The day after our visit to Amphawa, Adam went back to Toronto, leaving me travelling solo once again. On my first day returning to lone travels, I booked a day trip to Arutthaya, 76 km north of Bangkok. I wouldn’t recommend staying there overnight as there isn’t all that much to do in the evenings, but since it was the capital of Thailand prior to Bangkok, there are a ton of interesting historical temples and structures to check out. You can get some terrific deals in the travel agencies along Kao San Road because the competition is fierce. For under $20 CDN I got transported there and back, got ferried to four separate sites and got fed a decent lunch. One thing to note is that most of the tours include a hotel pick-up, but as I learned during this trip, there are two types of hotel pick-ups. The first is where you get picked up by the minivan that is ultimately taking you to your destination. The second is where you get picked up only to be rounded up at a central location to get onto your ultimate transport. The problem with the latter is that your pick-up is scheduled up to an hour prior to the departure of your actual transport. So I ended up waking up a full hour earlier than I needed to, only to wait around outside my hotel and the central hub. Whereas the central hub was a 10 minute walk away from my hotel. So you should ask the tour group whether the hotel pick-up is of the second variety, and when the actual departure time from the central hub is as it may be better just to meet at the central hub.
It took a little under 2 hours to make it to Arutthaya. Our first stop was Wat Phu Khao Thong, just outside of Arutthaya. The Buddhist site holds an impressive 50 metre tower. The tower was initially erected in 1569 by King Bayinnaung of modern Myanmar to commemorate his conquest over the area. It was subsequently remodelled in the Thai style in the 18th century when the area was under Thai control again. The adjacent temple was built in 1387 and is still in use, though not with the original roof.
Photos of Wat Phu Khao Thong:
Next, we travelled a short distance to Wat Lokayasutharam, known for it’s massive reclining Buddha, 37 metres in length. Personally, I liked the area around the ruins a little bit more than the ruins themselves. Aside from the Buddha everything else is pretty wrecked:
Our next stop was Wat Mahat That, famous for the Buddha head between tree roots. How the head ended up between tree roots is not much of a mystery. After Bangkok was established as the new capital, the site was abandoned and destroyed at various points, and a tree happened to grow around a discarded Buddha head. I will say that I found it rather strange that Buddhist temples kept getting destroyed by invading armies that were also predominantly Buddhist.
Pictures from the site:
Our last stop was at Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wihaan Phra Mongkhan Bophit next door–the former was the most impressive sight of the daytrip. Building on this site commended in 1350 at the behest of King Ramathibodi I. The Royal Palace was completed one year later (impressive) and it was at that point that Arutthaya was established as the new capital (previously it was at Sukothai). In 1448 King Borommatrailokanat built a new palace and converted the site of the old palace into a holy site. The area was sacked and destroyed in the 1740’s in a Burmese invasion.
Photos of the site:
I’ll leave you with pictures of one feature of Arutthaya that is unique to the city, their tuk tuks. Nowhere else will you find tuk tuks that look like this. They are essentially hybrid Indian/Thai tuk tuks in terms of their size, with what Lonely Planet aptly noted as a front resembling Darth Vader’s helmet. I took photos of a cross-section of colours: