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Friday, December 19, 2014

Ayutthaya - Thailand

Sukhothai [Ayutthaya]
To get there from Bangkok – take BTS Skytrain to Victory Monument Station. Take the right exit and beneath the station at Station 3, there are mini vans going to Ayutthaya from morning to late afternoon. The fare is 60THB [one way]. The journey is about 1 and ½ hours. This depends on whether the driver drops or picks passengers along the route.
Since we stayed at Suthisan, Bangkok we took the MRT from Suthisan Station to Chatuchak Park MRT Station, then change BTS to Victory Monument Station. The BTS rate is 31THB.
Left Victory Monument at 9.00 am and arrived at Ayutthaya town at 10.30 am. We hired a local Tuk-tuk to take us to 3 popular Ancient ruin sites. The rate is 150THB per hour. We hired it for 2 hours but paid 320THB as the driver is quite patient giving us some extra time.
Ayutthaya and Tuk-Tuk in town centre
Ayutthaya [full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya], 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.
More about Ayutthaya - Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya River, the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River. As the train station is at the east side off the island, most visitors will need to cross the river by ferry boat. Navigating your way around the island is not particularly hard: U Thong Rd is a ring road that circumvents the island completely. Most temple ruins can be found at the northwest of the island, while accommodation and night life is clustered around the northeast. As non-Siamese peoples were not allowed to live inside the city walls, things foreign are found off the island. 
Unlike other tourist hotspots, very few people speak and understand English. You may encounter difficulty at your accommodation, restaurants and shops.
We visited:
Wat Mahathat
Entrance fee – 50THB

Wat Chaiwatthanaram
Entrance fee – 50 THB

One of the most visited historical site of Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwattanaram rests on the bank of the Chao Phraya river, to the west of the city island. The temple was ordered to built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother, featuring the architectural style influenced by Angkor temple in Cambodia—its unique feature is a large, central prang [Khmer-style pagoda] surrounded by smaller prangs, symbolizing Mount Sumeru, the gods' mountain according to Hindu belief. The lighting at night makes the temple even more exotic and beautiful. 

Wat Tummikarat
[Entrance is free]
Wat Thammikarat is just outside of the eastern wall of the  royal palace, near the river. It is thought that the temple may pre-date the founding of the new Siamese capital at Ayutthaya, but the temple was incorporated into the new city.
Wat Thammikarat appears to be largely in ruins, but it is in fact an active temple with monks in residence. Several new structures have been built although very little has been done to restore the ruined buildings.
We had several monks chanting prayers for us.
The eye-catching part of the temple are the ruins of the giant prayer hall [viharn]. Massive columns line the sides of the building while two rows of even larger columns march down the interior of the hall. The only windows in the side walls are narrow slits. The atmosphere of decay is further enhanced by the presence of several trees growing out of the platform near the rear wall of the wiharn.
Reclining Buddha at Wat Tummickarat

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Entrance - Free

Opens Daily:  07:30 to 18:30
How to get there: To get here, follow Rochana Road over the bridge to east Ayutthaya and take a right onto Route 3477 at the huge roundabout with Sampluem chedi at its centre. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon will be about a kilometre down on the left.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was first established by King U-Thong in the 1300s but was made famous by King Naresuan, who added the giant chedi still seen today to commemorate a major 17th century victory over the Burmese during which the king is said to have single-handedly speared a Burmese crown prince and squashed the enemy's morale.
Surrounded by hundreds of stone, seated Buddhas in pristine condition, this vast chedi resembles the three chedis at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, although far larger and it can be scaled for a great view of Ayutthaya. Nearby is a fairly large and photogenic reclining Buddha.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is also a working temple and an extremely popular pilgrimmage site for Thai Buddhists. Rather than being annoyed by the crowds, join them as they burn incense and circumnavigate the chedi three times for good fortune.
As we returned to town late, we had simple lunch at the market place. Noodles cost 50THB per bowl. We tried the crispy fried tofu puffs that comes with a sweet and sour dipping sauce which is good at 20THB per plate. A glass of iced lemon tea costs 15THB.
At Ayutthaya, there is a KFC outlet and hotel rates are quite high. So it is advisable to make day trips from Bangkok as there isn’t much to see except for the Ancient City.
We left Ayutthaya at 2.30 and arrived at Victory Monument, Bangkok by 4.00 pm. Very comfortable journey by van.

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