First, a little history
Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand located about 80 kilometers / 50 miles north of Bangkok. Actually, more accurately, it was capital of the Kingdom of Siam from 1350 until the Burmese took storm and burned it down between 1765 – 1767.
Today, the ruins remain as majestic structures. Reminders of what the city was previously. Here you’ll get a small taste, but you should really go see for yourself. It’s absolutely beautiful.
The Thailand countryside is beautiful in general, however it wasn’t until Ayutthaya that I had a real, strong appreciation for how beautiful it really is. Or how many temples are scattered amongst us.
From the hotel, I walked about a mile up the road in order to see Wat Phanan Choeng, otherwise known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha. On the way were many unexpected but unbelievable Buddha statues integrated within the more disheveled homes and businesses. Sometimes showing up in the most expected places.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng, also known as the Temple of the Golden Buddha, is a Buddhist temple on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River built in 1324. The tallest building on the complex houses a Golden Buddha statue that is one of the largest, oldest and most revered statues in Thailand. The image is 19 meters (or 62 feet) in height, made of brick and mortar, covered in stucco and is gilded.
According to the legend, this large seated statue, known as Luang Pho To, tears shed from the eyes of the statue just before the destruction of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767.
Wat Mahathat, otherwise known as the Temple of the Great Relics, was once a symbolic center where the Buddha’s relics were enshrined. Located almost right in the center of Ayutthaya, Wat Mahathat was also the residence of the Supreme Patriarch or leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. The history and evidence of utter destruction is something that needs to be seen. Put this place on your list.
One of the most widely known images from this former temple is that of the Buddha head intertwined within tree roots. While no one knows how, exactly, this tree to statue-head relationship came about, the theory is that the Buddha head was cut off by the Burmese during the time of the Burmese Siamese war of 1765-67 and, likely rolled away. The tree roots grew around it during the time the temple was abandoned and so here we have it. One lesser known point of interest is that, if you want a picture of yourself with the Buddha, you must sit or lie down so that your head does not rise above his as that would be disrespectful.
While the Buddha in the tree was quite interesting, it was the rest of the grounds that really caught my eye. The evidence of destruction. The imaging what it used to be like when the buildings were covered in plaster and everything wasn’t charred from flame. Before the buildings started leaning. You could spend hours walking around and still not notice all of the destruction and beauty that surrounds you.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is offers a bit more intimate experience of the Ayutthaya ruins and isn visited by local worshipers and tourists alike. It wasn’t until the 1950’s that a monastery reestablished the site and restoration work began, and continues into today.
One of the first sites you come across is that of the gigantic reclining Buddha. Not the most widely known reclining Buddha, but impressive never-the-less.
Fun fact: the sole of the reclining Buddha is believed to emit magical qualities, therefore it’s not uncommon to see locals rub coins on the feet of the statue in order to be blessed with good luck.
Another fun fact: the image you see today is a replica of the original. This version was constructed in the 1960’s. Again, still impressive.
Phra Phuttha Chaiya Mongkhon, located in the Ordination Hall, is one of the most sacred Buddha images in Ayutthaya.
All around the complex are rows of Buddha images. Some are clearly burned as a result of the Burmese destruction, while others have been added since the temples reestablishment.