The Ruins of Ayutthaya

19 02 2012

Initially Roger and I had planned to buy a third class train ticket to Ayutthaya (phonetic pronunciation:  A-you-tay-a; Roger pronunciation:  Are-you-there-yet), then take a ferry across to the island, hire a tuk tuk to get into the town and from there explore the ruins by bicycle for the day.  Thank god we chose to take an organised tour instead!  The ruins were spread all over the place and it would have taken us hours to bike around them all, and today was the hottest day we had experienced since arriving in South East Asia.

We clambered onto our mini-bus at 6.45am and wedged our large bodies into the tiny seats that were clearly designed for small Asian passengers.  Sitting on the back seat (the only seats available) we tried to eat our breakfast that had been so lovingly packed for us by the manager of our hostel, but it was difficult with our elbows steadfastly pinned at our sides.  We felt like tiny T-Rexes flapping our lower arms about in vain, trying to butter a croissant, peel a banana and then transport those items of food into our mouths.

Something to do on a rainy day:  have someone wrap your arms to your torso in glad-wrap leaving only your lower arms free, and then try to eat your lunch while they bounce on the sofa next to you.  Not easy is it?

Owlface getting spiritual at Ayutthaya

Aside from the lack of room, there also appeared to be a significant lack of suspension in the back.  The highways and roads around Bangkok were atrocious and the bus ride was one of the roughest I’ve experienced since I broke Dad’s land rover axle off-roading at Kurow!  And not only was the road pitted, slumped and cracked, but we hit these deformities at 130-140 kph!  I cursed the absence of a wonder-bra as my boobs bounded haphazardly of their own accord in every direction, while our maniacal driver zigzagged in and out of the traffic, not slowing down for a second – except for when he pulled into oncoming traffic and was forced to brake abruptly, the back end of the mini-bus sliding sideways while the locked wheels skidded along the road.  That made my knuckles turn white!  Did I mention there were no seatbelts?

Me contemplating ascending our first temple in Ayutthaya.

Crinking our necks downwards to see out the window, roadsides littered with rubbish and scrap whizzed by, cats and dogs roamed about ownerless and impoverished, filthy little shacks stood precariously on stilts, polluted flood water lying stagnant underneath.  They were the most squalid and atrocious living conditions I have ever seen in my life.  It made Castle Street in Dunedin seem like a luxury resort, and it certainly made us appreciate the small things in life – like clean running water and the wonder of electricity!

Roger taking a moment on the way up.

So after one and a half hours travelling (groans) we arrived at the first cluster of temples at Ayutthaya, the former royal capital until 1767 when it was destroyed by the Burmese.  Pleased to be off the bus, and full of sprightly enthusiasm, we strode up and down the steep steps like a couple of mountain goats – stopping to take just the right camera shot here, just the right camera shot there, descend back down to halfway and then climb to the top again, buttocks burning, and all in the name of a good bit of film footage.

The Sleeping Buddha at Ayutthaya

Hot, sweaty and grinning we leapt back onto the bus and headed for the next attraction:  the third largest sleeping Buddha in Thailand.  It was here that we learned of the devastating effect the Bangkok floods of October 2011 had on the ancient temples and ruins of the area, washing away or damaging the foundations so badly that in two or three years, the temples and monuments may no longer be standing.

A shrine of worship in front of the Giant Sleeping Buddha.

But my, my, how our enthusiasm waned as the day wore on.  By the time we reached the foot of our eighth temple I had my old-woman-shuffle on.  I had to be cattle-prodded by Roger to climb just five steps for a photograph, and only then would I do it with the promise of a Thai massage when we got back to Bangkok.

Ruins at Ayutthaya

It was steaming hot, and just when you thought it couldn’t possibly get hotter – it did.  As the mercury hit 38 degrees and the humidity peaked at what felt like 100%, my eyeballs began to sweat.  Even those tube things that fill up with air and flap about excitedly behind the rugby posts in New Zealand couldn’t get themselves up.  The faded, dusty tubes were flopped over in half on the sides of the road near petrol stations, and every now and then they would make a feeble attempt to burst full length up into the air, only to cave over side wards and loll on the ground.  That was me and Rog – we were those tubey things, slumping against each other on the ground at the foot of a three hundred and something year old temple.

When the Burmese attacked Ayutthaya they cut all the heads and arms of the Buddha statutes. The roots of this tree picked up a head as it grew and it is now firmly embedded within the tree roots.

The last stop on the tour was at Bang-Pa-In Palace, and by now our whole tour bus had the old-woman-shuffle!  Our chirpy Thai tour guide dressed in her tight jeans, cool t-shirt and not even a flush in her cheeks, dropped us at the entrance and told us to be back in an hour.  As she flounced out the gate, we all turned slowly and began to stumble, shuffle, our way around the collection of buildings that were built over the years from 1637 – 1889 by the various Kings of Thailand.  These buildings were in vast contrast to the ruins we had spent the day amongst.

The Divine Seat of Personal Freedom, built in the middle of the pond in 1876

Rog and I at Bang-Pa-In Palace.

Finally we were back on the bus from hell for the one and a half hour drive to Bangkok.  Same maniac driver, same terrible roads, same backseat boob bonanza.   Tomorrow we would NOT be on the backseat – no, no.  We would not be a couple of chumps two days in a row.



2 responses

20 02 2012

Hey, is there a prize for spotting owl face????

8 03 2012

Well done Sharni – Owlface Facebook page will be up and running soon! LOL

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