Arriving at the ancient city of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the next stop on our tag-along food tour itinerary. This fascinating town, north of Bangkok, was the former capital of what was then known as Siam (later known as Thailand) and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Evidence of the former beauty and importance of this city can be seen from any vantage point.
Ruins of former working monasteries and the distinctive prangs (spires) of these buildings stand out everywhere across the city. Crumbling and broken, they are remnants of their glory years, but despite this, still seem so strong and magnificent. This was once a bustling trade city where the influences of the Japanese, Portuguese and Dutch, along with many other nationalities came to bear, and can still be seen in the local surrounds and museums.
We stayed at the fabulous “Iudia on the River” Hotel, a stunning oasis alongside the Chao Phraya River that wraps around this ancient city, and immediately across from the Ayutthaya World Heritage Park. We were lucky enough to be placed in the river view suite, complete with a private deck. It was a wonderful place to sit, relax, and have a drink in the late afternoon and evening.
Another great feature of the Spirit House tag-along food tour is that there is plenty of time handed back to you in the afternoon to do whatever you feel like. Some took the opportunity to have massages, others to catch up on some sleep, whilst a few of us chose to hang out in the pool and drink beers. A perfect plan on a hot afternoon !
In the evening we all joined together once again for sunset drinks at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Each ruin we visit is different in it’s own right, but altogether the same in terms of the destruction they endured at the hands of the Burmese back in the late 1700’s. It’s quite incredible to witness, years later, the destruction of these historical cities, and to think about how in many instances, this domination by others has not really abated, even in modern times. It may not be exactly the same, but strong parallels can still be drawn between the battles faced in Siam and those happening today all over the world.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is one of the most popular temples in Ayutthaya, so we all took some time to wander around the park. And then, as the sun started it’s descent for the day, we settled back against a wall on the banks of the river to say “cheers” (with our drinks acquired form the local 7Eleven) to a great day, and watch how an already glorious temple became even more beautiful in the dimming sunlight.
With the fading light came the stray dogs, found everywhere in Thailand, but especially prevalent in Ayutthaya. They may be homeless but they certainly aren’t silly and they clustered around us in an effort to find something to eat. As a dog owner, it is heartbreaking to see these dogs without homes, without food, and most looking (unsurprisingly) unhealthy. But it’s a problem that isn’t easy to immediately fix, especially for a tourist.
Eating at the night markets
Of course, all of this sightseeing builds an appetite, so with the moon now firmly in the sky, we arrived at our dinner destination – the night markets. This was also a wonderful opportunity to watch the market chefs in action, pouring oil from huge containers into even bigger woks, and turning up the heat full bore! Kicking back on a plastic chair by the river, a few ice cold Singha beers in our hand, and more than enough food, we enjoyed a lively conversation under the stars until it was finally time to call it a day.