30 May 2012

A tuktuk here,
A tuktuk there,
Here a Wat,
There a Wat,
Everywhere a Wat What?

Ayuatthaya
Mixup with Wats
Breakfast
Ferries and Tuktuks
Wat Mahatwhat?
Palaces and Museums
Home Chat and
Train.

A ferry across

A ferry across

We thought we would start at the outside Wat which in the book was an ancient Angorian era ruin.  Walking down around the canal was nice, and although there were many people advertising boat tours around the canals, none of them were working.  When we got to the approximate place of the ferry over the canal we walked down a couple of side alleys.  These were nice as they gave a good view over the water.  After a few false starts we found the ferry landing.

As we were sitting there waiting for the boat to pick us up, we realised that we had gotten the photos in the book mixed up with the captions, and the Wat we wanted to see was across town, and that we were going to the wrong Wat.  What was going on with these wats?  We decided to cross over anyway. Paying the ferryman 5 baht we went over the canal to Wat Phanan Choeng. This was a Chinese influenced Wat.  It also had a 19m high sitting Buddha.  This is why it is important.  On the outside there is a beautiful model of a Chinese trade boat completely made out of jade.  It was fantastic.  The Wat itself was made in the 14th century, but has been constantly used and upgraded since then,so it does not look that old.

Jade boat

Jade boat

It was interesting to see that people could buy gold leaf attached to paper, that they would peal off and apply to the statues.  This created an interesting effect where some of the leaf had not attached properly and was blowing in the wind.  This gave the statues a patchwork look with bits fluttering around.  It also left a lot of paper on the ground.

We had a good breakfast outside the Wat, and went looking for the old dutch settlement, as Dutch week was coming up.  We didn’t look that hard and gave up at the police point outside of the Wat.  So we walked back to the ferry.

Wat Mathathat

Wat Mathathat

Returning to the old centre of town (Ayuatthaya is an original capital of Thailand in 1350 – 1767  before this it was a khemar outpost), we decided to catch a tuktuk to the ruins in the centre of the city.  This was good as we were a bit over walking by then, however it was only a kilometre or so.  We aimed for Wat Mahathat.  Famous for its Buddhas head stuck in the roots of a fig tree.  We walked around the ruins for ages.  Unfortunately there was extensive flood damage from 2 years ago and a lot of buildings had an extreme lean on them.  The ruins were very reminiscent of the old khemer ruins in Cambodia.  Not surprising as they were built around the same time (by the same empire?)  After walking around for a long time we started despairing that we were still in the wrong Wat, as we still hadn’t found the most photographed item in the city.  We started following a tour group and found it straight away.  We had gone in the wrong direction to start with.  Finding the head we took our photographs and decided to Wat off.  What?  are you over Wat puns already?

A044posthead

Slightly different than the last Wat

Slightly different than the last Wat

After a quick break we headed over the road to a different Wat (same ruins, different entry fee) that we could see the stupas and  prang sticking out over the horizon.

Wat Ratchburana.  This apparently had murals that were still intact.  Apparently the Prang was built by ? (King Boromratcha) and was robbed in ?  (1957)  They caught the robbers and recovered most of the artifacts.  Most of the temple was destroyed by  Burmese invasion, and as we walked around it we saw the people that are supposed to be looking after it asleep in one section.  Some on the walls and some on the ground.  I must admit though, it was the hottest part of the day.

Inside the Wat

Inside the Wat

The Prang itself was a brick building with a rendered facade.  Most of its statues were still intact,and as we made our way up it we got a view out over the old city.  There were larger than life statues facing each of the compass points, and a myriad of smaller statues on the other points.  It was a cylindrical building with a smaller section attached to the east.  This was the entry point to the kings shrine.  At the top we were greeted by a lot of pigeon shit, and a few live pigeons that were rather disgruntled that a couple of humans had disturbed them.  The top section was rather plain, and there was only a staircase leading down into the depths of the building.  This was rather steep, and only had a few lights with a rather rickety handrail.  We were not sure if we were allowed down, but as there was no barrier tape or rope I decided to risk it.  About half way down there was a cement block that almost completely covered the stairway with only a small gap left on one side.  The handrail turned to rope and the steps got so small that it was a challenge finding purchase on them.  I decided to risk the broken neck and proceeded down into the gloomy depths of this narrow space.  At the bottom, I thought it had been a useless endeavor, as there seemed to be nothing but a concrete block.  On inspection this turned out to be a step.

A045posttemple complexTaking this step up revealed two lights, one on the left and one on the right.  These highlighted three niches.  Left, centre and right.  This was the shrine that the grave   robbers had dug into.  It was also where the murals were.  These were done in a red ocher, and depicted Buddha, birds and the tree of life.  There were shelves where the treasures were placed as well.  Climbing back out into the daylight was a relief, although quite a task, especially as I had descended to ground level, and was going back to the top, only to climb down again…

The King of all Chickens!

The King of all Chickens!

We are done with Wats for a while.  Off to the old palace.  Deciding to walk, we passed a few other old ruins which were nice to take in as we took a break.  Then walking with the canal on our right through the town, and out the other side.  This is where the palace is supposed to be.  At the moment it is just parkland with a lot of people out there maintaining it.  Wipper snippers everywhere, with people dressed up and no skin showing other than the eyes over the face masks.  Walking around this park was a trial, as the road was narrow, and there were piles of stones all along the road side.  I think they are planning to upgrade the road at some stage.  After a while we came to another Wat.  The chicken king Wat.  Wat Tummickarat.  This is an old ruin,and new temple.  There is a statue to one of Thailand’s kings here, and he is surrounded by offering of statues.  All these offerings are roosters!The Wat is not very impressive, but besides the chicken king there is also a really big head of Buddha.

We should have posed next to it for scale.

We should have posed next to it for scale.

Back to walking, and we decided to take a tuktuk to the museum that is supposed to house the items taken from Ratburana.  The tuktuk driver took us the scenic route.  The rest of the way around the park, up through the centre of town, where he stopped at the main entrance to the park.  We thought he was going to drop us here, and knowing that it was the wrong spot we started to worry.  However he only wanted directions.  Driving a bit longer we ended up about 50 metres from the ruin that we had taken a quick break at before.  He told us we were there.  Where?  There was only buildings around us.  No Museum.

Lots of Wats

Lots of Wats

However he was insistent, so we got out.  A walk later we came across the towns local markets where you could get your fish to take home on your new mattress.  Being over markets we continued on, and out the other side we found the museum.  It was about 500m from where the tuktuk driver had dropped us further down that road.  On entering, we were the first foreigners for the day (it was about 4pm by then) as our first ticket had the wrong date stamped onto it!  Walking through the museum we found out why. It wasn’t worth it.  The old palace was nice, and well maintained, yet there was really nothing there.  Going up the celestial observatory, we had to take off our shoes as usual, then walk up stairs covered with pigeon shit.  Just so we could look out at the three story building on the one side, as they were the only windows open.  In the main hall it was more interesting, as they had a collection of wardrobes.

Observatory

Observatory

However all descriptions are in Thai, with no English translations.  Our 100 baht goes a long way to getting nothing.  I agree with free entry for locals and even Thais in general, but if you are going to charge tourists, have something there for them!

We headed back to Baan Eve to grab our bags, and have a drink.  I feel a bit sorry for them as they were badly affected by the flooding two years ago.  We struck up a conversation with a nice Kiwi couple and whiled away the time until we needed to go to the train station to catch our sleeper train to Chiang Mai.

The sleeper train is actually quite comfortable.  Besides the fact that it was over half an hour late (70km from Bangkok) there are two bunks on either side.  The top is smaller and narrower, with seat-belts from the base to the roof to prevent you from rolling out.  The bottom is wider, and is good enough for a couple if they like each other.  Needless to say, Andrew slept up the top!

AA

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