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Published: June 22nd 2014
Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol I
Buddha statues at the bottom of the stupa.
Recently a work trip took me to Bangkok. I flew there on a Saturday morning and held a training at Don Mueang Airport in the north of Bangkok in the afternoon. I decided to use the Sunday for some sightseeing. So in the morning after a quick swim in the pool and breakfast a driver picked me up from the hotel and drove me to Ayutthaya, the city north of Bangkok that used to be the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom from the 14th to the 18th century. The city became increasingly powerful and eventually, in the 15th century, took over the power from Angkor. It expanded across the region, but then was defeated by the Burmese in the late 18th century. It is located on an island surrounded by the Chao Phraya River, just 45 minutes north of Don Mueang Airport.
We started the tour in Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol Temple. It used to be the seat of the Buddhist patriarchs of the Forest Tradition. Nowadays one can climb up the stairs into a rectangular room in which there are a number of Buddha statues. A monk sells gold foil that believers rub onto one of the statues in
Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol II
The stupa that has Buddha statues inside and Buddha statues all around it.
order to improve their karma. Around the stupa there are Buddha statues underneath which some bones of important personalities are embedded in the wall.
We continued to another temple and from there caught a boat that took us around the city on the Chao Phraya River. I was amazed by the fact that there are so many plants floating on the water. They are Water Hyacinths. At times there were so many of them that there was no way for us to get around them. Twice our captain had to jump into the water and dive down and get the plants out of our engine so that we could go on. I have to say I was surprised that this did not necessary more than twice. The other astonishing thing I saw was goods being transported on the river. There were usually three or four big boats with heavy loads tied together by ropes and being pulled by a smallish boat. I could not believe it! The boat trip was very nice and relaxing, just slowly making our way around the river!
Next, we went to Wat Mahathat, the Temple of the Great Relics. It contains many stupas
The head of a Buddha statue entrapped in the roots of a Banyan tree.
and Buddha statues, surrounded by a wall. Probably the most famous picture is a Buddha’s head that has become entrapped in the roots of a Banyan tree, very picturesque! I took an audio tour explaining a little bit of the historical background and the meaning of the buildings, which was super interesting. After this, we went to another temple, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, the biggest temple in the area. In its royal chapel the rituals and ceremonies for the royal family took place. Ayutthaya was very hierarchical and the king had absolute power. He was also the only person to be allowed into the ordination hall of the monasteries, where otherwise only ordinated monks were allowed. However, in contrast to Wat Mahathat, this temple never had a resident community of monks.
After visiting this temple, my driver took me to a place where I had lunch – Pad Thai, who would have thought 😉. Afterwards my driver (his name is Big) and I had a couple of beers together and started talking. It was super interesting. He told me that the curfew in Bangkok was really affecting him, that he had a lot less tourists to drive around. Usually
Wat Mahathat II
One of the remaining intact Buddha statues.
he had work to do every day, now it was only three to four days a week. We also talked about the Thai King. There are many pictures of him and his wife throughout the country and I had always thought that the Thai really love their king. However, Big told me that this was not the case, that there were in fact quite a few people who thought that the country did not need a king any more. What was also interesting was to learn about the clichés he had about Germany. For example, he thought that beer was cheaper than water in Germany. Very cool. Well, we had a great time and in the end left the restaurant far later than I had planned. Of course we got stuck in various traffic jams – what else could you expect in Bangkok?! Whenever we were not stuck, Big drove really fast.
We got back to the hotel only 90 minutes before my departure. I had to pick up my luggage, do online check-in, find my way to the airport and through it. Luckily I only had carry-on luggage and there were no queues in front of customs and
security. Only 30 minutes after arriving at the hotel I was at my departure gate. Lucky me. It has happened to me before that with two hours from the point in time I arrived at the airport I barely made it to the departure gate. Anyway, I enjoyed my day in Ayutthaya!
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