The Island of Temples

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November 13th 2009
Published: December 10th 2009
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Bangkok to Ayuthaya

Wat Mahathat Wat Mahathat Wat Mahathat

Buddhas head framed by tree roots
We headed down stairs to indulge in the buffet breakfast about 8.30am unfortunately I find Asian breakfasts are rarely satisfying, especially when you have to listen to a loud mouthed aussie clown going on and on about how he would be the next Thai pop star blah blah blah.

We checked out at 9am and strolled out the front of the hotel to organise a taxi to the train station, the employee out the front asked us where we were going today, when I told him he said "Why don’t you take a taxi" it only cost $50 and would save us much hassle and time as we wouldn’t have to buy tickets or wait for the trains scheduled departure time and taxi's are much faster than the train.

The landscape was a bit dull but the trip was pleasant short and luxurious by Asian standards we arrived at the Baan Kunpra guest house we booked the night before around 10.30am, unfortunately the rooms were old and spartan lacking air conditioning and ensuites or were subsequently to close to a busy road so we loaded our bags in the car and headed to the Ayutthaya Thanee Hotel again a bit spartan but clean and more luxurious.

Ayutthaya a Unesco world heritage site served as the Thai capital until attacked by the Burmese in the 18th century and is located on an island in the Chao Phraya River. The town is far more pleasant than Bangkok, the weather is bearable, the traffic is less hectic and the town is very attractive.

It is extremely hot here but its more of a dry heat and thus more bearable for us, around 3pm we set off on foot for Chao Phram Market where we planned to have a bite to eat before engaging a tuk tuk to take us out to some Wat's during the cooler part of the day. As we walked down the main road we came across Wat Khun Saen a minor Wat rarely visited by anyone but being our first we were excited and spent much time photographing it. It took about half an hour to reach the market, we stumbled across another obscure Wat along the way this one didn’t even appear on the tourist maps.

After a bite to eat we walked to the nearby backpacker area to engage a tuk tuk to take us to the most distant Wat Chaiwatthanaram which was breathtaking with its 35 metre stupa and eight smaller ones dominating its riverside location. We timed it well as we arrived just before sunset when the light was spectacular on the ruins, which were set in manicured gardens, I was very impressed. We were blessed as the ruins were virtually deserted, the tour buses had all returned to Bangkok, and we had the site almost to ourselves. We spent more than half an hour wandering around and through these impressive ruins before heading to Wat Phu Khao Thong in fading light.

This Wat had a huge white chedi with a white prang (spire) and a black dog running up and down the steep stairs, we both climbed up to the top where we were met with a lovely view of the surrounding country side. On the way back to the tuk tuk a large bug went down the back of my shirt and stung me on the shoulder, it bloody hurt.

Next morning we had a reasonable attempt at an English breakfast before meeting our tuk tuk driver, today we would visit all the of the major Wat's around town starting with Wat Ayutthaya and its overgrown chedi, from here it was on to Wat Chakkrawaddee with its interesting ruins and fruit filled trees before arriving at Wat Gudidao. This Wat is unique as it has an ubasot with curving foundations lotus shaped columns as well as a low wall surrounding the entire complex.

On the way to Wat Maheyong we sighted a mahout washing his elephant in the river, must have been a sign of what was to come as Wat had dozens of elephant statues all around the periphery of the ruined chedi's and buildings. From here we travelled to Wat Samanakotharam which featured some large white and gold buddha statues.

It was then on to the Elephant Village which was a real highlight, we bought baskets of bananas and fed the elephants who were extremely gentle, one of the elephants curled her trunk around my waist and lifted me into the air then she grabbed Ruth lifted her aloft as well being lighter she went much higher a definate highlight. It was then on to Wat Yai Chaiyamongkhon where we came across our first tour groups unfortunately, this temple has been restored and the 14th century chedi is impressive as are the dozens of buddha statues draped in safron.

The temperature by now was rising and we were drinking lots of fluid, fortunately every time we returned to the tuk tuk the breeze from the moving vehicle cooled us down, soon we arrived at the next temple Wat Phananchoeng, which housed a massive gold sitting buddha apparently the largest in Thailand. Wat Phutthaisawan was next with its large prang encircled by a courtyard of saffron draped buddhas. On entering one of the temple rooms we discovered a colony of reasonably large bats, initially Ruth thought they were rats. I pulled out the telephoto lens here and took a few good shots the bats werent to happy about that though.

Next was the Elephant Kraal Pavillion where the king would watch the elephant round up and where I spotted one of the biggest Gecko's ever unfortunately he wouldnt hold still long enough to be photographed.

Down the road is the Elephant Kraal a not for profit centre for abused elephants, we had a great time here we made a large donation and fed every elephant in the place including pretty little Bobo a year old female calf who wanted to hold my hand. As we were leaving I took a picture of a big male with a huge schlong unfortunately he took offence and threw a trunk full of hay in my face. Very funny.

Wat Mae Nang Plum was the final stop of the morning its main features were a multitude of lion statues around its chedi and a sunbathing monk gossiping on his mobile phone.

After grabbing a feed from a local bakery we dismissed our driver and took a rest during the hottest time of the day, the driver will return at 4pm for our final session of Wat bashing. Wat Phra Ram is impressive as it is surrounded by a moat and was beautiful in the early evening light, Wat Si Sanphet had three large chedis all in a row, these once contained the royal ashes but no longer. Wat Mahathat was next, this is probably the most visited of all the wats and definately the most photographed due to a buddha head framed by twisting tree roots, definately an interesting sight.

Wat Rachaburana built on the site of a mounted elephant dual between two princes was blessed with some amazing carvings etched into the sides of its stupa and was well worth the time it took to visit, finally the reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam was also well worth a look in fading light, I was six toes tall. We watched a pretty full on domestic brawl before climbing back in the tuk tuk for the trip back to the backpacker area and a restaurant called Tony's for a great Pad Thai and a couple of Chang's.

The next morning it was time to say farewell to Ayutthaya, we took a tuk tuk from the hotel to the bus stop, and were soon climbing a board a bus that left immediately, we both had a great time here.

Ninety minutes later we arrived at the Bangkok bus station, moments later we were in a taxi heading for our new hotel in Sukimvit road. Lots of market stalls around here so it wasnt long till we were checking a few out making the odd purchase here and there but unfortunately we could not find the pants Ruth wanted so, I followed here onto the skytrain and we set out for the big department stores near Siam Square no luck here either although it was airconditioned, so pleasant enough to stroll around. On arriving back at Nana Station in Sukamvit Rd, we walked down the other side of the road and found those pants less than fifty metres from our hotel.

Since arriving back in Bangkok I have been trying to contact my mate Brett who has been working in India and is in town, unfortunately I couldnt check my voice messages and he didnt seem to be getting mine, so he rang his mum, who rang my mum, then his mum rang me, and the next minute Brett was in our hotel lobby. We spent the rest of the day and evening eating, drinking and playing pool, a great end to our stay in Thailand.


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24th November 2011
More Thai Flora

Latin names please ! otherwise it's just a pretty picture.
4th October 2013
More Thai Flora

Typically Thai
I see from the only other comment you haven't bothered to address the issue of what the name of this, or any other plant/flower, on your site is, in Latin (?) Forget it. But the Thai name would be good. And no, I know from long experience here in Thailand you wouldn't even have bothered to read this comment either. Thaizzzzzzzzzzzzz
20th October 2013
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Who speaks Latin anyway :-)
Sorry Tamsin I can recognise beauty but that doesnt make me a botanist

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