Wednesday, 26 June 2013

An Egg and a Golden Budda

The Golden Budda at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Thailand, is located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River. It is a place I had never before heard of but, after reading rave reviews in the guidebooks, we decided to make the short journey out of Bangkok. 

It is a city said to offer religious retreat and magnificent monuments which celebrate its past splendor as King U Thong’s old kingdom. And indeed it is worth the day trip.

To get there we boarded the rustic, and very rickety, train from Bangkok's Hualamphong station. Once aboard, this served as a cultural experience itself. Young people, old people, farmers, workers, children, business men, everyone crammed into the carriages not caring who were they sitting on or next to.

Despite the noise and calamity, I did a usual Bex and fell asleep in minutes. Jenna later described how people watched with intrigue as I lolled around my seat and created a wave of hilarity when finally, I dove head first into the train window. I immediately awoke with a throbbing pain in my head and embarrassment snaking up to my face as numerous little Thai faces stared back stifling their giggles. Crazy tourists.

When we arrived in Ayutthaya around 2 hours later, I was sporting an egg-sized lump in the middle of my forehead and a slight headache. 

However, we were still swarmed by a flurry of men all offering their services as our personal tuk-tuk drivers for the day. Ayutthaya was once one of the most prosperous cities in Thailand and so has numerous temples, palaces and ruins to visits. A driver can chauffeur you around your hotspots of choice and deliver you back at the train station for less than 100 baht each.

Looking back I have no recollection of our driver's real name but to us he was Enrique. His all black and extremely tight attire, combined with his sexy swagger beckoned for a more wholesome (slash sexy) name. Appearances aside, Enrique was the perfect guide. He took us to the temples he thought would interest us the most, chose a gem of a restaurant for our lunch and delivered us back to Ayutthaya's train station in time for the last train. 

We began at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon or “The Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory”. After all the temples that followed, this one still remains my favourite. I like to think it was because of the dozens of ornate buddas that lined the temples walls, and the enchanting golden budda that lay in wait at the top of the never-ending staircase, but really it was because of the giant Mulan-styled bell I got to gong. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is a truly stunning and serene place to enjoy some Thai history and culture.

We then crossed the city to Wat Mahathat. These beautiful grounds are home to the ancient temple ruins but they also a harbour a hidden treasure. Embedded into the roots of a fig tree, a stone Budda's head sits peacefully at the base. This bizarre but beautiful image is certainly one to behold and enshrines the magical spirit of Thailand.

There were numerous other temples that Enrique whizzed us by, such as Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit and Wat Thammikarat, but it was a relaxing moment when we finally collapsed back into the tuk-tuk and headed back to the station. 

The May heat makes tourist touting an exhausting and sticky affair. So, while we could have spent hours more exploring the Ayutthaya’s extensive beauty, it was time for us to board that train and nestle back against the window.

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