25: Thailand > Ayutthaya of Old Siam

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The next morning we are cruising along an 8-lane dual carriageway heading for the old Siam capital of Ayutthaya, 85km north of Bangkok. Mind you, this modern expressway is toll-free.img_9318.JPG

Ayutthaya was founded by King U Thong in 1350. Built on a piece of land bordered by the bending Chao Phraya to the north, west and south, they built a canal on the east, thus making the city protected on all sides by waterways. I thought that was cool.img_9320.JPG

Like most ancient cities, Ayutthaya is a fortified all-in-one: king’s residence, seat of government, spiritual centre, commercial hub and social hotspot. This is the Great Chedi Chaya Mongkhol.
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Built by King Naresuan (1555-1605), reputedly Siam’s greatest king, to commemorate his defeat of the Burmese Crown Prince in a hand-to-hand combat on elephants.img_9390.JPG

A huge solitary Buddha welcomes visitors at the front.

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Another view of the same Buddha.
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At the back, more big Buddhas.img_9332.JPG

View from the top of the Chedi.
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The periphery is flanked with more statues.img_9374.JPG

Transient human visitors amidst perennial residents.img_9381.JPG

Interestingly, the profiles of these Buddhas look different from ordinary Thais, esp. the nose.img_9337.JPG

Another angle of the revered statues.img_9342.JPG

A climb on one of these structures is always tempting, even on a hot and humid day.
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Corridor at the top of the Chedi.img_9369.JPG

Narrow steep steps are the norm. Those monks must be fit. img_9385.JPG

There’s a huge reclining Buddha nearby, courtesy of King Naresuan too. Note the lady on the left for size comparison. img_9420.JPG

The familiar serene face.img_9422.JPG

On the Reclining Buddha’s wall, a chameleon tries hard to stay unnoticed.img_9419.JPG

There’s a modern memorial nearby, and I notice it’s very popular with camera-totting visitors. img_9406.JPG

Yes, it’s King Naresuan’s home. I could not quite make out his handsome features, but he is a very much revered fellow.

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And is still very popular, esp. with the girls.

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Definitely a tough, macho king.
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Surely an inspiration for all Thais.
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The memorial is surrounded by a well-tended garden …

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… decorated with cockerels, handsome ones …
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… and oddly coloured ones. But not to worry, these species won’t catch the dreaded bird flu. img_9410.JPG

Apparently King Naresuan is a great fan of cock-fights. img_9394.JPG

Nearby a psychedelic tourist bus waits patiently. In Thailand such colourful buses are quite common. img_9412.JPG

In the car-park, the dominance of Japanese marques is well-illustrated.img_9432.JPG

We have lunch in a village eatery in the bushes, famous for authentic tom-yam and other Thai dishes. Very nice, and thanks to our gracious hosts, Siriwan and Witnai. img_9433.JPG

After a tasty lunch, we return to Ayutthaya for more ruin-hunting …img_9437.JPG

… which are scattered all over the place. There are at least 40 major ancient wats in Ayutthaya, all built when the city was capital of Siam 1350-1767.img_9438.JPG

Of particular interest is this Wat Ratchaburana complex.img_9456.JPG

Backgrounder on the wat.

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Entrance to the hall leading to the prang, the tall column in the middle, which looks like a corn-cobimg_9460.JPG

A chedi (stupa), littered with torsos of vandalised statues of Buddha.img_9469.JPG

Close-up of the dismembered statues. A sad sight, really.img_9470.JPG

The two chedis of the wat.img_9473.JPG

A good view of the prang, flanked by the chedis.img_9490.JPG

Another view of the set, as Aina walks the ruins.
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Closer view of the prang, which is originally a Khmer religious architecture. Those pieces are folded lotus petals.
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The embellishments on the prang are pretty impressive, such as a winged garuda (plus other characters) at each corner.

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Another version at a different corner. img_9504.JPG

The prang has 4 sides, and each side has a huge standing Buddha.img_9508.JPG

Different posture of the Buddha on another side.

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The sacred chamber inside the prang, accessible only after a climb up the steep stairs.img_9513.JPG

From the prang, more ruins among the trees.img_9515.JPG

View of the assembly hall from the prang. Note the headless Buddha. img_9507.JPG

Looters have really made their ugly marks everywhere.img_9520.JPG

Done with the old, we pass by modern Ayutthaya.img_9528.JPG

Along the expressway back to Bangkok, we stop by a roadside vendor, all dressed up for the hot summer sun.img_9541.JPG

She sells a local delicacy – sugar strands to be rolled with thin sheets made of rice paste, and eaten. Quite yummy.
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Also along the way, a familiar sight in Malaysia …img_9531.JPG

… and a mosque too. We are soon back in our B&B for a well-deserved rest. Another hot and humid day done. img_9549.JPG

In the middle of the night, a quick half-hour downpour leaves the neighbourhood flooded. Drainage must be pretty awful here. We are worried our cab cannot come to fetch us for the 7am flight back to KL.img_9574.JPG

Not too worry, the water subsides in time for the cab to pick us up at 4.30am, and soon we greet sunrise at Suvarnabhumi airport.

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Simple design for the control tower, but still nice to look at.img_9584.JPG

From the driveway, bridges connect to the departure area of this modern airport, opened late 2006.img_9578.JPG

The huge check-in area. The high ceiling gives it an airy and spacious feeling. Very well-designed. img_9582.JPG

Past immigration and security, another grand cultural display, which we have seen before in Siem Reap, Cambodia.img_9586.JPG

Yes, the Churning of the Milk Ocean.img_9589.JPG

On the way to the departure gates through cave-ish corridors, in stark contrast to the high ceiling of the departure area outside.

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We are bussed to the Thai AirAsia yard …img_9595.JPG

… and are finally on the way back home as our Thai AirAsia ‘Solartron’ plane passes over the Bight of Bangkok.img_9599.JPG

Acknowledgements: Many thanks to Siriwan and Witnai, for being such gracious hosts during our stay in Bangkok. Siriwan was not well, but she insisted on driving us to all those wonderful spots, which are a heritage every Thai should be proud of.

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