We got up before dawn to get ourselves together before heading out to Ayutthaya. I visited the area four years ago when I was last in Bangkok but Francene had never been so we planned on making a day of it. Our guide Nut was waiting for us in the lobby of our hotel well before the appointed time. After quick introductions we were speeding through the city and onto the highway.
Our first stop was for breakfast as it was still early and we didn't have time to eat. I love that you can get a decent breakfast in Thailand for a dollar or less. Once our plates were clean we visited Wat Phra Chedi Chaimongkol which is dominated by a giant stupa. Built in 1357 this temple was the home of monks who had recently returned from Ceylon after completing their studies under Phra Vanarat Maha Thera. Adjacent to the temple is the Wihan Phraphutthasaiyat, a statue of the reclining Buddha where is it said that if you can get a coin to stick to the bottom of his feet you will have good luck. Guess who managed the task?
Next we stopped off at Wat Panan Choeng which was built in 1324 and houses an enormous statue of the Buddha that stand nineteen meters high. Also within the temple complex are two large statues of the Buddha made from solid gold. To keep from being stolen during the war with Burma they were taken into the jungle and coated with plaster to make them appear a less tempting target. What's interesting is the number of Chinese figures in murals and sculptures of the Buddha in the Chinese style. Apparently the immediate area had an ancient tie to China that has not totally been explained.
Before making our next stop Nut decided we needed an energy boost so we stopped for roti sai mai. This is essentially Thai cotton candy eaten in a piece of flat bread. The sugar is first melted and then placed in a bowl floating in cool water where natural flavoring is added. When the flavor is mixed in and the sugar becomes cool enough to handle it is transferred to a heated plate with melted palm sugar to act as grease. Initially the sugar is held in the hands, pulled, and folded back on itself, then it is put on the hot plate and pulled using wooden pins and folded back on itself until the sugar had the consistency of hair. It is then bagged and sold with flat bread which is rolled around it prior to consumption.
Next we went to Wat Mahathat. This is the temple where you can see the iconic carved head of the Buddha peering out from between the roots of a strangler fig. Built in 1374 it is an important site in Ayutthaya because it housed relics of the Buddha and was close to the grand palace. The central prang was partially destroyed be a lightning strike and subsequently lightning rods have been placed at the top of other culturally significant places to prevent another such disaster.
Just north of Wat Mahathat is Wat Rajaburana. Built in 1424 the central prang, tower, dominates the landscape and is partially encircled with scaffolding as restoration work in currently underway. The monarch who built this temple dedicated it to his two brothers who died fighting each other for the throne he later came to occupy. The prang was looted in 1957 and even though the culprits were apprehended only ten percent of the stolen contents have thus far been recovered.
We then decided to have a little lunch in a quaint restaurant that overlooks the river. As we ate we watched barge after barge pass by with massive loads of sand. It made me glad to have a little shade to cut the sweltering heat of the midday sun.
Once our energy had been restored, at least in part, we went to Wat Na Phramane which was built in 1503. This temple was spared destruction as the Burmese use it at a barracks during the war. It is said that the statue of the Buddha is weeping due to the set of his eyes but I can't really say that I see it. This was the temple where we received a blessing from a kindly monk who wanted to know where we were from and if our hometowns were one of those affected by the winter stormed he had heard about. Apparently he was quite up on the news of the world but it was nice to have him take an interest.
At this point we had been out for seven hours and the heat was wearing us out so we decided to head back to Bangkok. Fortunately we managed to get back right before rush hour so we had time to rest at our hotel before going out to dinner which was at a place only a few blocks away that Nut recommended. The food was good and cheap and with our hunger sated we decided to spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
Tomorrow we're wading in to Chatuchak Market with is comprised of over eight thousand vendors and covers more than thirty-five acres. I expect it is going to be another exhausting day!
Fuji X-T1, Fujinon 35/f1.4R
35mm, f2, 1/170 sec @ 200 ISO