Posted from: Ayuthaya, Thailand
The ruins at Ayuthaya were like nothing I’d ever seen. Wat Si Sanphet, the largest of the templates, boasting three towering stone chedis, was used by 14th-century kings. I’ve read that it “once contained a 16m-high standing Buddha covered with 250 kgs of gold which was melted down by Burmese conqueror.”
I spent 4 hours marching from wat to wat, astounded that such heritage was plunked around the city, some ignored brick towers in the backyards of slums.
I started my tour at Wat Phra Mahathat and Wat Ratburana, across the street from each other, the former being home to a Buddha’s head statue around which a tree has grown – one of the most photographed sites in the city. Although the head is at knee level, an adjacent sign asks that you not stand taller than the head out of respect, and so visitors crouch and scrabble around on their knees.
I haven’t been to enough ancient grounds to know if it holds uniformly true, but it would seem that they would all exude the same powerful, solemn resonance as these did.
Ayuthaya’s geographical features are worth a mention as well. It’s surrounded on all sides by rivers and the joining and splitting of rivers, making a sort of island in the middle of flatlands. My guesthouse, baan Khun Phra, sits on the bank of the Mae Nam Pa Sak, which meets the much larger Mae Nam Chao Phraya about 1km south. There are tugboats, longboats and little fishing sampans and every building on the channel’s edge has two entrances, one for foot traffic and one for water traffic.
Tomorrow I take the night train to Chiang Mai for a few months of blood.