Temples of Ayutthaya

Our second day in Ayutthaya was filled with temples, tuk-tuks, elephants, bikes, and more temples. The fact that the city of Ayutthaya has built itself up and around all of these old ruins is absolutely amazing to us. To have such an obvious visual representation of your ancestry is not only awe inspiring, but makes us both a little jealous to tell you the truth.

Elephant Camp

We started our day with a tuk-tuk ride over to an elephant camp where trainers and elephants roam across the grounds offering rides to tourists and locals alike. I was a little nervous to go at first, worried that the animals would be mistreated and not sure how I would handle it if so. But overall, it seemed like the trainers had a good relationship with these surprisingly gentle creatures and none of them seemed to be abused.

We pet and fed the sweetest baby elephant whose appetite just couldn’t be satiated by the corn and cucumbers we offered him.

We took a 20 minute walk around the nearby ruins on the back of one of the large elephants (and his trainer).

It was an interesting juxtaposition between the ancient and the new – as we slowly rode in such a traditional manner and were snapped back into reality when the trainer’s cell phone rang (which he answered of course).

Oh! I forgot to mention that since Christmas was only a few days away, there were elephants dressed in Santa costumes parading across the grounds. Cute or cheesy…?… you decide.

Bike Tour

Back at the resort we rented bikes (for $1.50 each) to explore some of the city on our own. We were initially a little nervous to bike in the busy city where tuk-tuks and motorcycles speed by without much care to anyone. Thankfully it was easier than either of us expected and we both had an absolute blast.

To start off our self-guided bike tour, we consulted our map and headed to Wat Thammikarat, a site where knick-knacks abound and roasters “guard” the entrance to the temple.

Next, we were off to see Wat Phra Ram up close and personal after glimpsing it from a distance during our elephant tour earlier that morning.

Last, and most importantly on our list, was a a visit to What Phra Si Samphet (the Grand Palace) and it certainly did not let us down. We were in awe of the crumbling ruins, the scale of the structures, and the vast expanse of the area.

Just a few yards away from the Grand Palace is Wihan Phra Mongkkon which houses the giant Buddha that used to be located in the middle of What Phra Si Samphet.

We biked back to the resort and rested for an hour or so before leaving for our official tuk-tuk tour of *more* temples.

While we sat on the porch we learned how to say “hello”…  “Sah-wah-dee” … which just happens to be the name of my favorite Thai restaurant back in Raleigh (shout out to Bonnie and Lisa). The only difference is that when you are using the phrase in speech, you need to include the male and female indicators. Sah-wah-dee should be followed by either “khrap” (sounds like kap) if you are male or “kha” if you are female. So if you are male: Sah-wah-dee khrap and if you are female: Sah-wah-dee kha.

Afternoon Tuk-Tuk Temple Tour

The same tuk-tuk driver from the morning picked us up and took us to four amazing temple sites including Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Worachettharam, Wat Maha That and Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

At all of the sites we visited there were areas that were closed to tourists because of the flooding and unfortunately night visits were not possible (because the lighting at the sites had been destroyed). Almost everyone we’ve talked to points out places on the buildings to indicate how high the flood was with a genuine sense of sadness and trepidation.

It blows my mind that just a month ago you couldn’t get anywhere in the city without a boat because the waters were so high. The mental fatigue and worry from the experience is still very evident in how locals speak about the experience and who could blame them. Jordon said it best when he mentioned today, “can you believe tourists were worried about their ruined vacations, while the actual people here were worried about their ruined lives?” It really puts things in perspective.

TEMPLE ONE: Wat Maha That

Ayutthaya is perhaps most well known for Wat Maha That where the face of Buddha grows from within a tree.

The tree is just a small portion of the wide expanse of Wat Maha That and there are other Buddha statues with and without their heads.

TEMPLE TWO: Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana was the next site of our tour and was the most well preserved temple we visited with nagas, garudas and other figures rendered in stucco.

At Wat Ratchaburana you can actually climb into the middle chamber, an area where the public (in ancient times) would come to pray.

Once inside, there is a steep narrow stairway built from the main chamber to access the chambers below from when the tower was excavated in the 1950’s.

TEMPLE THREE: Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Next, we were welcomed to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon by a giant white laying Buddha.

We climbed the large temple of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and ventured inside to see a slew of golden Buddhas gleaming in the dark against each wall.

TEMPLE FOUR: Wat Worachettharam

The night sky quickly enveloped our tour and we ended our temple-filled day at Wat Worachettharam, the home of a HUGE laying Buddha.

Back at the Resort, we both ordered Thom Kha Kai (so delicious) and Pad Thai (so predictable) to finish off the day. Tomorrow we head back to Bangkok to spend Christmas in the big city for two days before going further up North to the city of Kanchanaburi.