I couldn’t help but have a huge grin plastered on my face when the bright morning sun greeted us as we approached Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport. See, the previous 3 days in Hanoi have been wet, damp, cloudy, and not to mention that I ran out of socks and my Pumas were soaked and smelly (Eugh!). I was done with the balmy weather, wet pavements, moist air, and mud-splashes from passing motorbikes. Really, I just couldn’t wait to see some sun and go back to my daily uniforms of shirt, capris, and Birks.
We made our way through immigration and hopped on the train to go into the city. As we were walking out of the BTS Skytrain station, a wall of hot, humid air, that characteristic of a south-east Asian city hit us like a tidal wave. Plus, we heard a million different honks, tuk-tuks offering us rides, busses screeching to a stop, and street vendors yelling on top of their lungs. This is Bangkok and I didn’t realize how crazy and energetic this city can get. So, after 2 days of exploring it, we decided we needed to get out of the city if we wanted to keep our sanity. We caved and we did what any tourist would do: we walked to Khao San Road and booked a guided day trip to Ayutthaya, going there by bus and returning to Bangkok via a cruise on the Chao Praya River.
Ayutthaya, a small city located about 85KM north of Bangkok, was the second capital city of the Kingdom of Siam after Sukothai fell from its power. In 1767, the Burmese army came and destroyed the entire city, mass-murdering, raping, and enslaving the Siamese citizens residing in Ayutthaya, and eventually collapsing the entire kingdom. The site of the ruins from that historical invasion has been converted to Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
We started with the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace, which covers a vast ground complete with gardens, canals and rivers, a Chinese temple (Wehart Chamrunt), and an observation tower (Ho Withun Thasana).
The Royal family used to come here for their vacation; however, lately it has only been used to host international guests and diplomats. Unfortunately, we didn’t get a chance to cover the entire ground as it was HUGE (think Versailles!) and we were only given about an hour to roam around.
From the summer palace, we went to Ayutthaya Historical Park. As I have mentioned above, it was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991 and it contains the ruins of the old city of Atutthaya, including Wat Maha That, where a Buddha head is entwined within the roots of a fig tree (pretty darn cool, if you ask me!).
We continued to Wat Na Phra Men, a temple still in its perfect condition as it was used as a headquarter by the Burmese army. It houses the most beautiful and the largest crowned Buddha image in regal attire, considered to be a very valuable national treasure.
Our last stop was Wat Lokayasutharam with the second largest reclining Buddha statue in all of Thailand (the first being in Wat Pho), measuring 37 Meters in length and 7 Meters in height. The reclining position symbolizes the Buddha’s passing from being a mortal into a state of Nirvana.
The cruise back to Bangkok was meh. Considering we were promised authentic Thai food, it was disappointing to see what they served were nothing remotely close to that! Plus, we sat with a very loud and obnoxious bunch of Korean-Aussies (Australian-born-Koreans) that made me want to just jump into Chao Praya river and swim all the way back in a blissful silence.
Other than that, the rest of the day was awesome and I’m glad we got out of the city for a little bit.