The eerie yet serene headless Budhas of Ayutthaya

We heard of Ayutthaya and its temples through some fellow guests in a hotel some weeks back and decided it was the perfect spot to spend a few days and avoid going into Bangkok which we had both been to a number of times in the past. If we want to go into Bangkok for any reason, we could take the train from there as a day trip.

What a fascinating and once again turbulent history this city has had! Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, used to be the Siamese capital and one of the largest 17th century cities in the world but was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767. The city was never rebuilt and remains an archaeological site, designated as a UNESCO world heritage site. When you visit Ayutthaya and see how they have looked after the whole site, you can understand why Old Bagan in Myanmar was refused that status. (Although I think it deserves some assistance to achieve this recognition as it too is a site worth preserving for future generations. Unfortunately, the Myanmar military’s keenest to rebuild ruins with some artistic licence compromised the archaelogical integrity of the site, much to archeologists and historians’ horror and ultimately against Unesco’s approval.)

I am keen to visit our first temple shortly after we arrive at our guesthouse. Anthony is always so accommodating!! Wat Mahathat is just 5′ walk away. Our timing, as is so often the case, is impeccable: it is close to closing time and the few tourists in town around have nearly all left. We see a glorious red sunset in the distance.

Wat Mahathat was the residence of the Supreme Patriarch or leader of the Thai Buddhist monks and is the most sacred of all temples in Ayatthaya for it is said to contain relics of Bhudda. It is also home to the Budha head in a Bodhi tree – a serene Budha head cradled in the roots of a huge old Bodhi tree. Exactly how the Budha head ended up there is still unclear – many speculating it was dropped by looters stealing and running away with many of the decapitated heads left behind after the Burmese destroyed most of the temples.

Budha head in a Bodhi tree, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya,  Thailand

Budha head in a Bodhi tree, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Buddha head in Bodhi tree, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Buddha head in Bodhi tree, Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand


While the sight of rows and rows of headless Budhas is eerie, there is a palpapable serenity in these beautiful grounds, the meditating Budhas were still oozing their gentleness and peacefulness out to the world.
Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Sun setting on Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya

Sun setting on Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya


Anthony was good enough to come out as soon as we arrived, and I am so happy to have visited Wat Maha That and see the iconic smiling budha head in the bodhi tree, I am happy to return to the guesthouse and let him relax. Good thing!!! We find out that Ayutthaya has a big problem with dogs! They go out at night in packs and there have been several instances of them attacking and biting people, who have then had to have several anti-rabies vaccinations. Great. A dog only needs to smell me from a distance and it runs up at me to sink its teeth into me!! Really!!! It has happened too many times. We’ll go to a restautant by tuk-tuk!!!

We spend 4 nights in Promtong Mansion – a gorgeous, and cheap, guesthouse in itself, but Jeeda, the owner makes it the absolutely friendliest place we’ve stayed at so far. A must stay at place for anyone visiting Ayutthaya!!!

The next couple of days are spent lazily discovering many of the temples, relaxing, uploading photos, sleeping, and looking into places to stay at on the south west coast – there are so many options, but mostly too expensive, it is overwhelming and no decision is made!!! We don’t even know when we’ll get to the vicinity of those beaches, and we don’t want to feel rushed now that we have sufficient time to make it to KL in time.

So much is written on each of the temples of Ayutthaya, I will simply let you wander through the some of archealogical site through the following photos. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol was renovated in 1982, hence all the perfect Budhas.

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Chaiwathanaram, Ayutthaya, Thailand

37m long reclining Budha, Wat Yai Chai Monghol,  Ayutthaya, Thailand

37m long reclining Budha, Wat Yai Chai Monghol, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Worshipper's incense and lotus flower at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol, Ayutthata

Worshipper’s incense and lotus flower at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhol, Ayutthata

Wat Yai Chai Monghol, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Yai Chai Monghol, Ayutthaya, Thailand


Seeing the temples at night gave a totally different perspective, the ruins standing out more clearly and majestically. In case you wondered, we went by tuk-tuk and happily drove by the packs of dogs!!

Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Ratchaburana, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Phra Si Samphet, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Wat Phra Si Samphet, Ayutthaya, Thailand

Tomorrow 4th December, we’re going to Bangkok by train for dinner with a friend. Looking forward to this trip – a different little adventure!!
– Anne

11 comments on “The eerie yet serene headless Budhas of Ayutthaya

  1. Loved the long line of statues draped in yellow – for the king’s birthday – ?
    And the nocturnal photos are stunning; I can well believe the actual sight must have been awesome. xx

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    • The Budhas are often drapped with saffron sashes, but we’ve never seen whole rows wearing them. What the photo couldn’t show is that all 4 walls of the square were lined with safron drapped Budhas. Quite a sight. Xxx

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  2. Wow! What history captured in such a timeless way. Loved the picture with all the Buddhas in saffron sashes, must have been such a mystical experience. Where are pics of the “mansion” you stayed in? xx

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