fish restaurant at a price that would shock you - in a good way! The train journey from Bangkok was also a real adventure, and we took the same train line back to
the airport to move on to the north of Thailand.
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