Jun 24, 2013

Downgraded Bangkok Trip part 2

While planning my trip I decided not to stay my entire 5 days in Bangkok even though it is a city with many sights and sounds as I get tired with city grime fairly quickly. The decision proved to be right as I sprained my ankle on my second day and got a nasty cold on the third. With fever and a stuffy nose limping through the streets of Bangkok, I looked forward to escaping the city to Ayutthaya 90 km north of the metropolis.
Ayutthaya was the second Siam capital after Sukhothai. It was founded around 1350 AD when King U Thong went there to escape a smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri. By 1700 AD the city houses around 1 million residents with no less than a dozen of monasteries and reliquary towers in full golden glamour. However, in 1767 the city was sacked by Burmese forces in part of the Burmese-Siamese war. Countless artefacts were destroyed when Burmese army robbed and subsequently burned the city which flames lingered for 3 months. As a direct result, the one could imaginatively piece together Ayutthaya's glamorous past through its red brick ruins, headless Buddhas, and vast monasteries scattered around the city which earned it a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

On the way to Ayutthaya, stop by Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, the summer palace for the Royal Thai family for a quick stroll. Commissioned by King Chulalongkorn after his visit to the west, one would be fascinated by a mock-Tiber landscape sitting side by side with a Chinese temple beside a Victorian mansion. It is definitely one of a kind.

Then we enter Ayutthaya to find countless ruins like these. My first stop was to Wat Phra Si Sanphet which used to be the royal palace in Ayutthaya. Now partially restored but still retaining its major red brick facade, it isn't difficult for one to imagine the glorious days of the past before the atrocities condemned by the Burmese.

The atmosphere was strangely peaceful despite its violent past. I think the Thais did a good job preserving the ruins while not overdoing it.

I visited several other temples the following morning. Wat Mahathat, also unofficially the temple of headless Buddhas, houses up to a hundred Buddha figures all beheaded by Burmese army during the raid.

There is, however, a mysterious sandstone Buddha head wedged in the roots of an ancient Bodhi tree in the premises. Some say it was abandoned by the Burmese after finding it too heavy to carry back home. The Buddha looked extremely peaceful despite its displacement, smiling even, at the numerous tourists who took pictures with it every day.

It would be a fancy glittering Buddhist destination had not the Burmese destructive behavior 300 years ago.

I stayed at iuDia By The River in Ayutthaya for 1 night. Voted the best boutique hotel in Ayutthaya, this establishment boasts itself with a riverside pool overlooking the historic park which was even more delightful at night.

I wouldn't mind staying an extra few days.

Then it's back to the hustle and bustle of Bangkok. With my ankle less swollen and fever subsiding, I am glad I found a great deal in Holiday Inn Bangkok Silom previously and checked straight into my 15th floor club room for my last day here.

Breakfast on my last day in Bangkok.

Thai people are born with natural smiles and servitude making them one of the most hospitable people on Earth. Coupled that with the natural beauty and culture of the nation making them one of the best budget holiday destination. I should thank Mum for her suggestion of a nearer to home destination that I thoroughly enjoyed and have high desire of returning. Nevertheless, as with all other developing nations, the government should take great effort in addressing the wealth gap, general welfare, and cultivating environmental awareness among her people as too many countries had gone down the road of unsustainable overdevelopment and suffered irreparable consequences.