We spent a day in Ayutthaya, visiting the former capital city of Thailand
Located 80km North of Bangkok in the central Plains region sits the former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya reigned with glory as the capital of the country for 400 years, during its heyday, it rose to be one of the world’s best cities, with a population bigger than London and gaining a great wealth which attracted swarms of foreign traders.
This golden period came to an abrupt end in 1767, when after years of tension with the Burmese, the Burmese Army came and shattered the city. They captured thousands of prisoners, taking them back to Burma and left Ayutthaya in a state of ruin, burnt to the ground, the city collapsed and was forced to be abandoned.
Today, the ancient remains of these ruined temples make for an interesting visit. The sites are spread out across the town, the best way to see them all is by hiring a bicycle.
One of the most visited sites in Ayutthaya is Wat Mahathat, 50 baht entry, built in the 13th century it is one of the largest of the ruined sites and is where you will find the famous and much photographed sandstone Buddha head.
Entwined in the roots of a Bodhi tree, this calm and contented image of the Buddha looks out from its embrace of the tree almost knowingly at the flocks of visitors.
I have to admit, I was really excited to see the sandstone Buddha head.
After seeing it many times in magazines I had imagined it to be buried amongst a forest of trees, hidden in peaceful and enchanting surroundings, but I was disappointed with what I found. The head is indeed tangled in the roots of a Bodhi tree, but what I wasn’t expecting was the wire fencing it off, sitting almost out in the open, not that far from the edge of the park and the road.
I almost walked past it if it wasn’t for the crowd of people surrounding it drawing me in to see what they were looking at.
A stern faced guard stood watchfully nearby ready to reprimand anyone who didn’t approach the head correctly.
When approaching the Buddha head you must crouch low and not stand above it, doing so disrespects the Buddha image and you have to stay at the same height or lower than the head at all times.
About 2km outside of the main town sits Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. At the entrance sits a white reclining Buddha.
Inside the grounds it’s a photographer’s dream, saffron clad Buddha statues line the internal courtyard with a huge chedi as centre piece.
In 1991 Ayutthaya was recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage site. Every December the town comes alive for a week long festival to celebrate with nightly elephant shows, candle lit processions and fireworks.
Ayutthaya is a good day trip from Bangkok, about 1.5 hours drive or train ride, though there is a lot to see here so staying a night or two would be a good option.
We ate at Coffee Old City, a restaurant/cafe which has a good location directly opposite Wat Mahathat.
The food was good but we ordered lemon sodas which took just as long to come out as the food did, I think they forgot about our order as the manager came out to ask if everything was ok when we were leaving.
Apart from the rather slow service it was a good place to have lunch and chill out for a while before continuing with the sight seeing.
We spent just a day in Ayutthaya but with all the sites, laid back cafes and plenty of guesthouses to choose from, we would go back to enjoy it all over again.
View Ayutthaya in a larger map
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