Colourful, shiny, pristine. These are all words I’d use to describe the temples seen throughout Thailand. From the golden stupa at Wat Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai to the colourful, ceramic flower decorated temples of
Wat Pho in Bangkok, all of these are stunningly beautiful and awe-inspiring. However, they may become a little ‘samey’. If you fancy something different, and before you get a little bit ‘templed-out,’ head to the temples of Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya is the home of the ruined temples. Once the second capital of Siam, in 1767 the city was attacked by the Burmese army. They destroyed the city, the temples, and forced residents out of their homes. The city was never rebuilt. Now, its main attraction is that of the dilapidated, historical, ruined temples. One thing you will notice is that the majority of Buddha statues no longer have heads. These were stolen and sold to museums across Europe and the US after the army had vandalised the temples.
The city itself is a welcome break from the rush that is Bangkok. Its laid-back, quiet, small and peaceful. It’s almost like a forgotten town, showing signs of what it used to be. The main roads are 3-4 lanes wide, but the traffic only warrants a single lane.
…the huge temples were weathered and withered.
We travelled to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, taking a minivan from Mo Chit bus station (which is a 10 minute taxi ride from Mo Chit metro station). The minivan took 1.5 hours and costs 60 baht per person, and an extra 60 baht for a seat for our luggage (approx £4 in total) . There is no luggage space in the van, so they charge you a seat rate instead.
Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Maha That (where you find the buddha head embedded in the tree) were right on the doorstep of our hotel so we headed there to explore first. Compared to the craziness of the attractions at Bangkok, this place was empty. We had the whole site pretty much to ourselves. The ruins were fascinating, the huge temples were weathered and withered. Crumbling stone surrounds you, and pieces of Buddha watch over you.
The whole area of the historical park, which was like the Rome of Thailand, truly captures your imagination of what once was. The stark contrast to the newly re-built temples of Bangkok and Chiang Mai, these look forgotten,
unfinished and barren.
…however, our bottoms paid with pain!
On our second day we hired bicycles to explore the rest of the ruins around Ayutthaya. The hire cost was 40 baht for the day (90 pence) however, our bottoms paid with pain! The bicycle seats were harder than the stone walls of the temples. Worth it mind, we cycled around the whole city and visited Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Lokkayasutharam and Chai Watthanaram temple. It was really easy to cycle as the city is so quiet. Note: Be careful where you cycle at the temples, some places won’t allow the bicycles on site.
Overall, it was a great little stop between Bangkok and Chiang Mai. Definitely worth a night’s stay in this relaxed town, and worth seeing the old temples of Ayutthaya, they’ll be unlike any other you’ll see across Thailand.