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    Tropical Storm Tour: Thailand Part 10

    Saturday, June 13, 2015
    Ayutthaya, Thailand

    Colorful storefronts in downtown Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    Colorful storefronts in downtown Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A tree smothers ruins at Wat Khun Muang Chai in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A tree smothers ruins at Wat Khun Muang Chai in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A Thai spirit house at Wat Khun Muang Chai in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A Thai spirit house at Wat Khun Muang Chai in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    An intricately decorated Thai bus in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    An intricately decorated Thai bus in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    Out through the in door at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    Out through the in door at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    “Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, an ideal location between China, India, and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700, Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world, with a total of one million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from such diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands, and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city displayed grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies, and a visiting flotilla of trading vessels from all over the world. All of this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city to the ground. Today, only a few remains give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. These remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya’s ruins was officially recognized in 1991, when the historic city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from that city.”–Wikipedia

    The primary prang at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    The primary prang at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A funny tuk-tuk / songthaew hybrid at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A funny tuk-tuk / songthaew hybrid at Wat Ratcha Burana in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    The ruins of Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    The ruins of Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A Buddha image at Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A Buddha image at Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A distressed wall at Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A distressed wall at Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    Today, I rented a bicycle for the princely sum of 40 baht and set out into the searing tropical sun to explore the ruins of Ayutthaya. I stopped by one minor temple called Wat Khun Muang Chai that had some nice ruins smothered by the roots of a huge tree, and a green Thai spirit house peacefully sitting in some matching foliage next to another tree. When I arrived at the first major temple of the day, Wat Phra Ram, I discovered that I had somehow managed to lose the key to the bicycle lock. Argh! So, back I headed toward the PU Guesthouse to pay for the missing lock and grab another one. The only problem was I got lost. I had a map with me, but it fell out of the basket through a small slit that had broken open in the bottom. This day was quickly turning into a comedy of errors. If you’ve never been to Ayutthaya before, it can be pretty confusing, even though the streets are mostly laid out on a simple grid. I ended up pedaling around and around in circles for an hour, completely soaked with sweat, until I finally bumped into another traveler who pointed the right way back to the street with all the guesthouses.

    A grand overview of part of Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A grand overview of part of Wat Maha That in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    An elephant ride at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    An elephant ride at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    Looking through the entrance at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    Looking through the entrance at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    Picturesque ruins at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    Picturesque ruins at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    A crumbling chedi and the primary prang at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.
    A crumbling chedi and the primary prang at Wat Phra Ram in Ayutthaya, Thailand.

    I thought I was going to get raked over the coals when I paid for the lock, but they only charged me 20 baht (75 cents)! Finally, with a new lock in hand, I was ready to resume my own little temple tour. This time, I put the key in my wallet and put that inside a zip pocket for extra safety. My first stop was Wat Ratcha Burana, which featured one major prang with carvings surrounded by smaller chedis and crumbling platforms. Much more impressive was Wat Maha That, a huge compound full of intricately carved prangs, precariously leaning towers and chedis, crumbling platforms and Buddha statues, one of which a tree grew around! It was so picturesque, I wasn’t surprised that the place was inundated with crowds from tourist buses. There were even a bunch of food and souvenir stalls at the entrance. My final stop of the day was at Wat Phra Ram, characterized by elephant rides on the road out front and a large, awe-inspiring prong in the center, surrounded by smaller crumbling ruins. As I walked around this place, I was so worn out from the heat and pounding sun, I felt like I was going to pass out, so I beat a quick retreat back to the PU Guesthouse to convalesce for the evening.

    Words and photos ©2015 Arcane Candy.

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