Ayutthaya, The Fallen Empire

14 October 2016

Ayutthaya, Thailand

AHHHHHHH!!!

Excuse my overly-excited opening. That is honestly how I feel. When I am writing this blog post, I still feel butterflies in the stomach. Have I... Did I... Did I just see the Buddha's head with my own eyes?

This is my third time in Bangkok. In 2008, Ayutthaya was a name on the map I hadn't heard of. In 2012, I didn't have enough time to travel there. And 2016, my family and I made a sudden decision to buy the air tickets and fly to Bangkok in a week's time - unexpected, hasty and with limited planning. This time, I made it. 

Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam in the 14-17th century. The city was glorious, wealthy and magnificent, populated with millions of people and foreign expatriates. It was until 1767, when the Burmese army attacked and burned the capital, that brought the end of a golden age. What remains today are monuments with incredible historical values and beauty.

The most iconic view of Ayutthaya, the Buddha's head is located in Wat Mahathat. With a peaceful smile on his face, the Buddha's head was entangled within the roots of a Banyan tree. It must have taken hundreds of years to look like this. Why is it there? Many guesses were made, some believed that thieves had hidden the head for retrieval later but never made it, hence the tree decided to live harmoniously with the statue.

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 thanks to its rich cultural values. The remains that you see in these pictures used to be the Grand Palace, Chedi and stupas for various religious purposes. 

Many of the Buddha statues were damaged, especially in Wat Mahathat. There are lines of headless Buddha statues in the historical park, leaving only one complete statue in the wide temple area. Some of the structures were badly burned by the Burmese army, some bricks were transported to Bangkok to build the new capital, but some, are still standing tall today as a witness and survivor of the test of time.

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, ThailandAyutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya is 80km from Bangkok, which is a reasonable distance for a day-trip. Alternatively you can extend your stay and explore more of the city. You can come here by train, bus or van (as listed here on WikiTravel). We chose to go by van because of the comfort, punctuality and ease. We're told by our hostel manager that the trains and buses are usually delayed. To take the van, just get down at Victoria Monument BTS Station, go down of the SkyWalk and find the van company. Trips are really frequent and no pre-booking is required. The five of us barely waited for ten minutes when we were joined by a few other tourists and all of us hopped straight to the spacious van. It took less than 2 hours to reach there, which was just awesome. Wait, have I told you the fare yet? For a single trip, each person only has to pay 60 baht (~RM7), 120 baht (~RM14) for a round trip. That's a good deal!

Once in Ayutthaya, the five of us hired a tuk-tuk which brought us around for a half-day tour. We paid 1300 baht to the driver, which I thought was pricey and I suggest you to bargain further. Alternatively, you can rent a bike to navigate between the temples. Some of the temples require visitors to buy entrance ticket, which is usually less than 100 baht. Our tuk-tuk driver wasn't fluent in English, couldn't explain the places to us and brought us to a rather expensive restaurant for lunch. You might want to take note on these. We didn't really mind because all of us, were too busy enjoying and capturing the beauty with our eyes.

If you wish to experience a different Bangkok, and if you enjoy seeing historical and cultural places like us, I highly suggest you to pay Ayutthaya a visit.

Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya, Thailand
My 6-feet-tall brother looking small and my sister offering flowers to the giant reclining Buddha.
Thank you for the good time, Ayutthaya. You give me butterflies, not the touristy-type, not the butterflies I got when I see a pretty view and merely keep pressing the shutter button. You give me butterflies because one, I was able to be here after years of longing. Two, you make me believe that my dreams will come true. You make me believe that things will happen at the right timing.

Borobudur, Ayutthaya. Next up, Angkor Wat. I feel I'm finally ready to be present and appreciate your beauty.    

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