Nice Temples, Not so Nice Town
Ayuthaya’s attractions are its ruined temples, built during its heyday in the 400 years that it served as the Thai capital. These are in a similar style (although not on quite the same scale) as the Khmer temples at Angkor and the now utterly destroyed remains of My Son in Vietnam.
|Wat Phra Si Sanphet, the largest of Ayuthaya’s many old temples|
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest of the remains and was once the royal palace. Its centrepiece is its three large white pagodas. Each of these is bell-shaped with an elongated tapering spire at the top. The pagodas stand in the centre of a world of brick towers, pillars and half fallen down walls.
This is the kind of place to explore at leisure and best when there are few other people around to spoil it. I can think of nothing worse than coming here on a tour bus and filing round the many different ruins on mass with some bloke providing a worthless garbled explanation in semi-coherent English. You could get round all the sites in one day but so what? You’d have seen Ayuthaya, but with a place like this you need to feel it, man.
|Wat Chaiwatthanaram by night|
The stray dog situation here has got completely out of hand as well. There are packs of mangy looking dogs everywhere, loitering on all the streets and lazing around the temple sites. At night they howl to each other until the early morning. I heard a rumour that they cleared the dogs off the streets of Bangkok and dumped them elsewhere in Northern Thailand and it looks like they put most of them here. We saw one earlier with a hugely swollen left eye, protruding from its socket like a glassy red marble. I won’t forget that in a hurry.
The town may be a dump, but the ruins are great. This morning, Jo and I wondered around Wat Phra Ram in the centre of town. I climbed the tower in the middle and we meandered through the forest of brick towers and remains. As with other temples we have been to here, it wasn’t deserted, but there weren’t all that many people about and the site is large enough to absorb them. We have never found ourselves getting in anyone else’s way here.
|Statues of the Buddha at Wat Phutthaisawan|
In the evening we took a boat trip to the mega-impressive Wat Chaiwatthanaram, supposedly modeled on Angkor Wat. It does bear some similarity with its imposing 35 metre high central tower, surrounded by four lesser prangs. All this is within a brick courtyard where we could see the remains of dozens of statues of the Buddha which once stared inwards. Beyond this, there was another ring of nine towers. It’s the most amazing monument, possibly the best there is in this city full of amazing monuments.