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Archive for the ‘Ayutthaya’ Category

Ayutthaya

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Most of the Buddhas in Ayutthaya are missing a head and at least one hand, so I thought I’d lead with one that escaped the Burmese invasion (apparently the Burmese invaders believed the Buddha’s power was held in the head and right hand, so they chopped these off of most of the statutes in the ancient capital).

My first thought upon entering the ruins district of Ayutthaya, which is conveniently located about two blocks from the backpacker strip, was to wonder why any society at any point in time would need so many temples so close together. In a radius of no more than three city blocks are the ruins of about a dozen ancient temples. Which means that at some point in Thai history, presumably when Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand, there were a dozen functioning temples within a few minute’s walk.

I, of course, can’t answer this question except to say that Buddhism is taken quite seriously here. The most common excuse for missing my class is an activity at the temple. Three or four times this semester I’ve had up to half my class missing for activities at the temple, and two weeks ago half of my students spent three days at the temple for what they called, “Buddhism Camp.”

In any event, Ayutthaya is one of the best places in Thailand to take ridiculous amounts of pictures, which is what I did during my afternoon there before taking a really good boat trip on the river and a really lousy night tour of the temples.

If you’re ever in Ayutthaya, skip the night tours. The guide books rave about them because you miss the crowds and the afternoon heat, but you’ll also miss actually getting to walk around the temples taking ridiculous amounts of pictures. The temples are lit up at night, providing enough light to see that there is a temple there but not enough for your picture to come out. And though they are lit for the night tours, the temples are closed before dark, which means you can’t get inside and walk around without jumping a fence (which our guide advised us to do at one of the temples to get a better photo).

So the night tours essentially amount to sitting in the back of a songtheaw and being driven to 6-7 temples, where you are given 4-5 minutes to snap a photo from the sidewalk and show your fellow tourers what the inside of the temple looks like on the screen of your digital camera (almost everyone had pictures of the temples from the afternoon, when a 30 baht entrance fee provides unlimited access to the temple grounds for as long as you feel like walking around). The crowds, by the way, were pretty small when I was there, so there wasn’t much need to avoid them.

Anyway, here are a few of the 300-plus photos I took in my one afternoon in Ayutthaya:

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The ruins are right in the center of town. Those buildings in the background are modern apartments. They are right across the street from the main ruins district.

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This is one of the best photo ops in Ayutthaya. It’s a stone head of the Buddha (presumably one of the many that were chopped off by invaders) sitting in the roots of a tree. The tree apparently grew around the statue’s severed head, and many years later we are left with something that belongs in an art museum.

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A closer look.

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Here’s the whole tree.

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This is how some of the tourists ride. There was a procession of about 10 of these walking down the sidewalk in the center of the ruins district.

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I just like this one.

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There are strange animal figurines in front of many of the temples in Thailand, but this is my favorite so far. There’s really nothing like five-foot plastic roosters and elephant topiary. If you look closely, you’ll see that there is an army of tiny, plastic roosters standing behind the big, plastic roosters in the foreground.

Don’t ask.

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