Ayutthaya was the capital of what is now Thailand from the fourteenth to eighteenth centuries. At that time, the whole country was called Ayutthaya and was a kingdom. We’ve been coming across Ayutthaya in museums and historic stories throughout our visit to the central Thailand area. Our chosen mode of transport was minivan. These leave from near the National Monument in Bangkok and cost only 60 baht per person. You wait until the van is full to leave but it doesn’t seem to take long until they fill up. It’s 80km or about 1.5 hours from Bangkok to Ayutthaya and our minivan took the toll roads without additional cost to us. The only thing is that the minivans seem to have a deal with the tuk tuk drivers near the edge of town because we were dropped at a tuk tuk stand about 2km away from town instead of at the minivan depot. The tuk tuk drivers kept insisting that it was too far for any of us to walk to our hotels, even when they didn’t actually know where we were staying (as in, we hadn’t told them). They seemed quite angry that none of the passengers on the minivan used their services. I hate this side of travel in Thailand. It frustrates and bores me.
Ayutthaya, on the other hand, isn’t boring at all. The city has so many things to do and see. We arrived in the mid afternoon and hit the streets to explore our new surrounds. We started with Wat Mahathat, an impressive complex where there is a Buddha statue head that has been engulfed in tree roots. It is said that the heads of some of the statues were removed by the Burmese in one of the many wars between Burma and Ayutthaya / Thailand over the centuries. Some have been restored to their former glory while others stand as evidence of the passage of time.
We follow random roads around and find ourselves at Wat Thammikarat. The wat is beautiful and relatively deserted but for the rooster statues. This is probably one of the most beautiful wats in Ayutthaya. There is a grandeur about the pillars that surround a golden Buddha statue in the main structure. The building that once stood here must have been massive. The pillars outside the building’s walls are starting to be gobbled up by tree roots, making them even more impressive and eerie. There is a huge head popping out of a lotus flower that commands attention. The flowers in the garden are pretty and squirrels run around in them. But it’s the rooster statues that are most intriguing. I am sure I could find information about them on Wikipedia or some other online site. But I think I like the mystery of why they are all there.
But there’s more to Ayutthaya than just ruins and roosters. The city has the coolest looking tuk tuks ever. They look like they are taking people to the beach to go surfing. I almost expect to see surfboards strapped to the roofs and long blond hair waving from their windows. The park is lovely for walking with late afternoon reflections striking the water and pretty bridges to cross. And did I mention there are plenty of shops where you can buy delicious cakes? The cakes here in Thailand are fantastic. They are not cheap with prices being similar to what you pay in Australia but the quality is excellent and the attention to detail superb.
We end our day with a walk through the night market. There are plenty of food options here. You can sit down to a clay pot soup and plate of pad thai. Or you can create your own menu buying snacks from stalls. Just about every taste can be pleased from cute artistic pancakes to local sweets, from chicken to pork belly, and from salad to crickets (yes, the insects). We settled for some random snacks that we took back to our hotel to eat in the comfort of the air conditioning because it is quite hot and humid, and we had walked another 20km by the time we had bought our food.