Old Siam

It’s amazing what a weekend can do to erase your stress, lift your spirits, and recharge you. I’ve been teaching now for almost a month, and I am just getting in the swing of being up early and orchestrating a class of young kids to sing, dance, and most of all, getting them to fang khru.
Last week I was battling some sort of stomach virus. I stayed home from school Monday, but my stomach was killing me until about Wednesday. I realized that I was super dehydrated and started chugging liters of water which helped my stomach cramps immensely. I really didn’t feel 100% until Friday, so teaching through that all week was not the best. However, Friday night I felt great so Taylor and I went for a run in a nearby park after dark. This park is still under construction, it’s very modern and clean cut not only for Thai standards, but for anywhere. There’s a small lake, a running path, exercise stations, and a security guard, all in this park that sits under mammoth sky high overpasses that connect to the Bhumibol Bridges into Bangkok. I don’t think I will ever get over the sheer size of the bridge and the looping concrete skyways. A quick jog and some stretching felt great after a week of being doubled over fighting some unknown affliction. I just keep thinking that my immune system will be impenetrable in a year (fingers crossed).

ceiling of concrete

super-sized Bhumibol Bridge!
The next day we headed to the old Thai capital of Ayutthaya, about an hour and a half ride from BKK. This small city was once the home to Siam’s capital; a major trading port between the years of 1350 and 1767. At one point, the empire ruled over an area larger than England and France combined. The kings that ruled Ayutthaya ensured that no Western power ever ruled Siam.
The last battle fought in Ayutthaya was in 1767, when a Burmese army sacked the capital, destroying most of its treasures including cutting the heads off of many Buddha statues. The headless statues remain among the ruins today; eternally silent and still.

decapitated statues amongst ruins

The sun was was blazing hot, true to Thai form, but that didn’t stop us from exploring the palace and temple ruins that are located throughout the bustling city. In Thailand, they dress statues of a Buddha in bright gold robes that match the garb seen on Buddhist monks. The gold fabric glitters in the sun and billows in the warm breeze, bringing the images of Buddha alive.
Our group spent some time at each sight, with a trusty tuk tuk driver to drive us from spot to spot. This allowed us to see many of the ancient sights in a mere three hours.

 

bell shaped towers - Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

Khmer architecture

The massive temples in Ayutthaya range from Conehead-esque Khmer style architecture to bell shaped chedi. We visited many temples such as, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, which is home to the tallest standing structure in the city. The chedi is an iconic image in Ayutthaya’s skyline. The wat is surrounded by a perimeter of Buddha statues, all dressed in the signature gold robes.

 

Another highlight in Ayutthaya is the massive reclining buddha. Like the rest of the architecture here, this statue is made of stone. He lies at the base of a field of ruins, propped up on his side.

 

 

golden buddha

We also walked through Wat Mahathat, which was once the provincial center of the Ayutthaya kingdom. All that’s left today are brick ruins and many decapitated Buddhas. The most unique thing we saw the entire day was located on the grounds of this wat. A bodhi tree has merged with the head of a Buddha statue, attaching its roots around the dismembered head creating quite the spectacle. It’s believed that this was caused when the Burmese attacked the city in 1767. The temple was deserted for about a hundred years, leaving nature to quite literally take its reign over the sacked city. The tree head combo looks intentional, but the fact that it happened naturally is just too cool.

natural wonder!
Ayutthaya was an amazing day trip, and an amazing end to a somewhat stressful week. I would recommend anyone traveling through Thailand to go visit the sites and revel in Thailand’s rich history that remains even today. I loved seeing the buddha head grown into the tree, but the image that is burned into my mine are the finely dressed Buddhas that are everywhere, donning sunshine golden robes that ebb and flow in the wind.

the group and the massive chedi at Wat Phra Si Sanphet

triple chedi action

blessed with gold flakes

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

 

4 thoughts on “Old Siam

  1. So cool! I saw that photo of the Buddha head in the bodhi tree but didn’t realize that it happened naturally. I thought maybe someone carved it into the roots.

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