Ayutthaya – the lesser known side of Thailand

In the presence of greatness

(Both the human and monument)

Speak of Thailand and bustling Bangkok comes to mind. It’s a spectacular city, with a large number of food and retail outlets. It’s also the loveliest place in Asia for shopping and partaking in the endless Thai ice teas and mango salad you can find around.

But if you, like me, are a nature loving soul who likes to be away from the hustle and bustle of the city for awhile, Ayutthaya could be just the place for you. 85km north of Bangkok, the lesser known city is home to a number of temple ruins, monuments and gardens. Heard of the infamous Bagan in Myanmar? Ayutthaya is quite like that, only slightly more commercialized, but nonetheless exudes a unique flavour on its own.

It takes about 2 hours to get there by train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station. The tickets are the most affordable – it costs 245 baht (less than SGD10).

The last time I took a third class seat and it cost me about 60 cents (SGD), (which is really cheap for a 85km journey.) The seat was slightly hard and there’s no air con, but trust me, natural breeze is the best when you’re travelling in these sort of places. You also come in contact with the locals, which to me, is the best sort of thing to do when you’re on a trip. It is the easiest way to learn about the people and culture of the place.

All it takes is a day trip – if you want to stay longer and indulge in some more peace and quietness, there are a wide number of accommodation choices around the north east of the island.

The best way to get around is via bicycles! Traffic in Ayutthaya is gentler on the soul than in Bangkok, and people tend to be more understanding towards novice cyclists (me).

When I was the last time, my cycling skills were.. (still upgrading) and I had problems getting my balance each time I stopped and had to start. Ayutthayans are really polite as nobody honked at me despite holding up traffic for a few brief moments 😉 Click (http://thetravellingsquid.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/hiding-from-bangkok-ayutthaya/) to read my epic story.

I must say that while the cycling was a rather stressful experience, it was a good learning one as well because if you don’t cycle, you will go nowhere. It’s like a do or die sort of thing. The temples were too far away to get there by foot, and I would Never take a taxi when I can cycle.

There are no Wats (temples) in particular I think you should visit. I visited only three or four because there was a charge of USD2 each time you entered. In Bagan, you pay a flat fee of USD10 and you get to visit as many temples as you like. But there are some open spaces with crumbling red bricks, representative of the magnificent structures they once used to uphold. And it’s always nice to sit on these steps, under the shade of an angsana and ponder about life.

I was there with an Indonesian friend I met at a hostel in Bangkok, and I must say it’s one of the more remarkable moments during my train trip to Thailand. It was the time when I travelled with someone I had never met before, and it was also a time when I cycled on the road (will never dream of doing that in Singapore) and had a eye opening experience on the local trains.

A Japanese tourist, mistaking me for a local, had asked me for my phone number. Well, that is for another post.

In a local train – who left their pants behind?

Cushy train seats

At the train station

The ancient Wats – a good make out spot?

Crumbling steps mixed with cotton

Great place for a picnic

Sit on the red, clay bricks for a picnic

Mother and Daughter time

The Fried food seller

Thai Yong Tau Foo?

Little Ah Beng

Waiting for the train

About Ayutthaya (From Wiki)

Ayutthaya (อยุธยา), full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (พระนครศรีอยุธยา), is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok.

Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France.

Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries.

Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya’s ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok.

For more information, please visit: http://wikitravel.org/en/Ayutthaya