On our final day in Thailand our lovely friends took us on an outing to the ancient city of Ayutthaya to sample the famous giant freshwater river prawns, pray at some temples and visit the famous ruins of the old city.
I had been to the city before back on my trip in 2010, but it was a first time for Raj.
We had been wanting to go for ages and when our friends found out they were determined to take us to the most famous restaurant to eat these fantastic freshwater prawns.
Ayutthaya is not far from Bangkok. It took about an hour to drive there. We hired a minibus for the day which picked us up around 10am. So we had plenty of time to get up and have breakfast, avoiding the Bangkok rush hour.
We began the outing with food, of course!
The restaurant gets super busy at lunch times as it’s quite well known. So we went for an early lunch around 11.30ish. That was fine by us, we enjoyed the leisurely lunch trying lots of amazing new food.
The Ayutthaya freshwater prawns are huge. When they come straight out of the river they are blue with these super long tentacles. They trim those down a bit, slice the prawn lengthways and then pop it on a barbecue. There’s no need to do much extra to it as it’s such a tasty meat. The prawns we ordered all had a large white flesh section which was chewy and meaty, and a softer soup-like area of roe which you eat with the rice. The roe was particular fishy, not too much to my liking but Raj loved it.
Along with the freshwater prawns we had a large spicy soup, some vegetables, noodles, rice, fried fish, and a fish ball dish. It was fantastic food, made all the better with the view of the river and the occasional boat pottering by.
To finish up we walked over to the dessert area where you can choose your own pick’n’mix Thai-style dessert which includes candied beans, fruits, nuts, etc on which they add a big dollop of shaved ice and a pouring of syrup. It looked insanely sweet so we opted for just a scoop of ice cream instead.
Afterwards, with bellies full of deliciousness we climbed back onto our minibus and set off to our first temple.
There at the temple we took off our shoes and placed them on the provided-for shoe rack. To the right of it was the kiosk to buy the offerings. We each had a small candle, three incense sticks, a flower and some gold leaf. We light the candle and the incense in the bowl of fire and place the candle in the holder to side of the Buddha statue. We then use the flower and the incense to pray, kneeling down with hands together in front of the statue. The flower is based in a bowl and the incense separately in a container of sand. We use the gold leaf to add to the Buddha.
Afterwards we went inside the temple where there is an enormous statue of Buddha. It was stunning in there. The temple was part of the original Ayutthaya complex that was left in ruins before being restored last century.
The next stop of our whistlestop tour of Ayutthaya was Wat Maha That, which is the famous ruins that were ransacked when the Burmese invaded in the 17th century.
The temple and monastery is in close proximity to the grand palace and was a key religious building at the time as it was believed to house some Buddha relics.
The temple was quite badly damaged and decayed but what is remaining is equally beautiful. If you look closely you can see the exquisite design of the temple, and with a bit of imagination (and possibly some experience in visiting temples in Southeast Asia) you can picture the grandeur of the original building. There are small remnants of carved stone and stucco still clinging to their brick foundations along with the remains of Buddha statues that were decapitated in the attack.
And of course, there’s the infamous Buddha head caught in the roots of a nearby tree. It is thought the head is from one of the decapitated statues and over time the tree grew around it. However, there’s no conclusive evidence how it got to be there. It’s still a striking phenomenon to behold.
The heat was really starting to bear down on us now. It was around 2-3pm and it’s hot season in Thailand now. The temperature was in the late 30s and we were roasting.
Nevertheless, we pushed on to our final temple of the day, a Chinese Buddhist temple. It was fascinating. A new temple, it was located right by one of the rivers. It was a contrast to the other temples we’d been to even though much of the prayer and rituals were the same.
We were super lucky to get there around a prayer time in front of the giant Buddha statue inside. There was a man reading a prayer/chanting and the congregation sat on the floor repeating what he said. Then he was gathering robes/fabric from the people and throwing it up to some other men on the Buddha statue where they then draped the fabric over the statue.
It was fascinating and pretty special to watch.
Alas, we were short on time by now and we needed to head back to Bangkok. The drive back was a tad longer as we got caught in some rush hour traffic. Everyone was shattered from the day and were sleeping the whole way home. I, on the other hand, was too excited to sleep. I wanted to look out the windows and soak in every last bit I could of this country before we left.
Whilst it was a brief visit we thoroughly enjoyed Ayutthaya. We’ve agreed that if we go back to Thailand at any point we will try to spend a few days there instead of just a one day visit. The city is very pretty and would be perfect for cycling and temple visiting. And of course, eating ALL the river prawns.
And… for your viewing pleasure, should you wish, we also made a video of our day. Hoorah!
It includes the end of the day when we said goodbye to our friends, cried in public and then ate street food at the same place where we started this trip. Gotta love a full circle!
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