Saturday, June 25, 2011

Where the Streets Have No Name and the Buddhas Have No Head

The city of Ayutthaya was once the spectacular capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.  Established in 1351 by King U Thong, the Kingdom of Ayutthaya grew into one of the largest and wealthiest kingdoms in Southeast Asia, trading heavily with such diverse nations as Vietnam, China, Japan, India, Portugal and the Netherlands.  The Kingdom came to a violent end with the sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese in 1767.

Today Ayutthaya is a peaceful town just a few hours from Bangkok, full of crumbling temples that still bear the mark of the devastation inflicted almost four centuries ago.  Most of the Buddha statues are missing their heads, and the ruins only hint at the vast temple complexes that used to exist.
One of the most famous sites in Ayutthaya - indeed, the most photographed site in all of Thailand, if you believe the Ayutthaya tourist literature - is the Buddha head at Wat Mahathat that appears to be growing out of a massive tree trunk.  It's possible that the head was placed there intentionally, as some sort of meditation on nature and the Buddha, but I like to think that it was dropped by the Burmese in their looting frenzy, and enveloped by the tree over the centuries.

It was easy to spend a whole day wandering around, exploring the grounds, poking our heads into the temples, and taking (of course) hundreds of photos.  And it's always fun watching the monks being tourists.

The modern city of Ayutthaya was built around and above the ancient one, and the wide leafy streets, sparse traffic and relatively compact size of the city make it the perfect place to explore by bicycle (although Dave maintains that he would always prefer to scoot scoot scoot).  

And when you need a break from all those temples, what else would you do than ride your bike on over to the local shooting range?
Oh, excuse me, I meant "to the local shootting range"

All of our Ayutthaya photos are available here.

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