Melting in Ayutthaya

15 10 2008

Ayutthaya, Thailand

When you read about Ayutthaya in guide books or tourist pamphlets, you often hear about the remains of ruined temples that are scattered about the city. It is an extremely historic city due to these preserved sites because it not only marks the different architectural styles of ancient Thailand, but the ruins still hold the scars of wars in which invaders attempted to break the spirit of the Thai people by smashing the heads of every Buddha statue they came across. In fact, one now famous Buddha head toppled from it’s statue and rested next to a tree whose vines slowly grew around it. We saw incredible stupas and chedis from the 12th century which tested our ability to grasp history. In fact there are so many ancient wats in the city that we soon became overwhelmed. Much like a church tour of Europe, there are only so many temples one can see before you stop being able to tell the difference.

Of course, the overwhelming feeling may have also come from that seldom mentioned feature of Ayutthaya known as the heat. On the day of our arrival someone apparently forgot to stoke the coal fires that must lie beneath the city streets. The second and third day of our stay, though, we toured the sites through 100+ degree weather. Normally we would consider this siesta weather and spend the heat of the day napping in our air-conditioned room. However, the demons that run the historic sites decided that closing hours should be around five or six o’clock, which is not nap friendly.

The bandanna on my wrist is for sweat wiping.

The bandanna on my wrist is for sweat wiping.

Luckily the Thai people who do not run the tourist locations have a solution for those of us with light skin and a penchant for sweating like a squished sponge, and that is the night market. Basically every city has one, and you can’t really say that you’ve visited a city until you’ve toured through and sampled the cuisine. Though most food stalls have only Thai writing, some have pictures or even translated menus so that you can order up a plate full of food for usually around $1 or less. If that seems too intimidating, though, there are plenty of grill stands where you can buy various meats on a stick smothered in spicy or sweet chili sauce. Whatever your choice, you’d better like spicy food because they just don’t seem to know how else to cook it. And don’t be surprised if people stare at you while you eat. Farangs (what they call foreigners) are notorious for being unable to palate spicy food and the Thai people are always interested in getting a good laugh. After filling your belly to capacity you can wander through the non-food section of the market and pick up a cell phone, CD’s, makeup, or a even a new pair of shoes. Anything goes at a night market. Oh and ignore my claim at the beginning of the video where I say that this is the night market in Lopburi. That’s where we were going to next. A pretty good sign that we were traveling too fast.

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So after a few warm, but fun days, we decided to take a train to Lopburi. Public transportation in Thailand is a special experience and it’s best to approach it with a sense of humor and a lot of time to spare. For instance, after taking a ride in a Songthaew in which we marveled at the driver’s ability to avoid impending accidents, we arrived at the train station and walked around for about 10 minutes just looking for an open ticket window. Only after knocking on a window of the train station head office was it explained to us that there was only one person working the window…and he was on break. You have to love that.

At least there are no lines.

For more pictures from Ayutthaya, click here.

Ayutthaya Suggestions:
– You’ll find the Night Market and the Chao Phrom Market on most maps, but you can also find an excellent day market behind the university. Few farangs visit there, so prepare to be stared at. Just walk through the main gates of the university and keep heading down the main road until you see it on your left. There’s also a great night market on Bang Ian Rd. We were there on a weekend though, so this may just be a weekend night market. Check with your hotel.
– If you want to take an elephant ride, just wander down Pa Thon Rd to Wat Phraram where you can hitch a short ride along the streets. Don’t worry, you can’t miss them.

Be careful where you walk.

Be careful where you walk.

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