Ayutthaya: A place of history, temples and markets

IMG_20150531_103125As I had a three day weekend due to Buddhist celebration of Monday, I wanted to take a trip to somewhere not too far from Bangkok. I knew I would only be spending one night here as my friends that were visiting Thailand were departing on Saturday and Sunday.

I had heard so many things about Ayutthaya and it certainly didn’t disappoint. To get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, I brought my ticket and started my journey at Hua Lumphong train station. It only cost 20 baht for a ticket. The trains are pretty standard with hard seats and packed carriages but with the price and it only taking about two and a half hours, it is so worth taking an excursion to this part of Thailand.

IMG_20150531_095605On the way, I met a French guy, who I ended up spending the day with. After the train journey, We walked to my hostel (Baan Are Gong), which was less than a five minute walk to check in. Unfortunately the room wasn’t ready so we rode a boat, which was about a minute walk, to the main Island. There were many Tuk Tuk drivers pestering us to take us around on the main road but it’s easier, quicker and cheaper to get a long boat.

Today, we strolled across the whole Island for miles and miles to explore the city. Majority of the time, I like to travel by foot to get the feel and bearings of a new place. I find that it is always a good way to get lost and discover unknown areas or places which can’t be found in a travel guide.

IMG_20150531_143825Ayutthaya is an impressive city with stone remains from the Burmese invasion, which nearly completely burnt the city down to the ground.

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Phra Ram Park

Over the two days, I managed to see nearly every temple, both ruins and functioning ones. Some had admissions fees; others didn’t. Before lunch, I scouted temples including Wat Mahathat, Wat Ractchaburana, Wat Thammikarat, Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, Wat Phra Si Samnphet, Wat Worapho, Wat Worachettharam, Wat Lokayasutharam (gold reclining Buddha) and Ancient Palace. Around some of these temples is large, well-kept, beautiful Phra Ram Parks with steams and bridges. Up one of the streets, elephants were trudging aimlessly with tourists on their backs. Nothing really surprises me in Thailand especially when it came to animals. It’s normal to see theses sort of happenings.

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Wat Lokayasutharam

Lunch was difficult to find as there wasn’t many places to dine but we did find a small place that sold a limited of options.

After, we walked and admired the architecture inside and out of Chedi Sri Suriyothai,  Wat That Ka Rong, Wat Thammaram and Wat Kasattrathirat, We then caught a Songtaew but unfortunately we went further than we thought so we roamed around Wat Na Phra Men, Wat Choeng Tha, Wat Salapoon Worawiham.IMG_20150531_111627
From here we grabbed another Songtaew to Wat Racha Praditsatarn and Wat Khun Saen. We found a market full of food and little cabins. As it was nearing the end of the day, we took a long tail boat back to the guesthouse where the French guy left to go back to Bangkok.

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Wat Chaiwatthanaram

I rested my feet for a while before deciding what to do that evening and the following day. During the evening, I hired a motorbike to drive to the opposite side to see the view of Wat Chaiwatthanaram, which is a replica of Angkor Wat with the sun setting behind. It felt tranquil and before my eyes was a spectacular sight. For dinner, I ate at one of the night market on the riverside looking at Wat Monthop. I got told about another night market so I drove around trying to find the other it. Eventually, I did and brought a delicious creamy Oreo cake for dessert.

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Wat Monthop

The next day, I wanted to see pretty much the rest of Ayutthaya. Jumping onto my motorbike, driving through crazy traffic, across lanes, I searched for the elephant village and floating markets. With a huge sign above the road leading to my destination, it was easy to find especially as I wasn’t aware that they were both side by side. After parking up, I spent time with the elephants, feeding, stroking and posing for selfies with them. Right here, there was an entrance to have photos with some tigers but as I peered through the door, I could clearly see one completely out of it. I just didn’t want to pay to have a photo with an animal that wasn’t treated right. It looked tired and miserable with no life.

IMG_20150601_102603On one side of the elephants was a fun fair sort of market with food and souvenirs. On the opposite area was the huge floating market. Actually I’m not sure it can be called a proper floating market. Yes, i could see water but things were being sold in wooden huts and not boats. There was a variety of souvenirs, food, clothes to buy. It was extremely pretty and definitely worth a look.IMG_20150601_104907

Riding back on the motorbike, I admired many temples including Wat Samanakottharam, Wat Kudidao and Wat Pradoo Songton. From the previous day, I had heard about the Buddha head in the tree so I went on a mission to find it, which I soon discovered was in Wat Maha That, which is one of the temples that has an admission fee.

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Buddha Head in a tree, Wat Maha That

Before having lunch in a local Thai restaurant, I drove to Wat Phu Khao Thi and King Naresuan Monument, which were stunning. I did one last round of Ayutthaya to soak up the area for the last time. As I was driving back to drop off my bike, I was zigzaging through the crazy traffic, nearly being hit by several vehicles. There are not any traffic rules so drivers seem to do what they like. It just means that I have to have my head screwed on while on the road.IMG_20150601_114842

Ayutthaya is a beautiful city, full of spectacular ruins.

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Xplore Asia Excursions: Temple, pineapple farm and elephant sanctuary

IMG_2731Xplore Asia organised several incredible excursions as part of orientation week.

On Wednesday afternoon, we ventured out to a Thai Temple towards the South of Hua Hin as Buddism is a massive part of the culture. Climbing up to part of the temple, revealing pictueque views of Takiap beach, we were expected to take off our shoes, where we received a bracket from a monk before he blessed us all. It was interesting to discover that monks are not allowed to touch a women, even to give them something small. There were several status of Buddhas around the temple as well a little shrine. The shrines are outside every home, and Thai people put a blessing in front of them every morning like a bottle of fanta. The fat Buddhas are traditionally Chinese, whereas the skinny Buddha  are Thai. There was a mixture scattered around the temple.IMG_2741 After, we hiked up some steps, where as per usual I went bare foot walking on the scolding floor to the huge Buddha on top of the temple. The view was magnificent. Soon after, we found ourselves sitting on mats in front of a Buddha shrine, where we were shown how to show respect and a ritual that is performed every time. They take some incense sticks, light them and place them into a stand, then clasp their hand a certain way and bow. They do this three time. We had a short time to meditate, empty our minds, before leaving to hear a message from a monk. From my understanding of Buddism, they believe that you should stay on one emotional level, never to feel down or up, just balanced, which is why they meditate to clear every thought. I love how they much they respect each other and will always be willing to do things for others. IMG_2753

Next on the agenda was to go to ‘Rescue Paws’ compound, which is a charity that helps stray dogs. As you walk around Thailand, I am overwhelmed with the amount of dogs wondering around, looking sick or injured. This is a great charity that has helped so many dogs. We got the chance to meet some of the dogs and give them a cuddle. Normally I’m not an animal person but they were cute.

At the end of our week, we had a whole day of trips to explore the culture even further. First, we headed to a local pineapple farm. Rows and rows of pineapple plants surrounded us. I didn’t even realise that pineapple grow from the a plant in the ground rather than a tree. You learn something new every day. IMG_2799After trying the deliciously sweet pineapple as well as some mango, we packed buckets of pineapples to take to our next destination: an elephant sanctuary. I was so excited. IMG_2881

As soon as we arrived, there were several elephants. Feeding an elephant was an amazing experience but also kind of scary. The elephant grabbed the pineapple with its trunk and scoffed it into his mouth. His truck was just flapping around but managed to get a selfie with him as well as stroke his rough, prickly skins. Round the corner was a younger Chang, IMG_2889where he cuddled us all individual and played with us. Impressively, he charged at a football to score into a net.

While hanging around, I met a young Thai girl, maybe about 4 years olds, who I decided to play with. She was so cute. Thai people are so friendly and always give you that genuine smile. IMG_2920

On the way back, we stopped off at an artist village, where we were taught to do some Thai art, trying to get us connected with our creative side. Handing out henna paste meant that we were all able to draw henna on ourselves and other. This was the first time I had done this. The hardest part was deciding what to draw. 

The whole week has totally exceeded my expectations with some memorable experiences and excursion. I feel extremely blessed.

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