Si Ayutthaya 8, Thanon Phaya Thai, Ratchathewi, Bangkok 10400, Thailand


 visit to Bang Pa-In, the spectacular Summer Place, followed by a lazy boat trip across the Chao Phraya River, and finally to the island of Ayutthaya, the legendary Kingdom of Siam's former capital. The floating pavilion was a favourite place of the Crown Prince to sit in the afternoon and read poetry. There are also rumours of royal trysts. The Lookout observatory tower was where royals would do their star gazing or look out over the countryside. Walking barefoot on the cool ornate tiles is wonderful after the heat outside in the gardens. The interior is richly red lacquerwork and intricately carved ebony.  Upon entering, you walk among blackened brick and plaster ruins, all reminders of the Burmese raid on this once glorious city. Around the corner in an inconspicuous spot is the incredibly famous image of the Buddha's head entwined in the roots of a fig tree. Nobody is sure of the true origins of the head. Although made familiar by photographers, it is still a haunting sight. We are reminded to crouch if we want a picture taken with the image, as no-one should stand higher than the Buddha. The most tranquil smiling Buddha image is found at Lokayasutharam. The reclining statue is 37 meters long and 8 meters high. His head rests on a lotus bud and in the crook of his arm are offerings of flower garlands and incense. The first is golden in the half lotus position, surrounded by ornate red columns. The other image is more unusual, a Dvaravadi Buddha image of strange green hue in seated posture and royal dress. This is before he attained enlightenment. However, looking around and walking the expansive empty spaces, it is evident that not much has survived. Pervading the ruins, which have burned to the ground, there are memories, dreams, poetry. The grounds are expansive and one can only imagine.

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