Bangkok: Palace at Bang Pa In, Ayutthaya and a Chao Phraya River Cruise

Today was a 6:30 am start and an escape to the ruined former capital in Ayuthaya ransacked by the Burmese some 250 years ago; in its heyday the buildings were as elaborate as the grand palace in Bangkok.

Before reaching the ruined Island City we stopped at the Royal residence at Bang Pa In which is Set in beautiful manicured grounds. Our guide Donna informed us that the Thai King had “entertained” HRH on the second floor and that she was an honorary wife! Donna also informed us that she has an appetite like a horse and was henceforth christened “kebab”.

There are two ways to get around the palace grounds: by foot, or by golf cart. We opted to follow Donna, which was a lot of fun, except her regimental style sometimes drove us a little bit too fast for my liking. I was on owl alert to try and snap some decent pictures, I didn’t do too well!.  The palace complex was constructed in the 17th century, though many of the present buildings were built in the 19th century.  The colourful buildings include a Chinese-style palace, a lookout tower (from the top of which is a great view of the structures and grounds), a European-style royal residence, a Thai-style pavilion in the middle of the pond, and a coach house.

As we left for Ayutthaya Kebab continued to gabble at a pace telling us that this was the hot season in Thailand. Kebab says “there are three seasons in Thailand, hot, very hot and very very hot.” She also informed us that her husband had kicked her out because she talked too much but the miserable git invited her back at some later day because he missed her constant banter. We continued on to Ayutthaya, established in 1350 as the second capital of Siam (after Sukhothai).

Ayutthaya was a majestic city for centuries until it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, when the city was burned to the ground.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There were reminders of the disastrous 2011 floods, as waterline marks were visible on some of the structures.  Ayutthaya’s attractions include Wat Phra Mahathat, famous for the Buddha head embedded in a tree’s roots, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, with its three dominant chedis, Wat Ratburana, and Wat Chai Wattanaram.

After a whirlwind tour of the site and the constant cry of “follow Donna, I show you best picture shot after taking 30 years experience” we took a short drive to another Wat and finally a beautiful reclining Buddha Wat Lokayasutharam and according to Donna, it’s killer dogs. “Donna say do not touch any dog because tourists were eaten, yes Donna say they biting,” At 37 meters long and 8 meters high, this reclining Buddha figure towers over the devotees who come here to make offerings.

The head is resting on a lotus and at the opposite end of the body, the legs and feet overlap squarely. The area at ground level beneath the head is covered in tiny squares of gold-leaf which have been paced there by people making merit. Flowers and incense are also presented as offerings. Phra Buddhasaiyart has been restored on a number of occasions in modern times. Most recently, the flooding of late 2011 caused some cosmetic damage which the Department of Fine Arts has now repaired.

We ignored the market and settled in the shade for a cool coconut before the cry of “Donna says no relax do lunch, eat fat like Donna” rang out and we boarded the bus for the short journey to our river cruise luncheon.

A splendid buffet lunch was gorged as we cruised along the river before arriving at River City some 2 hours later. Ignore the Americanised negatives on Tripadvisor, the food was exceptional for a buffet. Frank Oh Bok Young and I ate too much and felt bloated the rest of the day.

Unfortunately It then took 90 minutes by taxi to return to our hotel. We past the cordoned off areas shorn of protesters but many of them (fantastically) still occupied the Rama 4 bridge and it was devoid of traffic.

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