During our stay in Bangkok we took the train out of the city to spend some time in Ayutthaya.
The Bangkok train station is very modern, clean and comfortable.
And the terminal is very organized and easy to navigate.
However, that is where the efficiency ends. We found our platform and waited and waited and waited. Every so often we would check to make sure that we were really in the right place and sure enough we were and no, no one knew when the train might arrive.
Finally the train came (over an hour late) and we hopped on. Of course the train was packed and so we had to stand for most of the long, hot ride.
However, once we got to Ayuttaya we were able to head out away from the crowds and go exploring.
Founded c. 1350, Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendor. It is estimated that Ayutthaya by the year 1600 CE had a population of about 300,000, with the population perhaps reaching 1,000,000 around 1700 CE, making it one of the world's largest cities at that time. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The Ayutthaya historical park is the ruins of the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam and is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The remains are amazing and the architecture is very unique.
We stumbled upon an archaeological group working to uncover more of the history of this area.
One of the most interesting things we saw was a simple Buddha head. It wasn't so much the head as the location of it. The location of this site is Wat Mahathat. Just like the rest of Ayutthaya the temple was destroyed by the Burmese and just like the rest of the city, they also vandalised many of the Buddha images in Ayutthaya by lopping off the heads. The area remained abandoned and overgrown until the 1950s when the Department of Fine art began restoration work in Ayutthaya. Nobody knows for certain how the Buddha head became entwined in the roots of the tree. One theory suggests that the tree simply grew around the Buddha head during the period when the temple lay abandoned and overgrown. Another theory is that a thief moved the Buddha head away from the main temple to hide it. This may have happened in the early 1900s when it is known that one of the remaining areas of the temple collapsed and consequently led to treasure hunters digging in the area. After moving the stone Buddha head away from the ruined main temple, it is possible the thief never returned for his treasure or couldn’t move it any further beyond the walls that surround the temple. Instead, the stone Buddha head was abandoned by the wall not far from the entrance of Wat Mahathat where it can be seen today nestled in the tree roots which have grown around it.
However it came to be in this position it is beautiful and quite breathtaking. However, since you are never supposed to have your head above Buddha's you have to lower yourself when observing. There is even a guard stationed just outside our picture that makes sure every obeys!
And the largest thing we saw was in Wat Pananchoeng, which predates the founding of Ayutthaya. The temple is Buddhist but also has a Chinese character in side and around it are numerous Chinese Temples for numerous Chinese Gods and other Deities.It is not known who built it.
The viharn contains the oldest, largest and most beautiful Buddha image of all, the Phra Chao Phananchoeng. It is 14.25 meters (46 feet) wide and 19 meters (62 feet) high, made of mortar, primed with black lacquer and covered with gold leaf. The shape of face and broad facial features confirm that this Buddha image is of the period of second generation U Thong style Buddha images.
Of course a new city meant we had to find the most random spot we could for a meal.
Where this woman cooked our lunch. I stopped to take her picture while she was working. She saw me taking her picture and she moved her tools around and got a big smile on her face, obviously staging a better picture. I loved that she got a smile out of me wanting her picture.
The market was just as colorful and amazing as every other we visited.
And our cab was just the back of a pick up truck.
After experiencing so much of the culture of Thailand it was great to experience a little of its history.