Cultural Excursions

Our cultural excursion over the weekend was a tiring yet amazing opportunity to learn the ancient Thai culture while exploring Ayutthaya, a province near Bangkok. Waking up at 6 am became all worth it as soon as we got introduced to our tour guide for the day, Amir. 

I won’t lie; I’m sitting here writing this blog, still missing Amir. He was not only our tour guide but also our personal photographer and Thai tutor, who very quickly became a fellow team member. We learned so much from him and had the best time as he took us around the city.

Now, let me tell you about our day before this blog becomes purely about Amir, the tour guide. 

After a long drive and an unexpected Thai alphabet lesson from Amir, our first destination was the Wat Muang temple (or “Giant Golden Buddha”). As soon as we stepped out of the van, the heat and humidity hit us hard. To get to Wat Muang, we took a walk through the temple grounds. Here, we saw figures and displays narrating the history of the Thai-Burmese battle in Wiset Chai Chan (the district where Wat Muang is located). We visited a mirror temple along the way, paying our respects and offering blessings to the largest silver Buddha in Thailand.

By the time we reached the trip’s main attraction, we were all sweaty and tired of the intense heat the Thai weather offered. The weather, however, didn’t stop us from admiring and paying respects to the amazing sight before us of the 92m tall Wat Muang golden Buddha statue.

After a quick lunch stop, we returned to the road and headed towards the Ayutthaya Historical Park. Here, we explored the ruins of the old city within the Ayutthaya province and learned about its history and background. The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom.

As Amir explained, the Burmese army attacked, razed, burned the city to the ground, and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city in 1767. A common feature we saw amongst the ruins was that all of the buddha statues had their heads removed by the Burmese soldiers during the invasion. They did this in search of pure golden buddha statues to steal and sell. The city was never rebuilt in the same location and remains known today as an extensive archaeological site for people to visit. 

With the trip coming to an end, we took a final walk through the local market, where we tried my now new favourite local snack Roti Sai Mai, known as the sweet treat of Ayutthaya. It is a Thai-style candy floss wrapped in a paper-thin pandan-flavoured roti sheet. As Amir would say, after eating a couple of these delicious snacks, we were all very “Happy Buddhas.” 

Roti Sai Mai – no visit to the ruins of Ayutthaya is complete without trying Roti Sai Mai

The ride back felt too short as we all knew we would have to say goodbye to our amazing tour guide Amir. Both Amir and our advisor Aaron (who at this point is known as our Thai Dad Aaron) made this trip a memorable and enjoyable experience for us all which we can look back on once we are back in Aotearoa.

With only three weeks left in Bangkok, I look forward to the next adventure Thailand will offer!

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