About 90km north of Bangkok is the city of Ayutthaya. Very often this city is left out of most Singaporeans’ itineraries since all their time is spent shopping and eating in Bangkok. It’s a pity as Ayutthaya has much to offer in terms of history and rustic charm. Easily covered in a day trip from Bangkok, there are several travel options to get there; by road or by train. Train is the slower option (2.5hrs) and cheapest, as the train stops at every station from Bangkok to Ayutthaya but is a good way to see more of the people and their way of life. Travelling by road is the fastest and takes roughly 1hr from Bangkok. You can rent your own car, or hire a car with driver to bring you.

I had visited Ayutthaya a couple of times previously but these were just passing through business trips. In May of 2012 I had to stay in Ayutthaya for several days to inspect the repair work at a nearby factory after the country’s worst floods. Due to a scheduling hiccup, I ended up with a free day to explore the city.

The weather in May is extremely hot and ground temperature was 40”C at mid-day. I hired a tuk-tuk from outside my hotel and bargained on the price for the driver to bring me around for a few hours. The rate is around 1,000 baht for 4 hrs. So together with another colleague, off we went in a non-air conditioned and rickety tuk-tuk.

My ride for the day: 3 wheels, no aircon, 40”C heat.
My ride for the day: 3 wheels, no aircon, 40”C heat.

Ayutthaya was the second largest city of ancient Siam with a population of 1 million inhabitants in 1700AD. It was also the trading capital of Asia and former capital of Thailand. But in 1767AD, it was invaded by Burma and most of the city was burnt to the ground. Today, only the ruins of the temples and  palaces remain since they were made of stone and not destroyed by the fire.

My first stop is Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.
My first stop is Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.
Visitors can climb to the top  of the temple.
Visitors can climb to the top of the temple.
You can see the rows of restored Buddha statues that surround the temple.
You can see the rows of restored Buddha statues that surround the temple.
Close up of the Buddha statues.
Close up of the Buddha statues.
The rays from the morning sun seem to be  lighting up the Buddha.
The rays from the morning sun seem to be lighting up the Buddha.
A reclining Buddha at the back of the temple.
A reclining Buddha at the back of the temple.
Worshippers paste gold leaf onto the Buddha.
Worshippers paste gold leaf onto the Buddha.

Next, the tuk-tuk driver brought us to a floating market. But it was more of a tourist place and just a modern replica of a village. We had our lunch there and shopped for some souvenirs.

Floating market it's not.
Floating market it’s not.
You can take an elephant ride into the ruins. We skipped this as the weather was really hot.
You can take an elephant ride into the ruins. We skipped this as the weather was really hot.

After lunch, we were off to visit more historical sites.

There are stupa ruins all over the city. This large one is in the centre of a major intersection.
There are stupa ruins all over the city. This large one is in the centre of a major intersection.
View from the back of the tuk-tuk. The riders in green vests are motorcycle taxis.
View from the back of the tuk-tuk. The riders in green vests are motorcycle taxis.
Wat Mahathat ruins.
Wat Mahathat ruins.
Wat Mahathat is famous for the Buddha head in the tree.
Wat Mahathat is famous for the Buddha head in the tree.
Buddha statues are everywhere.
Buddha statues are everywhere.
Many statues were broken and incomplete.
Many statues were broken and incomplete.
Wat Ratchaburana with its distinctive Khmer style design. The roof in front had collapsed long ago leaving only the walls standing.
Wat Ratchaburana with its distinctive Khmer style design. The roof in front had collapsed long ago leaving only the walls standing.
Numerous stupas line the ruins.
Numerous stupas line the ruins.
A lone cleaner sweeping the dried leaves.
A lone cleaner sweeping the dried leaves.
A brief respite from the midday heat under the shade of banyan trees.
A brief respite from the midday heat under the shade of banyan trees.
Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit.
Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit.
A large golden Buddha sits inside.
A large golden Buddha sits inside.
A huge reclining Buddha in the open at Wat Lokkayasutharam.
A huge reclining Buddha in the open at Wat Lokkayasutharam.
All that remains of the temple is the reclining Buddha. At 42m long and 8m high, it's really one of the largest I've seen.
All that remains of the temple is the reclining Buddha. At 42m long and 8m high, it’s really one of the largest I’ve seen.
The last stop was Wat Chai Wattanaram, located by the  banks of the Chao Phraya River. We couldn't go in as the temple was closed for reconstruction after the flood. The brownish stains on the lower portion of the temple shows the flood levels. It must have been more than 5m high!
The last stop was Wat Chai Wattanaram, located by the banks of the Chao Phraya River. We couldn’t go in as the temple was closed for reconstruction after the flood. The brownish stains on the lower portion of the temple shows the flood levels. It must have been more than 5m high!
A view of the Chao Phraya River that runs just behind Wat Chai Wattanaram. The  level of water has already gone down to normal.
A view of the Chao Phraya River that runs just behind Wat Chai Wattanaram. The level of water has already gone down to normal.

We finally went back to our hotel after around 4 hrs of touring. The heat was stifling and made getting around difficult. There are many more ruins that are could be visited besides those that I’ve shown here. A visit in the cooler months of December or January would be a better time.

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