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We are in Bangkok and are bored of treading upon the beaten track. We wish to do a less visited circuit. Being a history buff, I jump at the idea of a trip to Ayutthaya and soon we head towards Ayutthaya Historical Park, an hour’s drive from the Thai capital.
The Park is ridden with the historical ruins of the once glorious island city and capital of Thailand for 417 years. Away from the humdrum of oft-visited tourist locales, Ayutthaya, a picture of serene splendour, is a welcome change. Veritably one of Asia’s most impressive and majestic ruins, it stands on the abundantly fecund plain of the Menam Chao Phraya, a rare gem and architectural treasure trove.
We are instantly struck by the well-laid out broad roads and the amazing maze of snaking waterways as we enter Ayutthaya. That the Ayutthayan society completely revolved around water is clearly evident to date, as seen in the labyrinth of canals that are linked to each other and to the rivers. Named after Ayodhya, meaning the ‘invincible’ in Sanskrit, Ayutthaya was founded in 1351 by King Ramathibodi I, more commonly known as King U-Thong.
We drive along the Bung Phra Ram, a small lake in the centre of Ayutthaya, flanked on its East and Western sides by several Wats or temples. The first sight that greets us is the trio of colourfully attired elephants with Western tourists perched on their backs, taking a panoramic tour of the sprawl.
We begin our tour by visiting Wat Na Phra Meru, the only Wat that exists in its original form today, having escaped the ruthless Burmese raids. The site from which cannons were once fired at the Royal Palace area, the temple boasts an unusual statue of Buddha in green stone, placed alongside the Golden Buddha idol. Several of the monuments are within walking distance of each other and we take advantage of this proximity to savour the architectural delights at leisure. The weather is favourable and the sky dotted with clouds, making our amble pleasant. There is more colour in the vast array of little shops that line some of the streets leading to the temples, a sight almost always seen outside Indian temples. An impressive landmark in Ayutthaya is the towering chedi of Wat Yai Chaimonghaon that appears to pierce the skies. It was perhaps built in 1351, soon after the founding of Ayutthaya.
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