Our first day out we took a tuk tuk to see a Wat, which is the name for the Thai temples here. You can get watted out in Thailand, they are everywhere. After you have seen a few it can get monotonous. So far we have been viewing ones that have different enough aspects to them that they are still interesting.
Wat Phanan Choeng
The first one we went to is called Wat Phanan Choeng. It has a massive golden Buddha that sits inside a temple. We were lucky enough to time our visit on the weekend when the monks perform a special ceremony. People come to the temple to pray and be blessed. There is a procession of people going in through the main doors of the temple. You proceed through many rituals as you make your way to the large Buddha. Candles are lit and placed in front of other religious figures, incense is burnt, and gold leaf is rubbed on smaller Buddhas. People also pick up lotus flowers to have a monk dip them in blessed water and then shake the water off on to their heads.
In the room with the large Buddha they pay a small amount of money to get a long gold colour piece of material. The floor fills up with people kneeling in front of the huge Buddha. You are never allowed to point your feet towards the Buddha when you kneel. The people are holding up a tray in front of them with the material folded up on it. They wait for a man in the front to come get their material. He throws it up high to where the monks are standing on the Buddhas lap.
They take the lengths of fabric and tie them together several at a time and hoist them up over the Buddhas shoulder. Then the lengths of fabric are thrown out into the crowd. Everyone grabs at the fabric and pulls it over the people kneeling and towards the back to cover as many of them as possible. It is like being blessed by the Buddha. It was fascinating to watch this happen over and over again. By the time we left the Buddha was draped with many lengths of fabric as new crowds took their place on the floor.
Restaurant On The River
Next we went across the river on a small boat that took about 2 minutes and cost 8 baht. It makes it much quicker than taking a tuk tuk back over the bridges and through the city. We found a restaurant that was overlooking the river. Yet another ladyboy waiter served us. This place had very good food. It was interesting to sit and watch the different activity that occurs on the river. We could look down and see several types of fish in the water.
River Boat Trip On Chaophraya River
From the restaurant we started to walk along the river. We came across a bunch of long wooden boats. There was a woman who could speak English. She had a brochure showing some photos and descriptions of the river boat trip they were offering. She pointed out her husband who would be the one to take us out on the boat.
The boat is long and skinny and very low to the water. There is a canopy over the top of it. The older Thai gentlemen took us for a two hour trip around the river which encircles Ayutthaya essentially making it an island. The trip included a stop at two different wats.
The first stop was at Wat Phutthaisawan. This a very old wat that is well worth visiting. It is south of town right on the banks of Chaophraya River. There is a beautiful central white prang. Galleries of Buddha images are all over the property. There is a large reclining Buddha draped in a gold cloth. It had some ruins of Cheddi, which are tall spires made of brick. The brick used to be covered in plaster. We spent time walking around the ruins and taking pictures. Our boat captain patiently waited for us on the river side.
The next stop was called Wat Chaiwattanaram. This wat consits of a main prang (tower) and four smaller prangs on a base. This base is then surrounded by eight more prangs and a gallery. There are two large stone Buddhas draped in golden cloth. It had many Cheddi spires and remains of temples.
We walked around the grounds for a few minutes until a man in a police type uniform approached us. He said we had to pay to be at the ruins and asked if we came by boat. He produced some tickets and we paid him the small amount of money, about a dollar each. We are still not sure if we were supposed to have paid him or not. We have heard stories about men in fake uniforms making money by collecting fees from tourists. We weren’t about to question the matter over $2. We wandered around the area until the sun started to set. This is always the nicest time to see any of the ruins as the lighting is beautiful and it is not quite as hot.
We continued on our boat ride around the river for about another hour. It was the nicest time we have spent in Thailand yet. It’s fascinating to float down the river seeing people in front of their houses going about their daily activities. We passed many families cooling off in the water, kids playing, dogs swimming, and many men and boys fishing. On the banks of the river people were cooking their dinner, washing dishes and just relaxing and enjoying the sun setting.
We passed by another monitor lizard in the water. I’m glad it wasn’t too near the boat, they freak me out, they just look like a huge water snake! We would come to intersections in the river where canals run into it. It is quite the system of transportation. It has a whole life of its own that goes on behind the scene of the city. Many people gave us friendly waves as we went past them, especially the children. We did have one guy hold a middle finger up in both hands as he disappeared under the water, oh well, I guess not everyone likes tourists.
Lost In Ayutthaya
We went back to the wharf and decided to walk back to the hotel. We ended up getting a bit lost. We managed to see two younger girls inside a shop that could speak some english, but it just ended up being easier to do sign language between us. We showed them the bus depot on the map which is near our hotel. They pointed down the street and I crossed my hands over to indicate an intersection. They nodded and held up 2 fingers to say to go through two intersections and then motioned to turn right. It is amazing how you can manage to communicate without words.
We spent another day seeing ruins of old temples. Some of the ones we saw were over 600 years old. The next one we visited was Wat Mahathat. It had many Cheddi spires again, and lots of remains of the brick temples. The whole area of this wat is a park like setting with many beautiful trees. There was a large stone Buddha again draped in gold cloth. This site also has a much photographed stone Buddha head. It is amongst the root system of an old tree. It looks like the tree has just grown around it.
We stayed at this site of ruins until sunset. The sun was setting in the sky as a huge orange ball. It got to a brilliant fiery colour and looked fake as if someone had placed a large round sticker in the sky.