It felt like the hottest day of the year when we went to Ayuthaya. Equipped with: hat, water, sunscreen, t-shirt, long pants and comfortable shoes, I still could not fight the urge to pass out after our temple spree.
Getting to Ayuthaya from Bangkok was really easy. We opted for a local train (no air-con…) which only cost 20 Baht and took under two hours to get there. In retrospect, I really wish I had packed a snack and some water!
Once off the train we were ambushed by the tuk-tuk drivers waiting outside the station eager and ready for a new customer. Generally, I feel very overwhelmed when this happens: many faces pointing up at me (I’m much taller than most Thai men, let alone women), pointing at laminated cardboard signs, speaking loudly and rapidly in a mix of broken English and the local language, gesturing for me to follow. Thankfully, my friend visiting from Canada was her usual calm self. We politely declined many of the offers with a big smile and small shake of the head and made our way to a couple in their green tuk-tuk. What appealed us most about this tuk-tuk was that it was really cute, but more importantly it had a female who spoke English at a more than reasonable level. The price negotiated was 1000 Baht (well 800 Baht and we gave them a 200 Baht tip) for the full day, not including all of the entrance fees to the temples or meals. Most temples free, and the three that weren’t cost approximately 30 Baht each.
I was very happy with our choice. The couple was friendly and really made our day comfortable. They took us to seven temples throughout the day from Wat Phra Sanphet to Wat Phra Mahathat, giving a brief history of each site, and provided us with pamphlets of information to supplement our Lonely Planet guides. We had learned that the wife had lost her job, and had in turn decided to help her husband attract new business as a tuk-tuk driver. In truth, it was a strategy that worked since it really differentiated them from the others at the station.
Our first stop was at Wat Phra Sanphet with Buddha statues covered in bright yellow silk shawls. We spent a long time there trying to take it all in. It’s amazing that Ayuthaya was once a former capital city of Thailand. Wat Phra Mahathat reminded me of the Angkor temples (Cambodia) with the tree roots overtaking the sculpted stone, and Wat Chai Wattanaram reminded me of Prambanan (Indonesia). The large reclining Buddha (my favorite of Buddha’s poses) really drew me in at our very quick photo stop at Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. I could have stayed and stared at the statue for hours (45 degree sun aside). By the time we had reached Phukhao Thong, I was beat. The gleaming white structure seemed to reflect the sun’s rays to my direction specifically. I decided to take it all in from a distance, under the shade of a tree. Popsicles were available for sale at our last stop: Wat Phra Mahathat, making it far more favorable. The large Buddha image housed within the site’s principle building offered a shady spot to sit and relax before making the journey back to Bangkok.
To do Ayuthaya again, I would opt for a January visit where the sun is a little less strong. Although I really enjoyed the visit, I don’t think I appreciated the sights as much as I should have. Will definitely go again!