Ayutthaya was once one of the great cities of the world. It was the capital of an empire with the same name for hundreds of years before it fell to the Burmese army in the eighteenth century. Those who could fled the carnage and headed south to build a new capital, a little place called Bangkok. Now, like so many fallen capitals, Ayutthaya is a relative backwater, and for people like me, a nice day trip from the big city.
Actually, I didn’t take a pure day trip. I took all of my gear on the two hour long train ride and booked a room in town, and I continued riding the rails north the following day. I got off the third class train (the ride cost 50 cents) at around 2 p.m. and walked to the small ferry that crossed the river. Ayutthaya is an island, but there is bridge access as well. I checked into Tony’s Place, the busiest guesthouse in town, and then rented a motorbike for a half day.
I rode out to the first major temple I saw, which happened to be Wat Ratburana. The architecture reminded me a bit of Bagan, which I suppose was a key influence behind it, along with Ankgor which I have yet to see. I continued down the road, and it looked like rain but I figured I could get somewhere with reasonable cover. I drove by a group of elepahants, so of course I stopped to investigate. Once I was near them, it began pouring, like, pouring. I ducked under this little overhang and got stuck there for an hour.
By the time I got around to biking out to Wat Chai, it was already dark out, although it had basically been dark out since 3 p.m. because of the storm. I had hoped to catch the sunset there, but there was no sunset to be had. Turned out the Wat was closed for repair anyway, so even if I were there at high noon I couldn’t walk around on the grounds.
I rode back to Tony’s in the rain and returned my motorbike. Now I was faced with a new problem – I should probably be social. I’d spent the lion’s share of the last couple weeks hanging out with Jon and Dana, then Cores, then Scott. It had been since Myanmar that I’d actually felt any obligation to meet new people. I opted out and did blog work instead. I was only in Ayutthaya one night anyway, no reason to bother making friends.
The next morning I walked to Wat Mahathat. This was probably the highlight of my Ayutthaya explorations, if for no other reason than it didn’t rain. I also opted to shell out 100 baht to rent an audio guide. I almost didn’t, budget and all, but I remembered that the numerous times I had rented audio guides, I had never regretted it.
After leaving Mahathat, I walked back to Tony’s, gathered my gear, and headed back to the train station. I was just beginning another ridiculous travel surge that began the day before in Bangkok and lead through Ayutthaya, Lopburi, Lampang, Chiang Rai, Chiang Khong, Huay Xai, to Luang Prabang over a 5 day period.
On to the pics!
More of the ruins of Mahathat. Like when many empires fall, the state of disrepair wasn’t only caused by foreign invaders. The Thai royal family used this and other ancient sites in town as a brick quarry to build the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. See what happens when I use an audio guide? I learn stuff.
I got on the short train ride to Lopburi, which I will post about in a short time.