This extraodinary Thai wat
(=temple) is built outside the old capital of Thailand, Ayuthaya
, which was founded in the early fifteenth century and remained the capital until King Rama I
moved it to Krung Thep
, which means the same as Los Angeles
. The temple was erected at the start of the seventeenth century as a memorial to victory over Cambodia
. The enormous central tower looks like one end of a corn-on-the-cob, or more appropriately a lingam
. It has false entrances on three sides and a real one on the other. Once you've completed the very steep-stepped climb up to the top, the view is magnificent.
Its best aspect is over the Chao Phraya River -the country's main waterway- which wends its green way along the front of the temple- although the wat is outside the outskirts, you can see right over some intervening jungle and the deep green river and into the city itself, and the odd wat tower in there glinting gold in the sun.
Although the rampaging Burmese who sacked the city (due to the treachery of a Thai general) in the late 1780s chopped the heads of every single Buddha, the two largest which face out onto the river have had their heads restored and are draped in saffron-dyed cloth. The best view of the temple itself is from the Chao Phraya River. As you come around the corner in the inevitable long-tailed boat, what is most striking is the medley of colours- the temple stone itself is all shades of red and and of yellow -best enhanced by the setting sun behind it- and the surrounds are lush jungle and trimmed lawns, whilst the large Buddhas are grey and wear their saffron sashes. The cumulative effect is stunning and as you walk up the steps from the landing stage to the temple area, you are made aware of the flawless symmetry of the place.
Its proximity to Ayuthaya makes this wat an easy one to visit, and transport to the city itself is easy to organise, certainly there are daily busues from Bangkok, two hours' drive away. You can get tours to take you there and to the old city of Ayuthaya itself, and I certainly found this very worthwhile as the city is beautiful and has a rich history. Not only is there an entire ancient city complex, but the famous (outdoor) reclining Buddha -the indoor one is at Wat Pho in Bangkok- and several other giant lingams of beauty. For more information on the old city and on all things Thai, see anthropod's excellent Thailand.