The city of Ayutthaya was built in 1350 and once served as the capital of Siam. It was one of the world’s largest cities at the time and became a vital economic and political center. That is, until the Burmese invaded in 1767 and burned it to the ground. You can still find remnants of the city’s past scattered throughout the town today.
One outrageously hot day, Joey and I made a last minute decision (as I always do) to take the train to seek out the Ayutthaya ruins we had read so much about. The train station looked like it was straight out of a Harry Potter movie! The ride lasted a good 3 hours or so with all the stops it made long the way. But aside from the fact that there was no air conditioning, I didn’t mind the long trip. It was a chance to see parts of Bangkok we wouldn’t have otherwise ventured to. And as we entered the countryside, it was especially interesting seeing the big difference there was from the city.
When we finally arrived at our destination, we ran across the street from the train station to a little restaurant where the owner rents out motor scooters. We rented one for about 100 baht, got a map, and were on our way.
Joey was driving, of course, and it was not all fun and innocent like when we were riding around the Island of Ko Sichang. Nope, Joey decided to take full advantage of the fact that there are virtually no traffic laws in Thailand. He was weaving in and out of traffic and even discovered that our scooter could reach a maximum speed of 75 mph…looking back now, it was super exciting, but at the time I was trying to enjoy the sites and read a map simultaneously on top of fearing for my life…so needless to say I wasn’t as stoked as he was.
We got lost more than a few times. One of the times we stopped, I asked for directions from a girl around my age. She didn’t speak English at all. But she kindly took me across the street, into a shop to an older woman…who didn’t speak any English either. All three of us sat there trying to communicate for a good 10 minutes, laughing in between every other word, because we all knew that we had no clue what each other was saying.
In the end, I did managed to make out a few directions. And it ended up being one of my most cherished moments from this trip simply because of the humanity I felt in the situation. I felt a moment of oneness with these people I knew nothing about who live halfway around the world from me, and I would have never known even existed…simply because we couldn’t understand each other. In that moment neither of us were better or worse than the other. Neither were rich or poor, old or young. We were just humans, confused and laughing…and laughing because we were so confused. It was like we were kids again.
And sometimes I wonder if they remember that moment in the same way I do.
I love visiting old ruins or ghost towns; any place that has history to it. So, Ayutthaya was perfect for me! The city is full of centuries old temples and statues that have been devastated by war and reclaimed by nature. The ruins are incredibly daunting. You can feel how massive and prominent this city once was, and you can still see the burn marks on some of the bricks from the Burmese invasion.
Out of all the temples we visited, Wat Mahathat was my favorite. Some of the towers that are still standing lean so far over it looks like they’re about to tumble over at any moment. The grounds are lined with headless, crumbling, Buddhas. It’s also home to the famous tree which has huge roots engulfing a statue of Buddha’s head – no one knows what happened to the body or if there ever was one. Keep in mind when visiting that there is a fee to enter the grounds. Afterwards we walked around some more magnificent ruins and while we were admiring one of them, a Thai soldier stopped Joey and said “You look like Ryan Gosling!”. We got a real good laugh out of that one. Everyone he meets back home tells him that and even now, halfway around the world he still gets that compliment! Priceless.
While we were riding through one of the parks I spotted something I had been waiting to see since we first arrived in Thailand… real, live, ELEPHANTS!! These ones were carrying people through the park in little chairs on their back. I was immediately obsessed and we followed it back to the elephant park. There were quite a few elephants and a precious little baby one…I just wanted to set them all free! You can pay 400 baht per person for a 15 minute ride, but that was a bit out of our budget for the day so instead we bought a basket of goodies (corn and potatoes) to feed them. It was breathtaking being up close and personal to those creatures – when you look them in the eyes it’s like you’re looking into their soul and they’re staring back into your’s.
It was a great way to top off our day-trip to Ayutthaya. Afterwards, we returned the motor scooter and enjoyed a plate of spring rolls as we waited for the train that would take us back to Bangkok.