One hot Saturday morning Dave and I got the driver, ‘Pon, from work to take us to Si Ayutthaya, or Ayutthaya as it is usually known. It is a province situated about 80km north of Bangkok and was once one of the most powerful states in Southeast Asia.
For 417 years the city of Ayutthaya was the capital and centre of government of the Thai kingdom. It was completely destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese army and all that remains today are lots of ruined temples. It is a World Heritage Sight and the ruins are well worth exploring, which is what we intended to do.
First though, Pon had other ideas for us, we stopped at Bang Sai (Support) Centre which was started by Her Majesty Queen Sirikit in order that the Thai crafts might be continued, trainees learn bronze casting, woodwork, basket work, ceramics, doll making and weaving to name a few of the skills. Their are also examples of Thai houses all set in beautiful grounds. We didn’t stay here for long but visited it again at a later date.
Next stop was Bang Pa-In Palace, Royal Summer Palace. The original Palace dates back to 1632, but most of the buildings there now were erected by King Monkut (Rama IV) and his son King Chulalonkorn (Rama V) who reigned between 1851 and 1910. The present Royal family still use one of the buildings when in the area.
One of the buildings on the site is shown below and is called Wehaht Jamruen Mansion (Grand Heaven Palace), it is a classical Chinese style house. It was a gift to King Chulalongkorn from the Chinese chamber of commerce, inside the decor is gold and red with wooden carved panels every where.
Above is Isual Thippaya Ahsana Pavilion, one of the original structures from 1632, it has been restored and reconstructed to its original design, a typical Thai wooden structure.
The story of this Ordination Hall is to do with King Chulalongkorn and his desire for a different architectural style. This is a Neo-Gothic Christian church design. (The Catholic church I worship in each Sunday, here in Bangkok, is styled after a Thai Buddhist Ordination Hall) It was built in 1878 and lies just across the river from the Royal Summer Palace. You can see how we crossed over to see the inside.
By now we were getting hungry so went for lunch at a riverside restaurant, it was very pleasant under an awing on a big wooden deck above the bank of the river, numerous fans kept us cool and we enjoyed a Thai style lunch of rice and two dishes, one meat the other vegetables. After this we were ready for the ruins of Ayutthaya but you will have to wait for the next installment as it has taken me about 3 weeks to write this!!