Thursday, May 29, 2014

Thailand 2013: Touring Ayutthaya

The only real reason to go to Ayutthaya is to see temples. The modern town has only 50,000 inhabitants and as far as I know nothing of note. The ancient city, though, had a multinational population (significant communities of Portuguese, Persians and Japanese were present, among others) of around 1 million and was the seat of the Thai dynasty, so that there are a multitude of interesting ruins.
R outside the museum checking out their darling elephant lawn decor: no photos inside. The displays are worth a visit though the interpretation/signage is of little use.

R with one of the Buddhas 
They are obviously very relaxed about ruin exploration: sometimes developing nations are awesome
Famous Buddha head among the tree roots
With R for scale

The true devotee could probably spend a week viewing everything, since it was once one of the world's largest urban areas. We spent three days there, which is probably about enough for most people.
Me doing my very favorite thing: ruin viewing! 

One of the things I liked best about Ayutthaya is that it is still an inhabited city, meaning that the impressive ruins are interspersed with modern structures and many of the temples are still in use. It also makes touring much easier, because shade, cold drinks and transportation are always only a short walk away (ruins in SE Asia are inevitably unpleasantly hot and sunny, since plant life is not good for buildings).
R rehydrating with a fresh coconut 
R hates the sun so I lent her my sunglasses
Offering on a temple fence
An active temple, Viharn Monkholbopit
Another temple: I like the water bottle offerings; Gods get thirsty too!
This statue scared yet fascinated R: she is wearing a skull necklace
Mechanical monk which will squeak out blessings if you put a coin in: big hit with R!

Another machine inside a temple, this one some form of roulette: spin the wheel and see what mood Buddha's in!
Ancient Buddha statue from around 700 AD, Wat Na Phramen
Resident monk (Wat Na Phramen is an active monastery) wanted to bless R: she found him frightening so that's as close as she would get
We took a tuk tuk between ruins (at R's request, the tuk tuks were probably her favorite thing about Thailand). Some people rent bicycles (though then you must be prepared for excessive sweating, there is a reason scooters are the transport method of choice) or taxis; there were also boat cruises available (which we didn't do, something I regret) and elephant rides.
R got an overpriced tuk tuk toy
Chillaxing in the tuk tuk
View from the tuk tuk (the ancient city is surrounded by water, remnants of the moat)
I wrote before about how riding elephants is something to do with caution, and Ayutthaya was a good example of why. I called them the "slave elephants" while we were there, which I think is an accurate description. The chained baby elephant broke my heart (I fantasized about buying it and rescuing it from abuse and misery): not only was it filthy (even though elephants need daily baths) and chained up so tightly it couldn't really move, but it was all alone. Baby elephants in the wild aren't weaned until 4 or 5, and are in almost contact physical contact with their mothers
Slave elephants: they march back and forth on this path all day long
Dirty abused baby elephant
It can barely move because its leash is too short
Leaving aside the sad elephants, though, I really enjoyed Ayutthaya. Thanks for the recommendation UNESCO!

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