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krisek Ayutthaya - A travel report by Krys
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Ayutthaya,  Thailand - flag Thailand -  Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
10677 readers

krisek's travel reports

A place with pioneering Asian architecture.

  12 votes
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A trip to Ayutthaya stimulated a mix of feelings. Its grand, superb and phenomenal historical monuments impressed me very much, but the chaotic and dirty new town and people working in the service industry there did not.


Chedis in Ayutthaya style
Chedis in Ayutthaya style
Looking for UNESCO sites listed in Thailand, I discovered that the historical capital of the Siamese country, Ayutthaya, was only an hour away from Bangkok. An hour by train, I mean. So, I decided to hop there and check it out in the form of a day trip. I was so happy with myself that I did that – the day was great and I had a chance to soak some more history on this trip, again! And so easily done!

I got up early in the morning and took a train from the so conveniently nearby main train station. It was easy to buy a ticket and surprisingly very easy to identify, from which platform it was leaving. The train was busy, but I got a seat and travelling early in the morning meant that it wasn’t that hot inside.

The sight of people walking on the train track on the busy central Bangkok line shocked me! They would casually walk even on the primitive steel bridges where there was no room to escape from the trains other than to jump right off it! I wasn’t sure whether that was the necessity, stupidity or courage. I leave it unresolved, if I may please.

Ayutthaya was a pleasant escape from the hectic and enormous Bangkok. The town itself was not too nice, though. It didn’t look very organised. One had to take a ferry from the train station to the centre, otherwise there was a long, long hike to the nearest bridge to cross one of the rivers. There was still plenty of traffic and bustle of a mid size Thai town, too. The buildings were quite ugly, square and looked like they were made of plastic that was about to fall apart. This actually disappointed me, I have to say. I was expecting a lot more from a historical capital city of a powerful state like Siam.

That was my very first impression of Ayutthaya, however. Fortunately, my feelings quickly changed and I was a very happy traveller again. I just needed to find what I was looking for.

Favourite spots:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
The large historical park was truly impressive. It featured a few magnificent temples, four of which had been built under obvious Khmer influence (like those in Cambodia) and one of them was particularly interesting, as it is to date not known who’d built it. But the greatness of the historical park was its diversity of the temples and the styles in which they were built.

Ayutthaya was famous for its architecture, and gave its name to this particular style. Many very old temples had been erected in a revolutionary in those days, quintessential Ayutthaya style, specifically the conical chedis (stupas). The Ayutthaya style became one of the most recognisable architectural styles of Asia. It was subsequently extremely popular in Siam, and many examples can be contemplated throughout the entire region - not only in Thailand.

What's really great:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
The chedis looked like massive bell shells. I could not resist a feeling that they should be empty inside (hollow). In fact, there were not and only a small room inside of them was provided for Buddha offering and possibly praying. If there was one little room inside at all.

The historical park was not small and there were a number of places to visit. The distance between the temples and sites was considerable and many other tourists preferred to take a bike or a tuk-tuk when visiting them all. However, as I like walking very much and as weather was great, I decided to make most of my day strolling on foot. Locals considered it as a bit odd, and I must have been creating a bit of a sensation by walking around.

The park was situated in the heart of the city, which is in fact located on an island – an intriguing natural phenomenon. Two rivers made this wonder: Mae Nam Chao Phraya and Mae Nam Pa Sak, although certain sources would note also a third one: Khlong Menang (Mae Nam Lopburi).

Sights:
Wat Chai Wattanaram
Wat Chai Wattanaram
There were also a number of magnificent temples outside the island, at the other banks of the rivers. To save time I hired a boat for 2 hours, which took me around the city. It got me to the magnificent Wat Chai Wattanaram and impressive Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon very easily. The latter was famous for the large reclining Buddha image and countless smaller sitting Buddha images in a roofed courtyard around a very large white chedi.

Wat Chai Wattanaram was a favourite temple pictured to illustrate the Ayutthaya UNESCO's Word Cultural Heritage Site. I wasn’t surprised with the choice at all. It was my favourite of the city compounds. It was large, red and awesome.

Well, the historical park on the island, a few temples right outside of it and that was it. Not much else to do there. Eight hours was just fine to see everything, walking with two-hour-long boat circle included. I didn’t stop at the newer or more modern wats, but there would be still enough time to include them in a day itinerary.

Accommodations:
Buddhas in Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Buddhas in Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
When I was contemplating to stay overnight in Ayutthaya, just in case there was more to see there that I thought, my choice was the Ayothaya Hotel (also known by its previous name - Sri Smai). It wasn’t the cheapest option in town, but still very good value. It was air-conditioned and even had a swimming pool. Obviously, I didn’t end up staying there after all, as I travelled back to Bangkok in the evening.

Nightlife:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
One of the reasons why I went back to Bangkok was the lack of decent nightlife in Ayutthaya. Seriously, apart from few nightclubs/bars in the upmarket hotels there was nowhere to go. A couple of places offered basic entertainment in the form of live music: Moon Cafe, playing contemporary music and Rodeo, focusing on Thai and international folk tunes to go with the western-style decor. I guess strolling about the market at night could be a form of entertainment, but only if one entered into a few transactions bargaining hard.

Hangouts:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
Although the riverfront and the few floating restaurants were rather overpriced, serving average food and unprofessional, they might be considered good places to hang out. However, to hire a private boat and go around the town, watching the temples ashore, sipping beer and soaking the river life would be my choice instead. Or, I would take a picnic with me to one of the riverside temples, like Wat Chai Wattanaram and watch the life go by from there.

Restaurants:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
My day trip to Ayutthaya did include breakfast and lunch. So, let me tell you a few words about the restaurant I went to. It was the Chainam restaurant, which no longer had tables on the river but in a large hut with partial river view. Their food was consistently good and authentic. Although, I have to say that the service was not good. It was very slow and no-one smiled, not the sitting hostess, not the waitress who took my order and not the waiter, who brought the food and not even the cashier. The service might have been somewhat spoiled by the endorsement in a few guidebooks, I think. Fortunately, this happened only for my lunch. For I took my breakfast from a small booth on the way to the historical park. I had an Asian breakfast - egg fried rice with freshwater prawns. Yummy!

Actually, I heard from other travellers that although food was generally very nice in Ayutthaya (like almost everywhere in Thailand!), service was pretty bad in all restaurants catering for tourists.

Other recommendations:
Ayutthaya travelogue picture
People in Ayutthaya are very friendly though. I mean the inhabitants. Friendlier than those in Bangkok! When I was on the boat, they were waving and smiling. When I was walking in the town, they were saying 'hello' and smiling, young girls were actually grinning. I am not sure what I should make of that…

The Ayutthayans spoke a lot less English, however. Although the younglings working in shops, particularly those with cold drinks, mastered the numbers brilliantly. Surely, that was right – this was the core of the business, wasn’t it?

Buying train ticket back to Bangkok (somehow it was not possible to buy a return ticket at the point of origin) was funny. Several lines to the counters, and only selected booking offices would sell tickets for a particular train. I was so confused. Not only me, though – all the rest of tourist felt the same.

Published on Monday March 10th, 2008


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Sat, Sep 19 2009 - 12:49 PM rating by frenchfrog

Great report and might come very handy during my stay in Bangkok!

Wed, Mar 19 2008 - 06:01 PM rating by jorgesanchez

Text and pictures are first class

Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 07:22 AM rating by louis

Interesting report, when I was in Bangkok I missed Ayattuhaya, and I see that was my mistake. Excellent pictures

Fri, Mar 14 2008 - 04:55 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent KRZY'S SERIES REPORT,this place is very well know in india ,we too have the place with same name called AYODHYA .

Tue, Mar 11 2008 - 12:59 PM rating by marianne

well written and interesting

Tue, Mar 11 2008 - 10:52 AM rating by rangutan

Another great report [4.4]

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