When I first arrived in Thailand, I went to Ayutthaya – a UNESCO World Heritage site which was the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Most of the ruins here give an insight into life during this time. They are located on an island where the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers merge – giving the city a strategic position for fighting off attacks from other countries in the past.
There are many interesting temples in Ayutthaya and my guide took me to Wat Phu Khao Thong which is about 3km out of the main town of Ayutthaya. You can walk up the many steps to the temple and, at the top, there are 360° views of the green countryside. There’s a shrine inside the temple itself and a fat smiling Buddha statue in the grounds.
Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit houses a large sitting Buddha which is made from solid bronze. When you enter these temples it is expected that you remove your footwear. Also, never point your feet at any Buddha image as this is a mark of disrespect.
I love going to places like this because I like to imagine how the temples would have looked like many years ago and to imagine how the people there used to live their lives.
As I was wandering around a group of school children came up to me and asked me questions like,
“Where are you from?” And “What do you like about Thailand?”
They were doing a project at school and wanted to practice their English with a farang (foreigner). I taught English in Thailand for many years and I found the students so respectful, so I was happy to answer their questions and help them with their language skills. It really made my day.
Next, Wat Lokayasutharam (Phra Noon) – Ayutthaya’s largest reclining Buddha. The largest one in Thailand is Wat Po, in Bangkok. This stone statue is lying in the middle of a clearing surrounding a forest. It was clad in an orange robe and contrasted beautifully with the blue sky and green of the trees. Visitors can make offerings – if you desire.
Wat Phra Mahathat is the place where you will see one of Thailand’s iconic images – the Buddha’s head in a Banyan tree. The stone head was originally lying on the floor but over time, as the tree has grown, it has picked the head up and it grows upwards as the tree grows. When you take pictures you must remain lower than the head itself.
Bang Pa-In royal palace where the grounds have individual palaces for the old kings, queens, princes and princesses. The buildings are set in beautiful gardens befitting royalty, and you can see palaces, throne rooms, royal residences, a lookout tower, and a pavilion which stands in the middle of a lake.
Wat Phanan Choeng is one of the most popular tourist attraction in Ayutthaya Historical Park. It houses a large Buddha from 1334 CE called Luang Pho Tho and is thought to be the guardian for mariners.
There is also a traditional Thai house that you can go into and walk around. It is built on stilts to provide the area beneath the house with storage, a place to relax during the day or to keep livestock. This is a traditional way of building Thai homes mainly due to heavy flooding during the year and, in ancient times, to prevent predators from dropping in!
Wat Yai Chaimongkol located a short drive from the historical park is another must-see if you’re in Ayutthaya. The temple itself is nestled into neatly kept gardens. You can walk up the many stairs to the top of this temple, which is hard work in the heat of the day, but worth it at the top where you can get great photographic shots of the gardens and green countryside.
Also within the temple compound is a white reclining Buddha which represents the Buddha after his death.
Ayutthaya is a fabulous place to be introduced to how life used to look like in Thailand. It’s a delightful way to spend the day wandering around seeing all the ruins and enjoying the Thai countryside.