The latest in the series of snippets from the blog of my travelling companion for Asia, Burness, as well as a short interview, on his views on a World Wonder. This time: Ayutthaya Historic Park.
[After checking in and hiring bicycles] we tried to first of all find the tourist information centre, but when we did it was shut. Ayutthaya was badly damaged by the floods with over a metre of flood water in some areas. The tourist information centre was closed for refurbishment, and when we arrived at Ayutthaya, we discovered that the charge for the site was waived, presumably to encourage tourism.
We cycled around stopping at several points of interest. The area is fairly large and in Ayutthaya’s heyday I’m sure the ancient city would have been astounding. But it is very ruined, most of what’s left is rubble after the city was sacked by the Burmese. After the defeat the King moved to Bangkok and a new capital was established, the bricks from Ayutthaya were in fact used to build the Grand Palace.
On the first day we took an audio tour round one of the ruined sites. It was very interesting learning about the history behind the Ayutthaya civilisation. The first site we visited had the famous picture postcard photo of Ayutthaya with a Buddha head covered with tree roots. It looked cool and reminded of Ta Prohm.
We made it back for the afternoon cruise. It was a good way to see the rest of the city, we saw ruins, some big Buddhas and an impressive sunset view of one of the temples.
We went back in the evening as our lonely planet guide had informed us that the temples were illuminated at night. Unfortunately this wasn’t the case, the recent flooding must have played havoc with the electricity. It was an experience riding about in the pitch black. I persuaded Nev to jump over the walls and check out one of the main temples in the dark. As soon as we approached, about a dozen stray dogs intuitively knew our intention and jumped up on the temple walls and started barking feverishly at us. In the pitch black we could picture the saliva drooling from the rabid mouths, and that was enough for us to abandon the plan and get straight back on our saddles.
The next day we woke up early and set off on our bikes. We went straight for the main temple we’d bizarrely managed to miss the previous day. This temple was the best, with three large, almost identical stupas. We got an audio tour which was again very interesting. We checked out the other temples we’d visited the previous day, then had lunch and left for the train station for our return to Bangkok.
Had you heard of Ayutthaya Historic Park before travelling?
No. And I was quite surprised, as I'd been to Thailand before.
What were your expectations?
Pretty low. You kept on referring to it as being very ruined, and I wasn't expecting much.
What was your first impression?
It kind of lived up to my expectations - it was very ruined. It didn’t make much impression on me. The main thing I can remember is the head with the roots of the trees over it, which makes for a good photo, but visually that’s the biggest memory, that and lots of stupas. I was kind of met with what I expected, a very ruined site of great historical interest but not a special sight.
What did you like most about Ayutthaya Historic Park?
I liked the history, I liked the Buddha head in the tree roots, and I liked the Dutch guy on the audio guide! I also quite liked cycling around. And it was free!
What didn't you like about Ayutthaya Historic Park?
The stray dogs at night, They freaked me out. Unfortunately due to the recent flooding, certain things weren't up and running. It wasn't lit up at night, there were facilities that weren't available like the tourist centre. It was all just a bit too ruined, there wasn't much left.
Would you regard Ayutthaya Historic Park as a World Wonder?
No, way too ruined.