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A day trip visit the Temples of Ayutthaya

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After living and working for the last year in the Land of Smiles, Thailand, I decided that I’d had enough of the beaches and nightlife and it was time to make the trek to the ancient City of Ayutthaya. I could never go back home someday without taking in this spectacular attraction of greenery with ruins intertwined that speak volumes of Thailand’s rich history.

Ayutthaya is not far from Bangkok with the trip by vehicle taking no more than two hours. At first, I thought maybe I would take a bus that leaves the Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. However, this would require getting a bus from the Mo Chit BTS (Skytrain) station and I didn’t feel like hassling with it.

For about 50 more THB (100 THB total), I rode in the comfort of a mini-van that I caught at Bangkok’s Victory Monument which is midway on the BTS Sukumvit line. Still exhausted from a long week at work, I was able to take a refreshing nap in the van.

Once in Ayutthaya, I had my choice as to how to get around and see the various temples. I could hire a tuk tuk, go by bicycle, or hire another mini-van. And, since Ayutthaya is the meeting point of three rivers, it essentially an island and they have a boat tour available as well. However, my final decision was to rent a bicycle to visit the ruins. A bicycle would give me freedom throughout the day which was my idea of complete relaxation. Plus, there are paved bicycle paths leading to the different temple sites which make it perfect for getting the most out of this adventure.

Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat is probably the most impressive (at least in my opinion) of the Ayutthaya temples and my first stop along the bicycle trail. What impresses me about this temple is the sculpture of the face of the Buddha fixed in tree roots. This temple was built in the 14th century and it is believed that the Buddha head in the tree roots was left behind because it was just too heavy to carry. Of course there are a couple of versions of this story.

Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana is right across the street from Wat Mahathat. Wat Ratchaburana has probably one of the most well-preserved prangs in the city. It was built in the 15th century and the prangs and chedis in this temple even have some of their original stucco.

Wat Siri Sanphet

Inside the U-Thong road that circles Ayutthaya, there is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. This wat was the model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok (Wat Phra Kaew). The temple was built in the 14th century by Prince U-Thong. He had this palace built for later becoming the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. What stood out to me was the three large chedis, each with the ashes of three Kings: King Boromtrailokanat, King Boromarachthirat III, and King Ramathibodi II.

Wat Lokayasutharam

Next on the stop of the bike trail is Wat Lokayasutharam. It is not far to the west of Wat Sri Sanphet. What stands out at this wat is the reclining Buddha made of brick and mortar. It was redecorated in 1956. The image measures at 32 meters in length with a height of 8 meters. It is quite impressive.

Wat Worachetta Ram

A short ride to the north from the reclining Buddha and I come upon Wat Worachetta Ram. Wat Worachetta Ram may not be as impressive as some of the other temples but what stands out in it is the single sitting Buddha. The ancient statue of the sitting Buddha is decorated with a recent orange shroud and there were some local folks praying to it. It was quite interesting.

Wat Phra Ram

Continuing on to the east of Wat Worachetta Ram is Wat Phra Ram. This temple is located near the Grand Palace and in a swampy area that is also Ayutthaya’s historical park. This temple is the place where Ayutthaya’s first monarch, King Ramathibodi I, was cremated. What stands out about this temple is that the architecture has a Khmer (Cambodia) style to it as do many of the other temples.

Wat Choeng Tha

Now I must make a little longer ride on my bicycle to just outside and to the north of U-Thong Road to Wat Choeng Tha. The temple sits beside a waterway known as Khlong Mueang which at one time was called the Lopburi River. It was built on this canal so that it could provide access to the Royal Palace at the time. The main feature that stands out at this temple is the grand prang of Khmer architecture with niches that point out in four directions. This prang is hollow and can be entered.

Wat Chai Wattanaram

Heading south on U-Thong Road, I come to Wat Chai Wattanaram on the outskirts and to the southwest of the island. This temple was built in the early 1600s by King Prasat Thong and it is a memorial to his mother. Its distinctive feature is the Khmer-style prang in the center of the wat that rises to 35 meters with its hidden entrances.

Wat Luang Chikrut

To the east and at the southern part of the island is Wat Luang Chikrut. It is just on the inside of the island on the north side of U-Thong Road. This was the one-time residence of Prince Thianracha who would later ascend to the throne as King Chakkraphat between 1548 and 1569. The temple is basically flat ruins with only the foundations in sight. However, you can imagine what it must have been like as this temple was an important meeting place for all of Royalty at the time. This is indicated by the foundations of the former grand meeting halls.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Last on my bicycle tour was Wat Yai Chai Mongkol. It is located to east of the island’s southeast corner. It is also known as the Chao Phaya Thai Temple and stood outside the walls of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. The temple was built in 1357 by King U-Thong for the purpose as a school to educate the children of Royalty. It has a reclining Buddha and a large chedi that was built to commemorate the defeat of the Burmese Crown Prince by King Naresuan. History has it that King Naresuan single-handedly defeated the Burmese Prince on the back of an elephant.

There is so much more to see and do in Ayutthaya. The place is full of history and I could probably spend two weeks here and not see everything. My bicycle tour was both enjoyable and invigorating. I will definitely come back after reading more about the temples of Ayutthaya.

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