I arose from bed today and got ready to see more of Ayutthaya. I crossed over the Pasak River and walked west, heading toward the Ayutthaya Historical Study Center. Along the way I passed by the temple ruins of Wat Khunmuangchai so I decided to explore the area before continuing on – temple ruins are scattered all over Ayutthaya, so if you just keep walking, you’ll easily pass by several different ones. This temple complex had a large base in the middle (where presumably a tall prang once stood) and two halls flanking both sides; surrounding the halls and large base were many smaller stupas and prangs; also, as with all the temples in this city, there was a pack of dogs who appeared to have laid claim to the ruins – one took an interest in me while the other laid on top of the remains of one of the halls, but neither was aggressive. I then walked onward, to the Ayutthaya Historical Study Center, paid the entrance fee, and entered in to the large room with the historical exhibits, joining many young kids that were on a field trip (so it was rather noisy). The exhibits covered ancient sea trade with foreign nations, domestic life in the home and village, temple architecture, and general information about the Siam Kingdom; overall, there was not much to see and I expected more for the price of the ticket, but the exhibits they did have were well done and informative. I then continued further west to the western-end of Ayutthaya City Island, at the bank of the Chao Phraya River; here I visited Phra Chedi Sri Suriyothai, which is a restored ruin of a large bell-shaped stupa that supposedly contains the ashes of Queen Suriyothai, the wife of King Chakkraphat, who – according to legend – dressed as a man and fought the Burmese Army on an elephant, during the battle the king’s elephant stumbled and she charged in front of the enemy’s blade, sacrificing herself to save the king (this is very likely a fabricated tale).
After visiting the chedi, I walked south along the river to try to get a photograph of Wat Chaiwatthanaram (the “Temple of a Long Reign and Glorious Era”) from across the water; unfortunately, the regional regal family built a modest palace at the prime spot to view Wat Chaiwatthanaram, so I ended up wasting a lot of time trying to get this photo and having to avoid several aggressive dogs; I suppose that if there is any consolation, the photograph would’ve turned out poorly anyway since the river was muddy and the sun was shining the wrong direction. Admitting to failure, I crossed the river and then walked to the entrance of the temple compound. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built in 1630 AD by King Prasat Thong to commemorate his mother’s hometown, to celebrate his coronation, and to celebrate the victory over the Khmer (which is why the architecture is influenced by the Khmer-style); the temple layout has a large principle prang in the center (at thirty-five meters high and is rumored to contain relics of Lord Buddha) with four smaller prangs surrounding it on its base; there are then eight chedi-shaped chapels surrounding the principle prang base, spaced evenly along a rectangular passage (the passage has 120 Buddha statues along its wall); to the east of the principle prang and passageway is the ordination hall and two chedis that contain the ashes of the King’s mother. I walked around the temple, up to the ordination hall, and then up the steep steps of the principle prang to enter it’s topmost chamber (which had some objects of worship laid out on yellow cloth and many bats hanging about inside, making the place stink of guano); I also took many, many photographs. Once satisfied that I had seen all there was to see, I walked north quite a distance to my next destination: Wat Phu Khao Thong (“Monastery of the Golden Mount”). The temple has a very large chedi that was originally constructed by conquering Burmese forces, but eventually finished by Thai forces to commemorate their victory over the Burmese and the independence of Ayutthaya. As I was approaching the chedi, storm clouds rolled in and soon enough it began pouring; I ran for cover under a roadside shelter and decided to wait out the storm regardless of how many hours it may be. As I was sitting under the shelter, a large Thai man came up soaked, having ridden his motorbike in the rain; he asked if I wanted a free ride back to the city since the temple was closing for the day and it was likely to be raining for some time; due to how late it was and the fact that it probably would be raining for a long time, I agreed (sure it was raining heavily, the roads were slick, traffic was busy, and neither of had helmets or eye protection, but what the fuck, I wanted to get back to my hotel room); so I placed my expensive valuables in a plastic bag I carry in my camera case for emergencies like this and then jumped on board the motorbike; we took off and in no time at all I was as soaked as the Thai man (I was also being blinded by rain striking my eyes); we drove back in to the city and eventually the Thai man dropped me off at a water taxi dock on the Pasak River; I thanked the man for giving me a lift and then I took the water taxi across the river; I then walked to my hotel room, took off my wet clothes, showered, and dried. I then walked outside (with umbrella in hand this time) to a nearby restaurant where I had tom yum soup with prawns, stir-fried chicken with cashew nuts, steamed rice, a pineapple smoothie, and a bottle of water. After dinner, I bought a bottle of wine to celebrate my freedom and drank it back in my room. The wine was a smooth dry red produced and bottled in Thailand (by the Siam Winery); however, the grapes were actually grown in Australia; overall the wine was pleasant and tasted of cherries, cinnamon, and other spices; I could imagine sipping this during the Christmas season in between cups of Glühwein and while eating roasted chestnuts (for some reason the cherries and spices remind me of Christmas, so this described scene seems appropriate). I then passed out on my bed and fell asleep.