This post is the first in a series we’ll call “Bangkok Getaways.” We will be doing our best to see as much of the region as possible while we’re here, focusing on places that can be reasonably visited in 1-3 days; ideally, a weekend out of town.
Last Sunday we took a bus tour to Ayutthaya, which is an easy 50 minute drive north of Bangkok. It was a great day for many reasons; we met some really great people from the U.S., the UK and Australia, many of whom will be here in Bangkok for the foreseeable future. It was also great to get out of the city for a while. While we love the chaotic urban energy of Bangkok, the trip allowed us to run and climb on rocks, and walk amongst grass and trees while exploring some pretty cool ruins.
Ayutthaya (pronounced “Eye-you-TEE-uh) was a Siamese city and kingdom that had its heyday from 1351 to 1767. It was known for being friendly to foreign traders, including not only others here in Asia, but many traders from Europe as well; while located well away from the Bay of Thailand, it was easily reachable by sailing upriver from the bay. In the sixteenth century, it was described by foreign traders as one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East. The court of King Narai (1656–88) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris. Rather than a single city ruled by a single leader, Ayutthaya was a loose confederation of towns ruled by individuals who owed allegiance to the king. At its height, it was the unbeatable capital of Siam and the most powerful political entity in the region, even conquering the Cambodian area of Angkor.
Compared to the bigger more famous ruins, the Ayutthaya ruin sites were much easier to navigate, especially since we had an air-conditioned tour bus driving us around. One of the interesting things about Ayutthaya was the several different styles of buildings in a relatively small area. You can see Buddhist style temples with which we’ve become very familiar, red-brick stupas and the quintessential Thai-looking ruins that you might see when you Google “Thailand” images.
Another interesting thing about this geographical area is the method of transport; it is a low-lying area and has a number of waterways winding through and around specific ruin areas. In addition to being compared to Paris in wealth and size, it was also nicknamed “The Venice of the East” for all of the boat travel. Tourists can take a boat tour around instead of a bus, which might be something we do in the future.
At this point in our travels, we’ve seen our fair share of ruins. Angkor Wat in Cambodia ranks WAY up there for Asia, followed by Borobodur and Prambanan on the Indonesian island of Java. The Ayutthata area was far more spread out than these other areas, and as a whole, the structures were less ornate. However, there was something about the entire area that felt warm and familiar somehow, perhaps because we’ve now been in Thailand for so long and at this point, have spent lots of time surrounded by Thai architecture. Whatever it was, we had an awesome day of exploring old Siam and having great conversations with all sorts of interesting folks.
Ayutthaya has a very interesting history which is far too grand to squeeze into a blog post. If you are interested Wiki has some wonderful information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayutthaya_Kingdom
All in all, a great easy trip from Bangkok and a wonderful glimpse into the history of the country that’s become our second home.