It’s a steaming hot day in Ayutthaya. I don’t think Thailand knows any other way.
There is a gentle breeze that picks up as soon as I start pedalling and I slip into bliss in motion.
I ride under trees with leafs shaped like ears, past crumbling ancient temples, and stupors retaining an inkling of the grandeur of their heyday hundreds of years ago.
It’s so quiet you can hear the birds. In all the years I’ve been to coming to Thailand I don’t remember hearing birds. Tuk tuks, motorbikes and hawkers yes, but silence enough to hear birds, no.
In Ayutthaya, you will find the silence amidst the ancient runs of what was once the biggest city in the world and said to be the most beautiful by traders and merchants from Europe.
Our first adventure getting an insight into this was a bicycle tour through the ancient city.
I really couldn’t think of a better way to see this World Heritage historical site than on a bike.
Our bike tour of Ayutthaya Historical Park
Our tour guide leads us on a slow and gentle ride, teaching us the history and cultural significance of the temples and palaces we cycle past and stop at.
Non-royal life occurred outside the city walls on the banks of the 3 rivers that surround the island of Ayutthaya and feed the outer lying rice fields
Much of the ancient buildings have been destroyed due to flooding and wars since 1350 when the city was founded as Siam’s second capital.
The Burmese were responsible for invading and burning down the captial in 1767, destroying the beauty that my eyes now tried to put together with broken pieces and faded gold laden brickwork.
We cycle outside through covered markets. The smell of sweet roti dessert cooking wafts up my nose and causes my tummy to grumble. The shopping tourists are ambling about and the ding of my bell is not enough to interrupt their haggling for wooden handicrafts, handbags, food and fruit. I have to shout a warning and disturb my own peace.
I soon settle back into calm when we arrive at the gigantic reclining Buddha draped majestically in an orange cloth. He looked so happy and content. We took a moment to burn incense sticks and honour his spirit.
My favourite was one of the most important Buddhist temples, Wat Phra Mahathat. The Burmese tore this one up, pilfering the heads of the sitting Buddhas, leaving behind statues left behind of their erect bodies and empty minds.
Except for one.
Legend has it was dropped in haste at the bottom of a banyan tree whose roots wrapped around it forever ensconcing it as a holy shrine for Thai people. It’s a highly spiritual place and even though the head is low to the ground, you still must observe the act of lowering yourself to pay your respects.
Rice Barge Tour on the Chao Phraya River
Our legs soon grew tired with the heat and exercise so we retired to the Chao Phraya River for a leisurely lunch on board a converted teak rice barge.
You say Thai buffet, I say I’m in heaven.
It was easy to picture the once opulent life along the river and imagine the feast in front of us was what Kings and royal dignitaries once ate.
It was the perfect afternoon floating along the River of Kings exploring the island of Ayutthaya from the perspective of the once great channel of trade. This was where it all once happened, the hustle and bustle replaced by serenity.
Elaborate wooden stilted homes, crumbling ruins, stupors and golden ornate temples rose above the banks; once they greeted sailors, traders and newcomers into town, now they welcome foreigners who arrive with a different reason.
Ayutthaya was once the land of wealth and grandeur laced with spiritual significance, I found myself missing the lost city even though I’d never seen the full replication of it.
The Thai perfect ending
You would think that after our bike and boat tour we would have been calling it the perfect Thai experience. Almost. That call was to be made a few hours later, after our traditional Thai massage.
The only thing I love more than a feast of Thai food is a Thai massage.
I don’t even know where we went, I just jumped out of the van and followed the hands outstretched leading me to the fisherman’s pants and the floor.
I certainly felt like I had morphed into a Royal body after it. Relaxed, stretched and feeling bloody fantastic. Have I ever told you how much I LOVE Thailand?
Ayutthaya was a unexpected surprise and one of my favourite Thai experiences.
Ayutthaya is only an hour from Bangkok, making it a pleasant day trip or overnight stay. It’s one of those Thai experiences you crave where you are slightly off the beaten track and other travellers, apart from being seen within the ruins, are rarely sighted.
It’s not as impactful or dramatic as the ruins you would find at Angkor Wat, Cambodia; but its softness seeps under your skin enough so that you probably enjoy it a little more.