Ayutthaya….another stop on the road trip.

Ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand...AyutthayaAnother five-hour bus trip down the road is the city of Ayutthaya. It feels more like a village than Hukhothai did but still it is not a city that one would want to go to for its own sake. What draws people here is the remnants of the once great capital of the Thai nation. The ruined wats, pagodas and palaces are scattered throughout the heart of the town making it feel as if the whole place is one great historical site.  UNESCO recognized its importance and designated it a world heritage site in 1991.

Ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand...AyutthayaAfter arriving, my friend Paula and I immediately started to realize the significance of ancient Ayutthaya as its size and former glory were obvious to even the most uninformed of tourist  The visit to the Historical Study Center was a great place to start in understanding the time line of a capital that lasted 417 years and was the center of a country that traded with much of the known world by the 17th century.

By the mid 15th Ayutthaya controlled an empire that was almost the whole of modern Thailand. Built entirely on canals the city was called the Venice of the east.  By 1685, the city had a million people – roughly double the population of London at the time. At the same time over 40 nations sent representative to trade with this immensely wealthy country and to try to extend their spheres of influence.

Ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand...AyutthayaAs I toured the various ruins, I could only marvel at how splendid it all must have been. Ayutthaya was so well endowed with temples so that sunlight reflecting off their gilt decoration was said to dazzle the viewer from three miles away. Today wide grassy plots occupy much of the site, which resembles a graveyard for temples.  Grand brooding brick ruins rise out of the grassy plains and remind us of the grandeur that once existed here in Ayutthaya.  There are a few intact buildings and three museums to help us build an image of what it must have looked like.

Ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand...AyutthayaWe picked our hotel using a web site that made the place look great in the photos and was very cheap as well…that was our first mistake.   No one could find it….two hours and two tuk tuk drivers later we made it to the hotel. The first tuk tuk driver…a woman with two children tagging along had no earthly idea where she was going.  She spent over an hour driving us around while speaking on the phone trying to get directions.  In the end, I told her to pull up in front of a hotel and let me out. She wanted 400 baht ($12) for the ride to nowhere and a big fight ensued…I started yelling for someone to call the police. She settled for $200 and another Tuk Tuk was called who was only marginally better.  Once there I realized the problem…they had built this hotel in anticipation of new roads (under construction) and the moving of the train terminal close by but it was still the undeveloped outskirts of Ayutthaya.  What I saved in room rates I spent in taxi fees….bummer.

Ruins of the ancient capital of Thailand...AyutthayaThe next day we found a tuk tuk driver who would drive us from site to site and back to the hotel in the evening for a reasonable rate.  Every region in South East Asia has different styles of inexpensive transportation from bicycle-powered rickshaws to pickup trucks outfitted with benches. This town has tuk tuks of a unique design….I can only say that they are a cross between a futuristic design for a riding lawnmower from the 1950 World’s Fair and a motorized coffin on three wheels.  The ceiling was so low that every time we hit a bump in the road my head slapped the roof until my head rang like a gong.  By the end of my time in Ayutthaya and after having ridden in the bumpmobile for two days, I looked like the Hunchback of Notre Dame and felt if I had been on the rack.

Tuk Tuk and driver in Ayutthaya

Tuk Tuk and driver in Ayutthaya

Of course, none of this stopped me from enjoying the historical sites, watching the elephants ferry their passengers around from temple to temple or having a few Gin & Tonics to relax me after a long hot day of touring.  The history was intriguing, the food was good and the people were friendly so I left with good impressions of the Ayutthaya and would suggest it to anyone heading north from Bangkok.

Elephant ride to the temples of AyutthayaOn the last morning, our driver took us to the mini-bus for our ride to Bangkok and a late breakfast before we hopped on another mini-bus to Hua Hin for some much needed beach time.

About Larry Bosco

In 2010 I had one of those “Is this all there is” moments and so in January 2011 I retired from Real Estate Appraising, sold off all my worldly goods and headed out as a solo traveler in search of a new place to live. Since then I’ve traveled around the world, made new friends and had many great adventures and some not so great. After staying almost a year in Cuenca, Ecuador I have headed back to South East Asia where I began the journey in 2011. Currently I am living in Chiang Mai, Thailand
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4 Responses to Ayutthaya….another stop on the road trip.

  1. Claudia Hammer says:

    Laughed my head off when I read the paragraph about your lawnmower/coffin ride. After looking at all these temples from the many pictures you have sent, the temples have such a distinct look about them. It is curious to me that they made them so involved and busy. I believed you mentioned that they were painted or maybe even had a layer of gold?

  2. Gene says:

    These pictures are great!!!! It makes me want to go and see for ourselves. I feel like you are paving the way and eliminating a few of the bumps before we have a chance to visit. Keep up the great travels…are you tired yet? We just got back from 6 weeks in Hawaii (4 in our condos on the Big Island, 7 days in Maui and 8 days in Oahu) and we were ready to head for home for awhile.

  3. jim voyles says:

    Loved it. Will Claudian draw or paint these exotic scenes?

  4. Cathy Joseph says:

    The “head bumping, coffin ride story” was priceless! The temples are breathtaking, even without the gold and colors, I can only juust imagine, thanks to you! Keep em’ coming!
    Cathy (cuz)

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