Have you ever been inspired to visit somewhere after seeing it in a film? I can think of many places – some I’ve already travelled to and others I’ve yet to discover.
While I love fulfilling my own travel dreams, it’s also great when you can share in the experience of someone else realising theirs. My day trip to Thailand’s ancient city of Ayutthaya with my younger brother allowed me to do just that – to revel in the delight of him fulfilling his boyhood dream as he wandered the temple sites where Jean-Claude Van Damme learned to master the ancient ways of Muay Thai in the film Kickboxer.
Having grown up with two brothers, Kickboxer was a regular video of choice in our house at the weekends, and I have to say, I’ve probably ended up loving the film as much as they do. So much so, I used it as their table name at my wedding! Me and my husband chose ‘movies filmed in Thailand’ as our table theme, which we thought was quite apt considering our love for films and the fact that we were getting married in Thailand. (When I say ‘we’chose’ I do of course mean that’s what I decided and he went along with!)
Anyway, back to Ayutthaya…
About an hour’s drive by minivan from Bangkok, It’s an easy trip to Ayutthaya. We left at 6.30am to avoid the morning rush hour but already the queues coming in to Bangkok were beginning to build – thankfully we were heading the other way.
First things first, we stopped off for a spot of breakfast to fuel us for the day ahead. As a scrambled eggs on toast kind of girl, my brother’s girlfriend who was also with us, couldn’t understand how we could be eating noodles with curry before 8am in the morning. I’ve always grown up eating different foods…at any time of the day…but totally understand how some might think it a little strange to be eating such a dish at that time of day – it’s what you’re used to I suppose. When you travel, especially if you’re on a budget, you soon learn to eat whatever is available and whatever you can afford – often these aren’t necessarily the things you might be used to back home. Just give it a try is what I say!
Tummies filled, we were now ready to explore the ancient ruins of what was once the former capital of Thailand. On picking up a tourist leaflet at our first stop I learned that the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King U-Tong. It remained a regional power for 417 years until it was invaded and almost completely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. When the Kingdom was finally liberated the capital was moved to Thonburi, across the river from modern-day Bangkok. There are many sites to explore in Ayutthaya, and it reminded me of my trip to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, only on a smaller scale and with less tourists. If you want to access particular areas of some of the sites you will have to pay an entrance fee – it varies, but typically around 50 Baht (approx £1). It is clear to see why the magnificent ruins have been granted World Heritage status by UNESCO.
We started off at Wat* Phanancherng, home to an impressive statue of Buddha. We listened to the monks chanting and I offered a donation, which I hung on a tree while making a wish before moving on to Wat Yai Chaimongkon, which was built to celebrate the victory of King U-Thong’s combat on elephant back.
Our next stop was Wat Lokayasutharam where in front of us laid a large reclining Buddha approximately 42meters long.
Another Wat later and I couldn’t believe how much we had already seen – and it wasn’t even midday yet! I love sleeping in but I also love the feeling you get when you really feel you have achieved something with your morning – and that usually requires an early start!
Exploring the sites can take its toll, especially in the heat, so drinking plenty of water was a must. Escaping the heat is another good reason to come early. After we were all templed out, we visited Ayothaya Floating Market. For 20 Baht each we got a quick ride around the small island pond before quickly making our way to the nearest food stall for a well deserved meal.
We arrived back in Bangkok around 4pm. There were nine of us on the trip and we hired the minivan for the whole day, which cost 1,800 Baht plus fuel( approx 700 Baht) and a tip for the driver.
When travelling or visiting places as a group there’s always an element of compromise. Everyone enjoys visiting places for different reasons; people’s fitness levels are different; people have different interests – this can all effect how you discover and see a place. I saw Ayutthaya for the first time in the way I had expected but if I were to go again I would probably spend more than a day there, rent a bicycle and take more time to explore the rich history behind each of the sites – perhaps then I can see Ayutthaya beyond any expectations or childhood dreams.
What places have you visited that have fulfilled your childhood dreams? Were you inspired to visit them after seeing them in a film or TV programme? Are there any that you would still like to go to?
*Wat – Buddhist temple/place of worship