Another day, another early morning. But at least I’d had a better nights sleep in my swapped bed, so stumbled over to Born Free in a more awake state than expected.
Today I was going on a tour of Ayutthaya. Hadn’t been something I’d considered until now, but the hostel I was staying at recommended it, so decided to give it a shot. It was similar to Angkor Wat in that most of the temples are within what’s considered an Historical park, however its also a working city, so its less wandering around grasslands and instead driving around a city.
The tour started with Wat Phu Khao Thong (aka, The Golden Mount). Aesthetically very different from the other temples in the city as it has a strong Burmese influence. When you walk to the top, you get a pretty incredible view – there’s also not a lot of tourists who visit, so it stays pretty quiet.
Course, the thing that caught everyone’s attention was a little further to the side. There was a temple and a laughing Buddha on the grounds, along with several stray dogs – one of which was the mother of about 6 puppies. Everyone was just drawn to these balls of adorableness like moths to a flame. Unfortunately, most of the dogs didn’t look to be in good shape – saw one with a terrible case of mange, honestly looked like a hyena – so was a little wary about getting too close.
The second stop was The Reclining Buddha at Wat Lokaya Sutha. This used to be a temple, but it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. However the very large Buddha remains, which is well worth seeing, though in far worse shape than the one we saw at the next stop, Wat Yai Chai Mang Kohn.
This was the most preserved of the sites we visited – and had several Buddha’s of importance. One was the Reclining Buddha, as well as the sitting Buddha in the temple, and the Buddha’s behind the pagoda. This temple was built to honour a battle on elephant back, and unlike the previous temples appears to still be in use.
The rest of the temples were definitely more broken than this one. A very famous site was next, Wat Phra Mahthat. Much like Wat Lokaya Sutha, this temple was ransacked by the Burmese in 1767, when they destroyed Ayutthaya. In the process, they beheaded nearly all of the Buddha statues in the temples – but here, one of the heads survived, and can be found hidden in the tree roots of a banyan tree, the fate of its body unknown.
It was getting close to lunchtime, and everyone was starting to feel the hunger even in the heat – however we still had one more temple to see – Wat Maha That, which was a Royal Temple before its destruction. Still has many stupas and prangs remaining, but the walls have almost completely been demolished and the Buddha’s beheaded.
After lunch, there were just 2 more stops on our trip before we headed home, and thankfully they were right next to each other. Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and Wiharn Phra Mongkhonbophit. Wat Pha Sri was once the most important temple in Ayutthaya and was on Royal grounds. To this day it still has the remains of kings and Buddha relics enshrined here (as well as half a dozen bats, eep!). Sadly suffering from water damage after flooding several years before, some of the grounds were surrounded by construction as the Thai government tries to repair and protect what remains. This temple, despite the fact that little remains, was by far my favourite as it was so interesting to walk around. Would not have looked out of place in Angkor Wat, and had plenty to see and explore.
Wat Phra Mongkohnbophit on the other hand, is nowhere near as grand or interesting to walk around, but is literally right next door so gives you a chance to see what an active Buddhist temple is like. Completely different in design to everything I’d seen until now, the sloping roof felt more Western influence than Asian, and didn’t see as impressive as other temples I’d seen in Chiang Mai. My strongest memory was the woman outside selling sugar palm – a drink made from a sugar plant and poured over ice. Decided to give it a try, and it was one of the best decisions I made all trip. Tastes like liquid popcorn – seriously, if sweet cinema popcorn was a liquid, this is what it would taste like. Gave me a happy buzz all the way back to Bangkok.
However, my day wasn’t quite over yet. The day before I’d gotten a Facebook message from two of the Vodkatrainers who were about to hit Bangkok, and we’d tried to find a time to meet up since we were in the same place again. Turned out we were living minutes away from each other, and at 19:30, met up with them and headed into town.
They’d been in Nepal for the past several weeks (so jealous, would love to do Nepal) and so were quite glad to be back in Sun and slightly modern civilisation. Headed down to Kohsan road looking for a bar we could catch up in – proving to be slightly difficult as this area of town specialises in cheap drink and loud music. Try our luck at a restaurant, but there are no outside seats and given that we don’t want to eat probably isn’t the best choice. Do however find a small bar just a stones throw away from said street that did fruit shakes and had a nice quiet soundtrack, so it worked perfectly. It was great to see them again – will try to meet up tomorrow too, but with me grabbing a night train it might not work out.