Nothing says Thailand more like a spectacular, jaw-dropping temple. Thailand was a country that had always been on my bucket list. I remember watching documentaries and history shows on television with my dad when I was younger and being in total awe at how different the country was to mines. One of the main elements that caught my eye was the history and grandeur of temples and Buddha statues.
Despite being jet lagged, we booked on to a full-day temple hopping tour for out second day in Thailand. It was a very long day, but so worth it. And although we were visiting in the rainy season when it’s usually overcast, the clouds were nowhere to be seen.
We were picked up outside our hostel on Khao San Road and driven about an hour and a half to the province of Ayutthaya (Ayutthaya Historical Park). During its historical peak, you could easily have found around 400 active temples. Today lots of these have been renovated, and it’s clear to see the efforts the government have went to preserve these amazing structures. The province of Ayutthaya is now classed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
My only advice would be to take water with you, temple hopping can be quite a long day. And depending how you choose to tour the sites, could be tiring and strenuous if you want to climb up the steep stairs to the top of some temples.
Wat Yai Chaimongkol
Our first stop was Wat Yai Chaimongkol, and it is clearly one of the biggest and most preserved active temple in the province – both tourists and worshippers visit this site regularly. This site was quite busy with tourists when we visited at peak time around 11am. We still managed to get great photos but getting up and down the tight staircases was a bit of a squeeze!
Wat Mahthat was one of my favourite sites. I say sites because there were quite a few temples here. When I visited in 2013 there were a lot of crumbling structures but it was clear they were getting a makeover! Also known as the temple of the great relic, Wat Mahthat is well-known for the famous buddha head encompassed within the roots of a tree. There are a number of different stories as to why the head got there in the first place, but my tour guide told us the story of a thief. The legend goes that a thief tried to steal the head off one of the buddha statues but couldn’t carry it past the temple’s walls. Another has it that it was hidden when the Burmese army invaded (and destroyed) the site in 1767.
Wat Loayasutharam (Reclining Buddha)
This site was more of a large religious buddha statue than it was a collection of temples. Located just outside of Ayutthaya, the reclining buddha statue was spectacular. The sheer size of it is breathtaking. Known as Phra Bhuddhasaiyart, the structure faces to the east. Yes there are several other reclining buddhas in Thailand, but this seems to be one of the largest! Just have a look for yourself:
Wat Phu Khao Thong Temple
By the time we visited Wat Phu Khao Thong, the sun was at its highest and hottest. We were beginning to tire but not before we had conquered one of the tallest temples of the day. Also known as the Golden Mount, this temple seemed to be situated on its own and away from other temples. I highly recommend climbing up the steps up to the halfway landing to get a panoramic view of the surrounding rice fields.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet Temple
After a buffet lunch at Phae Krung Kao with our tour buddies, we hopped back on the bus to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. This was home to one of the holiest sites on the Royal Palace until it was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. It is also the royal monastery so no monk is able to reside at this temple. At the heart, there are three adjacent Ceylonese (or bell-shaped) pagodas which is where royal houses.
Wat Mongkhon Bophit
Wat Mongkhon Bophit is located pretty close to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It is an active temple where worshippers regularly go to worship Buddha. This temple has been restored on a number of occasions over the years, you can see how impeccable it is. It even houses one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand.
Have you ever visited a religious temple or sacred place?
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