Today we decided to make good use of our hotel’s cheap bike rental and ride forth and see some of Ayutthaya’s top sights. Ayutthaya, like Sukhothai had also had a crack at being the capital of Thailand at some point in it’s dim and distant past and that means we had the chance to see more Wats and other such structures. We knew that today was going to be a hot day so early on we decided that we would just take it all at an easy pace and simply potter along from one place to the next.
Before then though we needed to get to grips with understanding exactly where we were in the city in relation to both our hotel and where we wanted to venture out today. To make matters worse, there were big differences between the Lonely Planet map and the one our hotel had provided us with and some of the street names did not match either! Plus, neither map had a great deal of detail so this was not the best of starts! Therefore, we thought it best to make something of a more measured start to the day and first get ‘Noodled Up’, this we did at one of the small eateries we stumbled upon across from our very first port of call. It was a great place for a bite but to be honest this was much more of a case of having great luck rather than judgement!
The Wat that we were breakfasting across from was called Wat Ratcha Burana which our guide books enlightened us, was built on the command of King Borom Rachathirit the second, who wanted two pagodas built on the very ground where Chao Ai and Chao Yi engaged in single-handed combat both aboard an elephant each and both met their demise. I bet that was a fight well worth watching! The site itself though is still really impressive and you could even go inside the main central temple building which looked like a very elaborately decorated rocket. I did end up doing this bit all by myself though as it was pitch black inside and Liz was not very keen to go in to say the least, if there were any lights in there I couldn’t find them! The site was quite strange though as none of the Buddha statues appeared to have a heads, a theme which seemed to run throughout a lot of the temples we visited today. Somewhere in Ayutthaya, someone (or ones) are sitting on a whole load of Buddha heads!
The next place we went to was another Wat called ‘Wat Mahathat’ and we only had a very short ride as it was just next door! Now in my opinion this was not quite as good a Wat, okay it does have the iconic Buddha head in the tree roots – one of the very few that had not been broken or stolen, is this what they have to do to keep their heads here! Whereas Ratcha Burana had been quite empty and impressive this place was full of tourist crowds and souvenir sellers – tourists eh! The famous head is actually roped off to ensure further thievery does not take place and to keep the crowds at bay. Now I am no security expert but I am not too sure that this would keep away the very determined ‘head-thief’ but it seemed to work with most of the assembled crowd and me and Liz too. This place was still very impressive though just a little too populated or maybe I just like my Wats with less gawkers hanging about so you can contemplate, which is a top thing to do at a Wat or so I tend to think!
Next up for our visitations was Wat Viharn or Wihan Phra Mongkon Bophit a place which seemed to be spelt differently in every piece of guide literature that we read! Whichever way you spell it, the place certainly had the crowds out in droves and many seemed to be Thai or SE Asian so for them it must be quite a significant temple. It was a bit of a mix of being both impressive and shoddy at the same time – possibly could this confusion stem from the confusion over it’s name? Once inside we found out that the large bronze (this time, complete with head!) had been very badly destroyed by fire during the second fall of the city or so I believe!! Here there were a couple of Buddha statues which particularly impressed me, one a jade and gold Buddha in the sitting posture and another which was seated and covered in bits of gold leaf which looked really cool in a strange way!
Wat Phra Si Sanphet stands next door and the board said that this was ‘thee most important and outstanding monastery’ but here there seemed to be no-one about it was quite strange wandering about it almost on our own! Once again, don’t get me wrong but by now it was very hot and although we did have a good look round we were in trouble of being a bit over-watted by it all! To be fair it was quite a hot spot with its three large Chedi built, it is said to store the ashes of three kings. This place is sited within the Royal Palace grounds, the only ruins to be seen of the old palace really are too ruinous to be worth a serious investigation, so we did not bother we merely had a bit of a look from where we were then back through Si Sanphet again.
By this time I think the heat of the Sun must have gotten to us both a bit as we next settled on going for a ride out from the own to go and see a Water Theatre at a market but the details in our Lonely Planet were sketchy to say the least! I suppose all I can think now is that it must have been the heat because along the way we did have many opportunities to ask about the fabled ‘Water Theatre’ but we chose not to. In fact it was not until we were within spitting distance of where we thought it was that we decided to ask someone the way. Somewhat to our horror he informed us that the aforementioned spectacular had actually stopped running a couple of years previous due to, wait for it, wait for it …… yes …. flooding!! Can a Water Theatre actually get flooded I wondered? Well I certainly hoped that the Lonely Planet would go and get flooded to say the least … lol! No wonder it is a Lonely Planet as it is such loser!
Anyhow rant over, when we got back to civilisation once again it was high time for some food in the shade which took the shape of a rather nice Pad Thai served at a very little but shaded eatery. As the food had worked it’s magic we saddled up once again and this time set of for Wat Chai Wattanaram. This turned out to be quite a cycle ride but well worth it both for the ride itself and the magnificent sight at the end of it too! Getting over the river was a bit of a strain though as the bridge was another one which was quite steep – argh! This place was really nice by the river and there seemed to be loads of school trips going on as well. It had a main prang and pagodas at each corner, inside you could even see some wood and paint. It was all in very good condition but sadly, we were not in such tip top shape so after our Ayutthaya tour so we stopped and had a bit of a break outside and whilst Liz had a refreshing coconut whilst I had an ice cream with sweetcorn in it … yes I did say sweetcorn!
By now we were both suffering with pounding headaches so it was back to our hotel for us to have a bit of a rest and to recuperate if we could. It took a good while and a couple of painkillers before we felt well enough to venture back out onto the streets. Even then our only objective was to grab a bit of a night light bite and then return back to our beds for more rest, unfortunately Ayutthaya’s population of midges and mosquitoes also seemed to have the same idea but with our good selves on the menu, oh well we should live to fight another day!