South East Asia 2011 Diary: Wat-hopping on a cycle in Ayuthaya

If Ayodhya in India is all about Ram temples (or temples to various characters in the Ramayan), its Thai namesake Ayuthaya is all about Buddhist monastery temples (or their ruins) called Wats. The word itself derives from a word in the ancient Indian language Pali.

Ayuthaya was the former capital of Siam and at its peak in 17th and 18th century was one of the leading cities of the world in terms of trade, commerce and general influence. According to the local history, the city was destroyed by the invading Burmese in 1767 and the capital then moved south.

This was my second visit to Ayuthaya and this time, having had visited Ayodhya, took a fresh look at the city. It was a hot day and the choice of taking a cycle around made me seriously regret not having learnt how to ride a motorbike (which are also available on rent).

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What caught my notice was the number of Japanese tourists. No doubt for them this holiday would be more than just a few days of work. One could see some of the older tourists spend a lot of time in front of the various images of the Buddha.

The international crowd at the Wat Mahathat represented all nationalities all patiently and respectfully moving around the structures. Interestingly no graffiti on the walls as one is accustomed to India. No couples sitting quietly under a tree (maybe there are other quiet places on the river banks maybe).

Also had an excellent lunch (chicken with basil and rice) at Mint Guest House near the station. The wall of the guest house was full of graffiti of past travelers from Japan, Denmark, USA and UK.

It was an exhausting but enriching experience. The cycling was good exercise albeit a lot of huff and puff happened. The traffic was easy to manage including a major highway that cuts across the city. Bookended by train rides from Bangkok, the entire day was one long calorie burnout. Excellent. But next time, I will probably come having learnt to ride a motorbike or a scooter.

This is the first post of my South East Asia holiday. Tomorrow, I’ll write about roaming the waters of Bangkok.

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