Ayutthaya is the color and sentiment of autumn. Leaves shed by unexpectedly deciduous trees crunched underfoot as we wandered into the historical park of rust-colored 14th-century ruins. Ayutthaya is one of the former capitals of The Kingdom of Siam (what is now Thailand) and boasts a remarkable collection of very old Buddhist temples. They rest in various states of disrepair, unlabeled and unprotected by barriers or glass, just begging to be photographed (photo cred for this post goes to coworker and friend, Jessica Z by the way!.)
We wandered, excited by the almost-comical way modern life had simply been built around the ruins (the irony of a stupa-shaped cellphone tower rising from behind the ancient thing itself, for example). There were few if any signs indicating the names or histories of any of the sites, leaving mostly everything up to our imaginations.
To the satisfaction of the historian within me (she rarely makes an appearance), I was able to gather some context from my guide book: Ayutthaya was established as the capital of Siam in 1350 and flourished as a major diplomatic and trade center until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. The Siamese temples still standing today were erected in the 13- and 1400’s, not the 1700’s as I had previously assumed. Damn, they look good for being that old! They must have done a good deal of restoration on the park, being that it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all, but everything was still decrepit enough to sustain my nostalgic seasonal reverie.
Before I take this autumn metaphor any further, you should know it was a humid 95-degrees (F) most of the day. We were all suffering near-heat strokes by the end of our jaunt through the crumbly stupas.
Many visitors like to rent bicycles to traverse the park grounds, but since I don’t know how to ride a bicycle (hold your incredulity), we took in the park by foot. I couldn’t be happier because I feel like we got to see things slower, if not sweatier.
At dusk, we hopped a boat that took us to the temples along the river encircling the “island.” Here we could really dig in to the peace and quiet melancholy of what-felt-like seasonal transition, as we sat amongst the temples in the relatively cool twilight haze.
I don’t know why it took me so long to get myself up to Ayutthaya. It’s only about 2 hours away from Bangkok and man oh man is it worth it.