For four hundred years, up to its sacking by the Burmese in the late eighteenth century, Ayutthaya was the capital city of Siam. Early European visitors marvelled at its wealth, beauty and size. There were many temple complexes and palaces, thousands of statues of Buddha and everywhere there was lavish adornment in gold, ceramic mosaic and intricate plasterwork. Located in the middle of a rich agricultural floodplain, stone was not easily available so the architects of the old city used millions of bricks to achieve their structural ambitions.
Shirley and I travelled to Ayutthaya by train. Each of our tickets cost us thirty pence. The old capital lies about fifty miles north of Bangkok. Upon arrival, I spotted a signpost for our hotel - across the railway tracks. Fifteen minutes later we were in the suburban oasis of Baan Thai House - run by sisters Bu-Nga and Leena Mayteedol.
What a lovely hotel it was. Just twelve villas near a small lake and beyond that was a twenty metre swimming pool. The grounds were immaculately tropical. Every little thing seemed to have its place - to fit as if part of some harmonious plan. We stayed in Lake Villa 3 with its balcony overlooking the lake. The bedroom was spacious with a lovely hardwood block floor and all was tasteful and clean.
On our only full day in the old city, we hired a tuk-tuk and driver till lunchtime. His name was Manop and he took us in his Barbie pink comedy vehicle to six of the main historical sites. We strolled around in the thick morning heat, marvelling at what once was. A huge number of statues of Buddha were headless and rarely could you get a sense of the exotic decoration that would have once adorned the city's multitudinous brickwork structures. Nonetheless it was a real wonder to behold and it spoke of ancient Siam's economic power, its self-belief and its all-consuming veneration of Buddha as the overseer of everyday life and hope for the future.
If Bangkok is home to the chilled out "zen dogs", Ayutthaya is where their nasty counterparts lurk. We were growled at, barked at and twice almost chased by semi-wild, hungry pooches with battle scars and a total incapacity for logical argument. They reminded me why I have always preferred cats.
Shirley's flying home in the morning. I think I have given her a real taste of and for Thailand. We have got on so well together. It has been rather like the honeymoon we never had in 1981. After she has gone, I will fly up to Chiang Rai in the very north of the country for further exploration and probably a hop over the border into Laos. Once again my blogability will be reduced but I'll be back at this laptop on April 15th or 16th. I have never written this daft Italian word before - Ciao!