On one of my visits to Thailand, I had an opportunity to visit the old kingdom of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 85 kilometers north of the capital Bangkok. Located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground.
The trip to the ancient kingdom was an abrupt detour from my common Bangkok itinerary, there wasn’t even a plan of going there. The idea of visiting the of nearby beach of Pattaya or spending the holidays to Phuket or Ko Phi Phi crossed my mind. But with only a day to spare and a limited budget, Ayutthaya came into the scene.
The minivan from Victory Monument to Ayutthaya left before eight o’clock in the morning. For only 60 Baht, the minivan, filled with locals but me, traversed the wide expressway to north. In an hour I was already at Ayutthaya Park Mall.
It was a few minutes before mall’s opening time. Standing at the entrance, I looked around but I didn’t find a hint of an ancient city. I am quite sure that I was in the Ayutthaya that I knew of. The ruins and old temples were just out there.
The mall opened at exactly nine in the morning so I went inside and had a quick breakfast in a fast-food store. Afterwards, I went around to ask for directions. I thought of going to the train station first but I had no idea how. I approached some mall goers, tenants and even the guards but I was lost in their language and I am sure they were lost with mine too. I had a hard time finding someone who understands English.
After some unsuccessful inquiries inside, I walked out and wandered around unsure of where to go. But I retreated and went back to the mall when I realized I was going nowhere. Luckily, after wasting an hour, I got a clear response from a bystander outside the mall who told me to ride a “Song Taew” to the train station. The “Song Taew” is a pick-up truck with two rows of seat fronting one another on the back. It is the common mode of transport for public commuters in Thailand, like the jeepney in the Philippines.
The ride from Ayutthaya Park Mall to the train station took no more than twenty minutes and cost me 10 Baht. There were few “Tuktuk” parked outside the train station and I approached one who charged me 200 Baht per hour to go around the ancient kingdom. He showed me the rate matrix and the map of Ayutthaya, and then narrated on how the tour will go. I tried to haggle but the language difference rendered the negotiation futile. So I hopped inside his “Tuktuk” and off we went.
Under the blue skies and the scorching heat of the sun, we wandered for four hours in the ancient city. My eyes were wide with amazement as I saw magnificent old structures that is Ayutthaya. We visited Wat Lokaya Sutha, Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol (20 Baht entrance), Wat Mahathat (50 Baht entrance), The Ancient Royal Palace (50 Baht entrance), Wat Chaiwathanaram (50 Baht entrance), Wat Panan Choeng (20 Baht entrance) and the famous reclining Buddha at Wat Phuttaisawan. My guide actually advised me not to pay for the entrance fees on some sites since I looked like a Thai so I got to save on some 😛
After four hours, I was already sweating furiously but my guide came to the rescue. He handed me a towel and a bottle of mineral water for free, perhaps he pitied me when he noticed that I didn’t even have a hanky and water at hand when I already looked very tired and wasted.
I asked my guide to pass by the train station again before going to the van terminal so I can take some photos. I also considered riding the cheaper train from Ayutthaya to Bangkok but the next train would arrive in two hours so my guide brought me to the terminal where I hopped on a van going back Bangkok. The rush hour traffic of Bangkok welcomed us and the travel took almost two hours. It was almost dark when I reached my hotel in Silom.
Alone in a place where only few can understand me, I braved the language barrier to have a day trip in the old kingdom of Ayutthaya. The old and beautiful town revealed to me the country’s cultural treasures in just a day. Indeed, it was a day spent very well.