• Eryn

Ayutthaya - The Ancient Capital of Thailand

The red-brick ruins of Wat Mahathat baking in the sunlight under a bright blue sky among green trees and grass

Grand structures of glowing, red-colored bricks kept firmly upright by grey concrete supports surrounded us beneath the bright, cloudless sky. Peacefully seated Buddha statues with only fragments of their bodies having survived the battles and plunders suffered by the city lined the brick walls. I have been visiting Bangkok, the modern capital of Thailand, for as long as I can remember. However, it is only now as we take a day trip outside of the traffic-consumed city, I realize just 80 kilometers north stands Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam.

Fragments of Buddha statues lined across an ancient brick wall in Wat Mahathat of Ayutthaya, Thailand.
Trees provide shade over red-brick ruins and Buddha statues in Ayutthaya.

We began at Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya's center of Buddhism and one of the city's most important temples. As we walked among the majestic ruins, passing towering structures and tranquil stone Buddhas, we came across a particular Buddha statue that was especially unique. With only its head remaining, the rest of the statue's body was nowhere to be found, perhaps having been destroyed during the siege that caused the city's fall in the 18th century. Despite the damage, the statue's head had safely fallen into the hands of nature, where the roots of a banyan tree have protected it ever since. The shadows of the tree were a sudden source of darkness on this vibrant afternoon, its thick roots firmly embracing the Buddha's serene expression to surround the area with a truly mysterious and eerie aura.

The roots of a banyan tree wrapped around a serene Buddha's head in Ayutthaya, Thailand
The Buddha Head in Tree Roots at Wat Mahathat.

After leaving the shadows by the Buddha Head, we ventured back into the sunlight and made our way to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. There, two tall twin stupas of a cream color stood proudly before admiring tourists as a part of what was the most important temple on the grounds of Ayutthaya's royal palace. At this awe-inspiring site, many stray dogs seemed to have VIP passes in paw as they happily clambered over and onto places where humans are forbidden to go. Meanwhile, squirrels chased each other atop lush green trees and nibbled on coconuts that visitors had left behind.

A stray dog resting atop the ancient ruins of the historical site
A red squirrel stands on an ancient brick wall beside an open coconut left behind by travelers in Ayutthaya, Thailand

When we then moved onto Wat Lokaya Sutha, a massive reclining Buddha statue immediately caught our eyes. It was covered in a great orange robe, its head resting delicately upon lotus flowers. Some came to pay their respects to the forty-two meter-long Buddha, while others steadily held cameras and phones to capture the serene and yet, at the same time, bright scene.

A stone reclining Buddha in a bright orange covering under sunny skies at Wat Lokaya Sutha in the ancient city of Ayutthaya
The reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha in Ayutthaya.

Even as we returned to the urban city of Bangkok, the warmth and beauty of Ayutthaya remained clearly within my mind. I simply cannot imagine how the ancient city might have been at its greatest, and how the Ancient Burmese could have brought themselves to destroy it more than 200 years ago. Though it had since long been abandoned and too many of its treasures plundered by thieves, it is now fortunately protected as a historical park and UNESCO World Heritage Site for countless tourists today to appreciate.

Eryn walking past brick wall ruins in the ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thailand

Places On Earth | Asia

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