Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya (UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE)

If you are travelling in Thailand for any length of time, there is one iconic image that you may see crop up time and again on postcards and in guide-books. The photograph of a Buddha head entwined within the roots of a tree is one of the most recognisable images from Thailand.

W Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya is this location's namein Thailand. Located about 80 Kilometres from Bangkok, Thailand, Ayutthaya was at one point the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. buddha-head-in-tree-pics buddha-head-in-tree-pics

This ancient temple was built during the 14th century, but was reduced to ruins in 1767 when the Burmese army invaded Ayutthaya, the capital of Siam. The temple was destroyed by the Burmese who also vandalised many of the Buddha images in Ayutthaya by lopping off the heads. The area remained abandoned and overgrown until the 1950s when the Department of Fine art began restoration work in Ayutthaya. Nobody knows for certain how the Buddha head became entwined in the roots of the tree. buddha-head-in-tree-pics buddha-head-in-tree-pics

One theory suggests that the tree simply grew around the Buddha head during the period when the temple lay abandoned and overgrown. Another theory is that a thief moved the Buddha head away from the main temple to hide it. This may have happened in the early 1900s when it is known that one of the remaining areas of the temple collapsed and consequently led to treasure hunters digging in the area. After moving the stone Buddha head away from the ruined main temple, it is possible the thief never returned for his treasure or couldn’t move it any further beyond the walls that surround the temple. Instead, the stone Buddha head was abandoned by the wall not far from the entrance of Wat Mahathat where it can be seen today nestled in the tree roots which have grown around it.

When visiting this location please remember it is a sacred site. The presence of a guard and a discrete chain are there to remind visitors of the fact that they cannot touch the statue. You may take photos, but to be respectful these should be taken from a kneeling position.

buddha-head-in-tree-pics

Ayutthaya,the ancient capital of Siam, is 80km north of Thailand’s present-day capital city and makes for an excellent day trip from Bangkok. Better still if you have the time, spend a night here before heading further north to Sukhothai or Chiang Mai. Steeped in history, Ayutthaya was ravaged by the Burmese in 1767 and the city was abandoned. The impressive remains of the historic temples form a dramatic backdrop to this pleasant riverside city. More about this place in my next blogpost.


How, where and what in the city ?

  • Train from Bangkok: From Hualamphong train station in Bangkok it is approximately a 90 minute train journey to Ayutthaya. A one-way ticket ranges from 15 Baht to 66 Baht depending on how much comfort you require (the cheapest seats in 3rd class are hard wooden ones). On arrival at Ayutthaya train station, head out of the main entrance and make the short trip by foot to the pier where a ferry takes passengers across the Pasak River. Most of the main sights and accommodation are located on the other side of the Pasak River.
  • Bus: Buses for Ayutthaya depart at regular intervals throughout the day from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal at Mo Chit. Depending on traffic and number of stops, journey time can range from 1.5-2 hours with a fare of between 35-45 Baht.
  • Mini-Van: Mini-vans depart from Victory Monument in Bangkok and take approximately an hour to get to Ayutthaya with an average fare of 60 Baht. This is an option if you are travelling light, but be warned that there isn’t much room on board for luggage and some of the drivers seem to be in training for a future career in Formula 1 racing.
  • Boat: In the absence of a public passenger boat service to Ayutthaya, a number of private companies fill the void by operating tours. A typical day tour from Bangkok involves a cruise to Ayutthaya, lunch, a tour of the main temples and a return trip by road.
    There are numerous sights and ancient temples scattered around Ayutthaya. These can be visited as part of an organised tour or alternatively it’s easy enough to hire a bicycle for independent exploring. Tuk-tuks can also be hired to take you to the main sites and within the main Ayutthaya Historical Park there is an option for elephant rides. Three rivers (the Prasak, Chao Phraya and Lopburi) actually encircle the old temples and it’s possible to take a boat trip once you are in Ayutthaya that takes in some of the main sights.Some other places to see in the city are
  • Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
  • Wat Phra Ram
  • Wat Phra Mahathat
  • Wat Ratchaburana
  • Chao Sam Phraya National Museum

When visiting this location please remember it is a sacred site. The presence of a guard and a discrete chain are there to remind visitors of the fact that they cannot touch the statue. You may take photos, but to be respectful these should be taken from a kneeling position.

Where to Stay?

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Coming up soon ! for Custom queries pls email us on hi@pushpendragautam.in
Coming up soon ! for Custom queries pls email us on hi@pushpendragautam.in
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