Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Touring Ayutthaya

27 February 2015. Thailand.

The ruins were calling.

Founded circa 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the reliquary towers and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendor (whc.unesco.org).

Ayutthaya was inserted in the group's itinerary because it is a mere hour away from Bangkok via minibus (van) which operates from the Victory Monument Square. I insisted it be inserted in the group's itinerary because it was a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Imagine my delight therefore when I was finally inhaling the dust of Ayutthaya, and my eyes feasted on its ruins. The minibus dropped us in the middle of the city. While we were contemplating which tour to avail of, Sir Noy approached us and offered to tour us for 1,000 baht to the points of interest, or at least what he thinks is interesting. The group ended up giving him an extra 200 baht for the extraordinary service. 

Wat Phra Chao Phanan Choeng

The Buddha image itself measures 14.25 meters from knee to knee, and 19 meters in height, which includes the ornament above the head (ayutthaya2020.com). I was awed by the sheer size of the image, and I was enveloped by the serenity the smile conveyed. There were several other halls and several other Buddha images inside the structure. In one ordination hall alone, three impressive Buddhas are housed: one made of gold, the other made from an alloy of copper and gold. Outside the temple housing the gigantic Buddha image is yet another temple which houses all kinds of gods - Chinese gods, and Hindu gods.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is an impressive temple for two reasons: the giant reclining Buddha and the beautiful chedi. The giant reclining Buddha was constructed in the reign of King Naresuan the Great for religious adoration and royal meditation. 

In 1592 A.D., during the reign of the King, the Burmese led an army to try to subjugate Ayutthaya. King Naresuan resisted the invasion and was victorious. The King wanted to punish his regiment which did not come to reinforce him in time but Patriarch Vanarat begged the King to pardon them and instead, in memory of his victory, build chedis (ayutthaya2020.com).

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

The three chedis are what this place is famous for. Located within the compound where the Grand Palace was, the three chedis are believed to keep the ashes of three Kings: King Trailok, King Borom Ratchathirat III, and King Rama Thibodi II. It was an impressive site, even when right beside it is a palace that houses an equally large Buddha.

 Wat Chai Wattanaram

What blew me away the most is the surreal ruins of Wat Chai Wattanaram. This photogenic Wat was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to commemorate his mother's hometown and to celebrate his coronation, although another theory was that it was built to commemorate another victory of the Khmer thereby explaining the Khmer architecture (ayutthaya2020.com). It was mesmerizing how the sun and the sky added allure to the ruins with intricate designs that were apparent even from a distance. I was contented merely staring at the structure which stole my heart that it was almost sad to leave.

The group made a side-trip with the elephants. Although I have seen a live elephant before, the sight of the animals up close still awed me.

Wat Mahathat

The last stop was Wat Mahathat, famous for the Buddha head nestled within the tree roots. The site offered other impressive ruins but the heat deterred the group from further exploring the area.

Ayutthaya was so worth the side trip from Bangkok.