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DOWN SOUTH | Pedaling through the Ruins in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Travel Guide

This first appeared on my Down South Column on interaksyon.com, TV5’s news portal, last May 30, 2016. Included a lot of photos here in case I broke my external hard drive again and blame myself for being too lazy or stingy in sharing my travel photos. 

I am wary of the things that I am supposed to do wherever I am in a foreign place. Tick off this. Tick off that.  Through our strides, we learned more about Bangkok, most of the time while munching pineapple or grilled squid or anything new to the eyes and nose.

On our last day, we chose Ayutthaya, a UNESCO heritage site, over the floating market—which becomes Bangkok’s landmark in my head. It is always a personal quest to try not to see the places that define a city. In Ayutthaya, we never saw Buddha’s head—a bad decision for some maybe, but we did not really mind.

T and I rented a bicycle each and pedaled through the streets. The bicycle rental place provided us a map, which T checked once in a while, knowing I could not be trusted when it comes to directions, but he was no better than me.

I pedaled on. I puffed. I huffed. My bare shoulders and face were sunburned. Sweat trailed down my spine. It was a hot midday. T was ahead together with a European who got lost on his way around the ruins and decided to pedal with us. I often stopped and took photos of the ruins looking regal and proud by the streets. He would look behind him to assess how far I was from them.

Ayutthaya Travel Guide

It did not occur to me at all that I was slow. The people I was with had longer legs; their pedaling was much forceful than mine. T and I met again in a temple that caught our fancy. It was heartwarming to see offerings and gifts to the deities of ruined pagoda made of brown bricks.

The temples in Bangkok made me feel that faith comes in lavish architectures; in Ayutthaya, I felt that faith remains intact despite the ruins. The smoke from the lit incense sticks made a lazy and calm ascent. Beside them was a little packet of rice and a bunch of flowers.

At the back of one pagoda, rooster statues were placed as offerings or gifts.  Prince Naresuan, according to one story, wagered a bet with a Burmese prince that Ayutthaya would be freed if Naresuan’s rooster won.

Perhaps it was all too lazy for us to not know the names of the temples we stumbled upon on our route. We turned left, we turned right, we pedaled straight ahead, with the promise of a quick catch-up in the next prang or monastery—or what was left of their splendor— before pedaling on our own to the next pagoda.

The checking of the names came afterward. The head of a smiling Buddha can be found in Wat Maha That. Wat Phra Ram served as the background of tourists riding the elephants. T wanted to go to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, but we got lost on our way there.

The modern Bangkok being patterned after Ayutthaya did not add up in my head. But perhaps it is the classic case of definite beginnings not determining the future of a place.

 

Perhaps because what we experienced was the old Ayutthaya, its ruins all preserved and the Bangkok we experienced was the ones meant for the outsider.

Ayutthaya Travel Guide

We did not ride those elephants. But just a question though: what is the difference between an elephant and an overworked carabao?

But either way, we were more than satisfied with our own cycling affair in the city of ruins and with our walking affair in the city of temples.

There is something about a young couple pedaling in ruins. The whole thing was very metaphorical and foreboding: the romantic yet pessimist poet deep inside warned.

Ayutthaya is a love story. Not romance—because romance is a flailing, flapping thing like a flatlay meant for Instagram. Like summer days in a nostalgic, warm filter. It is a love story in its glaring blues, saturated greens, and beautiful ruins.

Had a train to catch back to Bangkok, the European had to pedal ahead of us. T adjusted his pedaling to pace with mine. So there we were, a Euro-Asian couple, pedaling side by side, learning a lesson or two on ruins.

Ayutthaya Travel Guide

The handsome giant 😛

QUICK  AYUTTHAYA TRAVEL GUIDE

1. We stayed in Rambuttri Road, Khao San Road’s twin. We taxied to BTS, bought a train ticket to Victory Monument where the vans to Ayutthaya are stationed.  If you are confused where to get off, the locals are more than willing to help you with the direction.

2. The van ride from Bangkok to Ayutthaya takes about 50 minutes, but it can stretch to 2 hours because of the traffic. We almost missed our night bus to Chiang Mai because of it!

3. The van’s final stop is the street where you can rent bicycles. There are locals as well who provide day tours around this heritage site.

4. Bring water and wear sunscreen. The streets are not treed and can be really hot.

5. Wear comfortable clothes but avoid wearing short shorts and plunging necklines.

6. A do-it-your-own day trip to Ayutthaya can cost between Php300 to Php500.

Ayutthaya Travel Guide

There we were, a Euro-Asian couple, pedaling side by side, learning a thing or two on ruins.

WHERE DID WE STAY?

We stayed in a hotel near Rambuttri Road, Bangkok for three nights. If you book your hotel here, I do not have to think about my coffee for the next two days! Haha!


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Jona | Backpacking with a Book

Hi, I'm Jona! I write stories and poetry and take a lot of photos, which I'm too lazy to upload. If you want to receive some photos that I don't share here on the blog, please leave your email here. I'm crazy about cats too. Feel free to browse through BWAB, and I would love it if you say hi! For collaborations, projects, and other things, please email me at backpackingwithabook@gmail.com For more stories about BWAB, check here. Connect with us through

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21 Comments

  1. Jen Morrow says:

    What a great location for a bike ride! I love that you incorporate a bit of exercise with sight seeing, and you are able to cover more ground than simply walking.

  2. Amazing photos. I have always wanted to travel out East. Maybe one day?

  3. Marta says:

    I sometimes fall into the trap of thinking I should do this and that, take notes, learning names of places… but the most beautiful thing about travel, to me, is to let go of that and stay in the moment – the rest can wait. Your photos are beautiful, I’d be happy to huff and puff to see such amazing architecture

  4. What an incredible place. I also love exploring new places by bike, I really feel like a local, and can see everything a lot more slowly.

  5. Anne-Sophie says:

    Your photos are stunning! Looks like an amazing place to visit. I love that you just stumbled upon these amazing sights.

  6. Great post! I just wish they didn’t overworked those elephants, if they do really find them sacred

  7. The place looks so beautiful- stunning pictures. And I agree I’d love to bike around a place rather than walk around, seems like a smart idea 🙂

  8. Michelle says:

    I don’t know how to ride a bike (true story) so we didn’t ride bikes when I visited Ayutthaya but it sure would have been nice! Walking around in the heat was a slog. I think I preferred the boat tour later in the evening.

  9. Linda says:

    Oh Thailand! The first time I traveled to Asia, I was backpacking thru Thailand for 3 weeks! I had the best time! I didn’t have a chance to visit Ayutthaya 🙁 Therefore, your post really wants to make me go and see it for myself! Beautiful!

  10. Sheri says:

    I recently wrote a post about exploring Vienna and its surroundings by bike. I love the idea of exploration by bike as you get to find so many things you may naturally miss if you are travelling by car or in some places on the tour bus. You pictures are so beautiful.

  11. Tamshuk says:

    Great post at the right time for me. I will be in Bangkok on 17-18 June and 19th I’m taking the train to Chiang Mai. I was wondering if I would have time to go to this beautiful place. I would just have 1 day as on 18th I’m goin on a sponsored tour.

  12. Rashmi&Chalukya says:

    Must be an awesome experience riding through those magnificent and gorgeous temples. Think biking was a great choice to cover most important points and time saving too, great choice. And wonderful post!

  13. Epepa says:

    Very nice bike trip and wonderful sights! I’ve never been to this part of the world and I hope it will change soon. Lots of useful information there and beautiful pictures.

  14. Liana says:

    What an incredible place! I mean, it’s also my personal quest and try to be more present and develop a difference into my travel journey when scouting through a city! I love all the spirituality entouring the giant temples and I’m dreaming of going there!

  15. Voyager says:

    Ayutthaya comes across as a lovely place with a great aura. Unfortunately we missed going there on our last trip to Bangkok, hope to make up for it, next time.

  16. Ayutthaya is a very special looking place. I don’t know how to ride a bicycle, so I couldn’t replicate your trip. But I would love to go and see the ruins for myself.

  17. Jojo says:

    Biking a definitely a great way to stumble upon things that you may have missed otherwise.I get the issue with being “slow” when I ride with my brother who has long legs too!

  18. Divya says:

    Hi Jona!
    That seems like a great holiday! I have always admired places with some bit of history to them, and this seems like a perfect fit.
    Thank you for writing this.
    🙂

  19. Jess Friend says:

    What a great destination – I bet you were pleased to ditch your usual philosophy (not being on the tourist trail) to make the trip. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being a bit of a ‘tourist’ rather than a ‘traveller’ as sometimes tourist hot spots have become famous for a reason!

  20. This looks like such a fun day! Only question I have is if the weather ever was a problem for biking?

  21. Wow! Absolutely breathtakingly beautiful architecture! I have actually been to Bangkok but a very long ago. I would love to go back and see everything again.

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