24 hours in the old kingdom

Motorcycle riding around the old kingdom.

IT WAS time to get back to an old habit, a good one. A habit that allows me to add a new entry on my list of visited places away from the city I frequently visit — Bangkok.

Off Bangkok, there are a good number of destinations one must see. I’ve gone as far as Chiang Mai, the island of Phuket and Koh Chang, and Pattaya, the closest to the city.

I’ve questioned myself why I never set foot in Ayutthaya. It’s one of the most important cities in the country, the seat of power in its past, where majestic old temples stand as reminder of the eminent Siamese Kingdom founded in 1350 by King U Thong, who proclaimed the place the capital of his kingdom. Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai and was widely known as the “Invincible City.”

Ayutthaya city is the capital of Thailand’s Ayutthaya province located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River.

Ayutthaya is named after the birthplace of Rama (in the Ramayana), Ayodhya, a city in India. The old city is on an island surrounded by rivers, Chao Phraya on the west and south sides, the Pa Sak on the east side and the Klong Muang canal on the northern side.

Nights in Ayutthaya are not as bustling as it is in Bangkok, but  the daytime is the opposite.

“The Venice of the East” was another of Ayuttthaya’s namesake. It’s wealth and sized was likened to that of Paris’ in the 16th century. The capital was one of the wealthiest and biggest cities in the East in the 16h century, as described by foreign traders.

Ayutthaya’s close proximity to the new capital (two-hour train ride, shorter via a commuter van, taxi or private car) makes it an ideal destination for a day tour.

Victory Monument is the jump off point of commuter vans heading to different destinations off Bangkok, Ayutthaya included.

Just a few of the many around Victory Monument- stalls from various companies offering transport service to different provincial destinations.

But would a few hours be enough to soak it all in? Maybe. For me, a visit for the day would have sufficed but I decided to spend a night to explore the sites beyond the famous temples. For a place to stay, Agoda, my favorite online travel agency, directed me to Woraburi Ayothaya Convention Resort, a property by the Pasak riverside and near the provincial railway train station.

Because a few hours in Ayutthaya is not enough. Stayed a night in the Woraburi Ayothaya Convention Center.

The view from my room, the Pasak River, one the three rivers that surround the island of the old city.

As fate would have it, the decision to stay a night was a good one. Rain poured heavily the moment I stepped in the hotel to check-in and didn’t stop until late in the day. My temple tour would have to wait until the next day.

Rain started pouring the moment I stepped in the Woraburi Ayothaya Hotel. It was good decision to stay a night in the city.

From where the hotel sits, a tuktuk or a motorbike is necessary to get around the city (the hotel’s concierge can easily get you one with a snap of a finger). I requested for one to take me to one of the recommended nightspots to grab dinner.

A tuktuk or a motorcycle is necessary to move around Ayuthaya.

Was it the low season or was it the rain? The Hua Raw night market was deserted and the market place was closed at this time of night (apparently it’s only open during the day).

Hua Raw’s retail shops are only open during the day. It’s the food stalls & bars that light up the area at night:



The food stalls are what brighten up the streets in Hua Raw.


My choice of meal on a rainy night—steaming hot chicken noodle soup, enjoyed by the roadside.

The bustle was around the retail pavilion. The bars were the sources of music spilling out to the streets and sidewalk food stalls lighting up the roadside. It was a very short night for me.

A popular bar in Hua Raw that caters primarily to men.
Live music at this joint by the retail pavilion.

If there was a moment at the Woraburi Hotel I would call most memorable, it would be the view it offered at the break of dawn. The sun rising behind the towering chedi of one of the most important temples in the city, the Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, was breathtaking. It signaled a good day for a visit at the temples.

A breathtaking & memorable Ayutthaya moment- the sun rising behind the towering chedi of the Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

So how much time does one really need in Ayutthaya? I would say more than a few hours a day tour allows. To truly delight in the grandeur of the numerous temples of the old kingdom, you need more than a few hours. In fact, even a day to soak it all in not enough.

Indeed, Ayutthaya is a must-see place when in Thailand, and I am glad that I finally made it there.

Woraburi Ayothaya Convention Resort is at 89 M.11 Watkluay Road, T.Kamang, A. Pranakornsriayuthaya, Pranakornsriayuthaya 13000 Thailand. Visit their website at http://www.woraburi.com/woraburiayothaya.


For bookings at this hotel, visit the Agoda website at http://www.agoda.com/woraburi-ayothaya-convention-resort/hotel/ayutthaya.

*****

For more travel and lifestyle stories, visit http://jeepneyjinggoy.blogspot.com/ and http://apples-and-lemons.blogspot.com/

Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on January 10, 2015.

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