A weekend in ancient Ayutthaya – Thailand

December 2020

I love exploring the unknown, learning about history and culture. I had one weekend off in December 2020 which don’t usually happens but it was also a last minute idea from a friend so decided to go to Ayutthaya which is definitely in my opinion a hidden archaeological gem in Thailand.  Its about 81 km north of Bangkok. The city is filled with temples and monasteries and it has a rich and turbulent history.  You need to have an interest in history and culture otherwise I think you wouldn’t enjoy it as much. The temples, statues and overall ambience of this city were absolutely wonderful. 

I was in Ayutthaya about 2 and half years ago by myself, it was right before a flight back to South-Africa but this time a friend joined me for one day.  It felt great stepping back into history and experience it all over again.

So my journey started on a hot and humid day early in December 2020. There are several ways to travel to Ayutthaya but decided to travel by minivan from Mo chit (Bangkok) bus station to Ayutthaya which took me about 2 hours.  Then I took a motor bike taxi to the accommodation (it was about 50 B for about 3 km).  Be careful for the tuk-tuk drivers because sometimes they’ll give you a set price and they catch foreigners/tourists every time.  I got to my accommodation and it was unique, decorated in beautiful Thai style and that is exactly what I was looking for, getting the full on authentic experience.  It is a family owned accommodation with single and double rooms with greenery plants and trees. They have one restaurant that serves meals and spa treatments can be done on request. 

I arrived there in the morning so decided to check in first and let’s start this day with a coffee, why not?  I did not know this but it was the first day of the annual heritage festival.  It is a 10 day festival and it’s to celebrate the history and significance of this ancient capital.  https://www.tatnews.org/2020/12/glorious-of-ayutthaya-fair-2020-ready-to-once-again-dazzle-and-amaze/

It was found in 1350 and Ayutthaya became the capital after Sukhathai.  I was amazed by the beautiful and traditional Thai attire in all shapes, colors and styles.  It felt great to be having witnessed it all and it was definitely worth it.  So if you are in Thailand around December next year look out for the updates on that and make sure you are there for the opening unless they change the program or plan.  There are also shows that you can see and you can buy tickets for that but if you just wanting to walk around and experience a little bit of the culture then its free entrance.  This year came with a lot of surprises and unexpected situations but this surprise I welcomed with open arms.

Day 2:

After a lovely breakfast and coffee in a garden at my accommodation Alex, my friend arrived.  It’s interesting how you just meet people for a reason.  I think that is one of my favorite things of traveling, to meet people from all over the world and learn more about their cultures.  I’ve met him in Chiang Mai in November and because he is going back to India by end of December we decided last minute to meet up in Ayutthaya again so it was great spending time with a good friend again.

It was still hot in Ayutthaya but we rented bicycles from a store at the corner of the street we’ve stayed for 50 baht for the whole day.  All they need is an ID and your signature, they will provide you with a lock and the bicycles.  So first stop was the most famous temple “Wat Mahat That”

Wat Maha That (wat means temple in Thai)

This was my second time at this temple but it’s one of the biggest and the most famous temples in Ayutthaya.  You will find the Buddha head entwined in the roots of a Boddhi tree. Nobody really know the solid reason how the Buddha head became entwined in the roots of the tree. Some people say that the tree simply grew around the Buddha head during the abandoned period and some people say that someone could move the Buddha head away from the main temple to hide it. This temple was actually destroyed by the Burmese and they also vandalized many of the Buddha images in Ayutthaya by cutting off the heads.  This area remained abandoned till the 1950’s when the restoration began in Ayutthaya.  

  • Wat Ratchaburana

This was actually very close to Wat Mahathat temple.  It was found in 1425 and King Borommarachathirat II built Rachaburana in memory of his two older brothers.  It is not as popular temple as Wat Mahathat temple but enjoyed walking through this ancient historical grounds and I am glad that they still keep the history alive.  You can give yourself about 45 minutes to walk around here.  We were also lucky with the weather, it was clear sky and hot, good for pictures and make sure you drink enough water.  I don’t think Ayutthaya gets ever cold.

  • Wat Lokayasutharam

This temple has a highlight which is the 42 meter long reclining Buddha statue.  You won’t need much time here as it’s not that big.  People do pray here and light some incense and candles so you can do that if you like or just wander around and take some pictures.

  • Wat Rakhang

This was my first time visiting this unique temple.  It’s very small but very unique.  From the one side it looks like a pyramid and I didn’t know this but this temple goes by two names.  Wat Rakhang and wat Worapho.  There are steep staircases to the top, definitely one of a kind.  I’ve never seen a temple like this before.

  • Wat Chai Watthanaram

This was our final stop and if you ever decide to come to Ayutthaya please do not skip this temple, you will regret it.  It’s the farthest temple away from the center of the city. Alex had a great idea and I got dressed up in Thai attire, there are one or two shops just across from the temple where you can hire it in any color and they are really helpful.  I paid 200 baht for that and then you can pay an extra 100 baht if you want them to do your hair and makeup too, it won’t take long.  It was absolutely worth it.  It was a little hot and humid but I just went with it, it felt like an opportunity of a lifetime and I am so glad I did it.  I took some amazing pictures and of course the Thai people that were also visiting were not use to a foreigner dressing up in traditional Thai attire so they requested to take pictures with me, I did not mind at all.  I felt great, confident and beautiful and so grateful for the experience. 

We returned our bicycles just before sunset and went to refresh so we can enjoy one night of the festival.  We walked to the festival and this time it was night already but it was a festival of lights and enjoyed every moment of it.  I had chicken roti for dinner, the proper Indian way and we’ve met some other foreigners too.  They all were working in Ayutthaya.  What a lovely evening. 

Day 3:

After breakfast it was time to take the train.  I felt sad to leave but I was also felt grateful and happy to have had created such unforgettable memories. Don’t expect any luxury but it was a great experience.  Only an hour and a half by train to Hua Lamphong train station in Bangkok.  You can book the train tickets online but we only went to the station and bought it there.  It was only 15 baht for one way.  I don’t know if that was the usual charged price but I was happy to get rid of a few coins J I really enjoyed the scenery.

Final thoughts

It was absolutely worth it.  I really enjoyed every moment of it and it was really one of the best trips ever.  I would say spend at least 2 days if you can in Ayutthaya but make sure you start early, most temples open at 8am.  Traveling makes me extremely happy, it makes me feel alive and I enjoy those cultural and authentic experiences but we all have different ideas and preferences of traveling.  Even though I couldn’t travel abroad in 2020 I was happy that I had some opportunities to experience still things locally and if I can’t travel I will write or read about traveling.  I would say that is a healthy addiction. 

Wherever you go becomes a part of you somehow” – Anita Desai

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Hi there! My name is Ané du Preez and I am from South-Africa but currently teach and live in Thailand. I am a writer and a solo traveler. I love learning about other cultures and traditions. My interest started when I was only a child and my grandparents shared their travel stories through pictures, stories, and writing. This blog is to share my wonderful adventures with all of you. I’ve been discovering the gems of mother nature and its amazing people. Join me as we venture into the beauty and inspiration that is all around us. I am an advocate for all to live their life to the fullest. To travel is to live!

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