Ayutthaya – day 249

So, that weird E number drink from last night brought me out in a rash – ended up taking two anti histamines during the night just to make the itching and redness go dow. So it was slightly understandable that I woke up groggy and heavy headed!! Ate breakfast of toast and fruit with two coffees whilst I waited for my head to catch up with the rest of my body. Used the time to do another load of washing – I don’t think our clothes have smelt so nice in months! After breakfast, we used our last day in Ayutthaya to cross the Chao Phraya River and explore one of the ancient temples outside of the Ayutthaya island. It was a 5km cycle in the blazing hot sun to the temple and we literally inhaled the water when we arrived. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built in 1630 as the first temple of his reign by King Prasat Thong as a memorial to his mother’s residence in that area. The temple name means ‘the temple of long reign and glorious era’ and was where the King and his successors performed religious ceremonies. Princes and princess were cremated here, including King Baromakot’s son (Prince Chaofa Thanmathibet) who was whipped until death for his affair with Princess Sangwal, one of the King’s concubines. His father then ordered the construction of a chedi to shelter the relics of the prince.We walked around the temple, enjoying the de headed Buddha statues and watching a local couple have their wedding photos taken. There was also descriptions about the stucco relief panels that were depicting various scenes from Buddhas life. We were both glad they were there as it would have been hard to tell what the images were truly depicting without the information (think there may have even been a bit of poetic license used to describe the non existent images!!). Jumped back on the the bikes and cycled just over a kilometre to the 7-eleven shop to get some more water and some lunch. Had a toasted pork sandwich and crisps before crossing the (very) busy road and visiting the Wat Kasatrathirat opposite. Built in the Middle Ayutthaya period (1488 – 1629 AD), it is a monastery that is still used by the Buddhist clergy. A really beautifully quiet temple, it had super hot marble floor tiles as we walked quickly between the ordination hall and the group of viharas. It also had a sermon hall with beautiful mural paintings of Lord Buddha’s life story.As we slowly made our way back to the island, we stopped for a quick rest in Sri Nakakharh Park, enjoying the view of the river and playing with the cutest puppy ever – we both wanted to put him in our bike basket and ride off but the owner clearly knew of our evil plan and hurried away!!! After a bit of navigation issues from yours truly, we arrived at Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. Noted mainly for having one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand, the large bronze (guilded) image was built in the early Ayutthaya period. The total height of the statue is nearly 17 metres high, including the 4.5 metre high base. Like many of the other buildings in the area, the vihara was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and reconstruction was completed in 1957. A short walk away is Wat Phra Si Samphet. Considered the holiest temple of the site of the old Royal Palace, the three main stupas in this temple contain the ashes of King Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat, King Rachathirat III and King Ramathibodi II. The original temple was constructed between 1350 and 1351 but, again, was damaged by the Burmese. The Wat Phra Si Samphet was the temple of the royal family; no monks lived there. The Wat was used exclusively for royal ceremonies (such as swearing allegiance). It also served as the royal families private chapel and was the place where the royal family’s ashes were preserved. As we were leaving the temple, it looked like it was going to start raining and, since we had left washing out to dry, we went back to the hotel – making it just in time! Since it was getting pretty late in the day to visit another temple (they all close at 18:00), we decided to call it a day and head to the night market instead for dinner. Today’s street food crawl included papaya salad with Pad Thai noodles for starters, Thai green fish curry for main and mango with sticky rice for pudding. I got myself a sugar cane juice (which Jayne finished) whilst she got herself a weird condensed milk drink full of jelly bits, coconut strands, butter beans and prunes – it was actually nicer than it sounds!Sunday 12th June 2016

Ayutthaya – day 248

Woke up both feeling much better after our day of ‘doing nothing’ yesterday! Had breakfast at the hostel – toast, watermelon, dragonfruit and sticky rice with mango. So glad we were getting on the bikes to burn off all that fruit! For the first time in our trip, we have not downloaded a guide book to use – we decided to simply cycle wherever we fancied and hope that we don’t miss anything important… Headed into the city island in the central part of Ayutthaya and went to Wat Maha That. The Royal temple that houses Buddhas relics was constructed by King Borommaracha I in 1374. It was renovated in 1633 but the Burmese attacked it in 1767, burning the monastery and the abandoned pagoda was left to decay. The site itself is stunning, even with the derelict building, half sinking into the earth. The whole place has a charm about it that we haven’t seen in many other UNESCO sites (and we certainly haven’t seen it for a while!). We walked around the complex, admiring the different stupas and chedis with some decapitated Buddha statues dotted around. As we turned a corner, we saw a huge crowd of people. As we approached, we saw this…Believed to be from around the mid 1600’s, the Buddha head was once part of a sandstone Buddha image which fell off the main body onto the ground. It was gradually trapped in the roots of a constantly growing Bodhi tree. It was amazing and took my breath away – for the first time in my life, I almost felt spiritual…Jayne managed to put some reasoning behind my feelings – nature encapsulating a man made object and reclaiming it as its own. Whatever it was about it, I could have happily sat on a bench and stayed there all day! Kept walking around the monastery site and were approached by a group of students, asking us to participate in a survey. They had a list of questions (written in Thai, English and Chinese) and were so giggly during the interview. They happily posed for a photo with us afterwards. Jayne wanted to interview them for our blog but I think their English didn’t stretch that far…Jumped back on the bikes and headed further north on the island, stopping at a couple of temples we found en route and driving through massive puddles. Arrived at Wat Thammikarat and walked around the ruins there. Slightly bizarre amounts of cockerel statues everywhere… Not really sure why and they were only in one place. A beautiful pagoda with decorated archways and lion type statues. Three little children came and sat next to us, inching closer and closer, practising their English via their dad who was sat nearby. It was so sweet, especially when I asked the young boy his name, he replied ‘my name is what is your name?’ Even his dad laughed!

Headed back to the hostel for a rest and had some noodles for lunch. The lovely hostel owner brought us out some more watermelon as we sat on the terrace deciding what we should do for the afternoon. Once we had cooled down and rehydrated, we jumped back on our bikes to Wat Wora Pho. Unsure of the date of construction as there has been no evidence found to indicate when the temple was built. The Prang itself was massive and there was the vihara of the Buddhas footprint on the south side. Just opposite is Wat Wora Chet Tha Ram. Built around 1593 as a mighty crematorium by King Eakathosaror to honor his elder brother who died in battle. The King invited over 10,000 monks to the Royal cremation. Next we headed to Wat Lokaya Sutha, a massive 42m long reclining Buddha that was majorly reconstructed in 1954 with the remnants of a vihara surrounding the statue. 

Cycled through the backstreets, stumbling across a market which looked slightly like a car boot sale at times, with people selling old coins and a lady who was clearly trying to get rid of her extensive shoe collection – if only I could have got my massive feet into her ‘Hello Kitty’ Toms… Finished our day at Wat Ratchaburana. Located in the central area of Ayutthaya island, it was the place that King Sam Praya’s brothers were cremated and the chedis were built in 1424 as memorials to the princes. Eerily deserted, the area was a mixture of semi-reconstructed buildings, overgrown vegetation and, in places, what looked like a Buddha statue graveyard. Stopped at the night market on the way back to the hostel, continuing our tradition of a progressive street market food crawl. Started with what was basically a sweet pancake wrapped around pieces of sausage and crab sticks… It was weird! Then had an omelette with bean sprouts and oyster sauce although we both decided to have the vegetarian options, not sure either of us wanted to risk the actually oysters in the oyster sauce! This was all washed down with the biggest drink I have ever seen – Jayne was in heaven as it was basically E numbers, food colouring and soda water in a jug full of ice! Finished off the meal before cycling back to the hostel with some homemade coconut ice cream. I went for a cone but clearly with a need for more E numbers and food colouring, Jayne opted for a strawberry ice cream float… I reckon she will be bouncing off the walls all night!!Saturday 11th June 2016