A few months ago I attended TBEX Europe at the Costa Brava, my first Travel Blogging conference. The next TBEX will be held in Asia this year in October, in Thailand’s capital Bangkok. Although I still don’t know whether I am able to attend or not I would so much love to go since I highly enjoyed my first TBEX and especially because of Bangkok.
Bangkok has been the first place where I touched down in Asia when I was 16, together with my Mom. It was also the first spot in Asia which I visited all by myself ten years later and I returned to the “City of Angels” about ten times so far, my most recent visit was in December 2014. Bangkok has been my favourite place in the world for many years and although it is not my number 1 city in the world anymore, it is still one of my Top Five Destinations to return to. From the Royal Palace and the Wat Phra Khaeo, Wat Pho with the golden reclining Buddha and Wat Arun to the Golden Mount, the Jim Thompson House and the Menam Chao Phraya river – Bangkok has so much to offer. Nearby attractions like Kanchanaburi with the Bridge over the River Kwai, the Sai Yok National Park and the Temples of Ayutthaya are also very much worth a visit.
I visited the Temples of Ayutthaya in late March 2009. Different than other people I decided not to go to Ayutthaya on an organized daytrip from Bangkok but individually and I also chose to stay overnight. It was the hottest time of the year and even many Thai people who are a lot more used to the heat than we are told me that they have problems with the high temperatures and the humidity at that time of the year. The good thing is that ever since I can stand the heat quite well.
I was told that the best way to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is by public overland bus from the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal. Since my hotel was located at the Menam Chao Phraya river I headed there by Chao Phraya Express boat and taxi.
When arriving at the bus terminal I had some trouble finding the right bus and hardly anyone there spoke English. Also on the bus I was the only western person and the only one who spoke English. Since the announcements on the bus and the signs at the bus stations were only in Thai, I was concerned that I would miss my station. Every time the bus stopped I asked the bus driver “Ayutthaya?” but every time he shook his head. After more about one and a half hours the other passengers started to gesticulate wildly and exclaimed “Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya!” to show me that I have to get off the bus.
It turned out that my hotel was quite a bit outside of Ayutthaya and that the only way to get there was by taxi or Tuk Tuk, so it was not surprising that there were permanently several taxis and Tuk Tuks waiting in front of the Hotel.
The Temples at Night
Networking apparently worked very well in Ayutthaya. I was soon introduced to the mother of the taxi driver who drove me from the bus stop to my hotel so I hired her for a night sightseeing tour of the temples. Well, that sounds more spectacular than it was because the temple complex was closed and all I could do was watching the temples and taking photos from the outside. Unfortunately I wasn’t good at taking night photos at that time; except of a nocturnal image of the King U-Thong Monument all of them were blurry (in the meantime I have taken a night photography course which has so much paid off – very well spent 88 Euros!).
King U-Thong Memorial at night
A horrendous Night
The night was horrendous. I had booked a hotel room with riverview and that’s what I got. What I didn’t know before was that the hotel was located between the main railway connection which connects Bangkok and Northern Thailand and the river. Every 30 minutes trains passed by with loud whistling and it felt as if the trains were going right through my room. I didn’t sleep for more than two or three hours. Apparently other hotel guests felt the same; when looking out of my window at night I saw several hotel rooms illuminated.
When getting up the next morning I felt totally knocked out but I really wanted to see the Temples of Ayutthaya and I had hired the same Tuk Tuk driver than last night for a sightseeing tour.
Nice view but noisy hotel room
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
The first stop was at the Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon which was constructed in 1357 at the instigation of King Ramathibodi I., the first Monarch of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, as a home for monks returning from Sri Lanka after studying under Phra Vanarat Maha Thera. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is located outside the actual Temple complex and is characterized by the many Buddha statues with their yellow sashes which stem from a more modern time.
Wat Chai Watthanaram
Then we headed to Wat Chai Watthanaram which is located at the westbank of the Menam Chao Phraya river, southwest of the old town of Ayutthaya. It is one of the best known Temples of Ayutthaya and was constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong in Khmer style. Most remarkable is its 35 metres high prang with four smaller prangs and eight chedi-shaped chapels. Like most of Thailand’s former capital Ayutthaya Wat Chai Watthanaram was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. Its reconstruction started in 1987 and it was re-opened to the public in 1992.
Since this temple is quite big and very impressive I spent quite some time there.
Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit
Once I was finished my Tuk Tuk driver took me to the Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit or the “Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence” which was built in 1538 under King Chairacha and is known for its 15 metres high bronze Buddha, one of the biggest bronze Buddhas of Thailand which is a reconstruction of the original of the 15th century.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Afterwards I visited the Wat Phra Si Sanphet which was built in 1351. It was once the holiest temple of the Royal Palace of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya and home of the royal family. Furthermore it was the greatest and most beautiful temple of the former capital of Thailand until its destruction through the Burmese in 1767. Its original state was also a model for the Wat Phra Kaeo in Bangkok. The three chedis were restored from 1956 and are nowadays characteristic for the Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
Then I headed to the Wat Mahathat, probably the most famous and most photographed Temple of Ayutthaya due to Buddha head with tree trunk and roots growing around it. I have to confess that at the very beginning this Buddha head was one reason why I wanted to visit the Temples of Ayutthaya. But Wat Mahathat has more to offer and although the temple was also destroyed, it is still impressive. It was the residence of the Supreme Patriarch, the leader of the buddhist monks. Its main prang was restored but destroyd a second time in 1911. At its feet is still one preserved sitting Buddha, but the other Buddha statues are destroyed.
The Wat Ratchaburana lies north of Wat Mahathat and was built in 1425 by King Borommarachathirat II on the cremation site of his two elder brothers. Its central prang was rebuilt after destruction and is nowadays supposed to be one of the finest prangs of Ayutthaya.
After the visit to Wat Ratchaburana I asked my Tuk Tuk driver to drop me off in the city centre of Ayutthaya. I would have really loved to see the other temples of Ayutthaya, but I was absolutely exhausted. After a late lunch I took the minibus back to Bangkok. This was a lot more convinient than the public overland bus. Indeed both busses departed from Ayutthaya in the Naresuan road, but while the public overland bus drove back to the Ekkamai Eastern Bus Terminal in Bangkok the minibus stopped at the Victory Monument from where my hotel was easily accessible with the Bangkok Skytrain and the Chao Phraya Express boat.
Originally I had considered to do a daytrip to Kanchanaburi with its infamous Bridge over the River Kwai the next day. But asI departed for a journey to Northern Thailand, Laos and Northern Vietnam two days later, I was just happy to relax in Bangkok till then.
I have visited Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai plus the Sai Yok National Park the year after as the start of a trip through Yunnan Province and Tibet.
By Train: Trains to Ayutthaya depart from the Hualamphong Train Station in Bangkok and are supposed to take 1.5 hours.
By Bus: Nowayday the bus apparently leaves from the MoChit Northern Bus Terminal and takes between 1 and 2 hours, depending on traffic.
By Minibus: Minibusses start at the Victory Monument in Bangkok and take between 1 and 2 hours, depending on traffic.
For the Temple visit you can either hire a Tuk Tuk or rent a bike. The latter gives you more freedom to discover the Temples at your own pace.
I stayed at the “Woraburi Ayothaya Convention Resort” but I wouldn’t recommend it. Not only because it was noisy, but it was too expensive compared to what it offered. Due to recent reviews on the Internet it still doesn’t seem to be good place to stay.
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