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Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand

Just a couple of hours drive from Bangkok you will find the historic city of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO world heritage site. Founded back in 1350, Ayutthaya became the second city of the Siam Empire.  During the 14th to 18th centuries the city grew into one of the world’s largest cities with a population thought to be around 1 million people! The city was largely destroyed by the Burmese in the 18th century but many of its ruins remain, characterised by tall prangs (towers) and Buddhist monuments.

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Today Ayutthaya Historical Park attracts tourists from all over the world, most arrive from Bangkok for a day trip but many visitors  stay for a few days in one of the many guesthouses or hostels. I have visited Ayutthaya twice, once as a day trip from Bangkok and more recently as an overnight trip. To be honest, as much as I enjoyed exploring the historical sites, I was not so impressed with the city itself, I found the centre of town to be extremely busy and found the constant harassment of tuk-tuks to be quite tiresome! In my opinion unless you are specifically interested in exploring the sites in more detail, a day trip will give you more than enough time to explore the area.

If you do want to stay for a few days then I can highly recommend the Yim Whan Hostel, for only 700 Baht (£16) a night, you can have a double room with balcony. It also houses a great coffee shop downstairs with the most amazing cakes! For booking hostels I recommend Hostel World but if you are looking for something a bit more fancy then use Hostel.com, not only will you get great deals on hotels but they also offer 1 free night stay for every 10 nights booked!

Double room at the Yim Whan Hostel
Yim Whan Hostel Cafe

Ayutthaya Historical Park: How to get there

Ayutthaya can be easily reached from Bangkok. You can either get one of the many tourist minivans, the train or by an organised tour. Once in Ayutthaya you will be met with many tuk-tuks waiting to drive you around the sites. All charge a flat hourly rate around 200-300 Baht with pre-organised routes available; however these rates and routes can be negotiated with the driver. 3 hours should be plenty of time to see the best sites. If you are feeling energetic you can also get yourself a map and hire a bicycle for around 100 Baht, however be warned, the sites can feel quite a distance away when dealing with the hot summer sun!

Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya tuk tuks

Bangkok to Ayutthaya by bus:

Probably the easiest way to reach Ayutthaya is to catch a minivan from one of the many bus stations around Bangkok. You can buy tickets from most hotels and travel agents in and around Bangkok. However the easiest and cheapest way is to buy them online from 12Goasia.com. Vans regularly depart from Mochit new van terminal to Ayutthaya at a cost of 90 Baht (£2.20) and take approximately 2 hrs.

Bangkok to Ayutthaya by train:

You can catch the train to Ayutthaya from Bangkok’s Hua Lampong station at a cost of around 60 Baht (£1.45) and takes around 2 hrs; however the trains in Thailand do not always follow the schedule with many taking much longer than advertised. Although this route may be longer than the bus, the views from the train more than make up for any delays. You can buy tickets at the station on the day or even in advance using 12Goasia. Perhaps get the minivan there and opt for the train back to Bangkok?

Thai-train
3rd Class train back to Bangkok

Ayutthaya by tour:

If you don’t fancy taking the independent route to Ayutthaya, you can also take one of the many tours offered by hotels and tour operators. These tours can sometimes be long and tiresome and cost upwards of 1500 Baht each (£35) Some tours offer a boat trip back to Bangkok including lunch which maybe a preferred option for some, however you won’t have as much time to visit all the major sites. For the best value tours I recommend Get Your Guide.

Which temples to visit:

There are so many sites to visit around Ayutthaya Historical Park that you won’t be able to visit them all, so here’s my list of the best sites:

Wat Ratchaburana

Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana was built by King Borom Ratchathirat II, the wat marks the spot where his two brothers had fought and killed each other fighting for the vacant crown. The large remaining prang was the centre piece of the compound and the vault contained gold jewellery, artefacts and votive Buddhist tablets, however looters broke into the vault in 1957 and raided all that was inside. Displayed inside the vault was many mural paintings, depicting the lives of Buddha, however many of these images have deteriorated and only a handful are still visible.

Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Mahathat

Ayutthaya Historical Park
Famous Buddha head at Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat is probably one of the most famous sites in Ayutthaya, it is here that you will find the Buddha head entwined within the roots of a tree. Wat Mahathat is located in the centre of Ayutthaya and was the residence of the supreme leader of the Thai Buddhist monks and is thought to have been built during the 14th Century.

Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the site of the 3 chedi’s, the first two were built by King Ramathibodi II in 1492. The chedi to the east was for the cremated remains of his father and the now middle one, for his elder brother. The third chedi was built by King Boromracha IV to house the remains of King Ramathibodi II. This site is probably one of my favourites as there is so many ruined buildings to explore.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is one of the first historical sites you will encounter if travelling into the city from the east. Its large bell-shaped chedi sits high on an elevated position with stairs leading up to its terraces. There are rows of Buddha statues along the sides of its gallery which were originally destroyed but have since been re-sculptured. This is also the site of a large reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha at Wat Yao Chai Mongkhon
Rows of Buddha statues
Rows of Buddha statues

Wat Chai Wattanaram

Wat Chai Wattanaram is an impressive site, situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya River. There are many structures including several large chedi surrounded by an inner and outer wall. Along the inner wall you will find rows of Buddha statues which were beheaded by the Burmese in 1767. If staying in the city overnight this temple is said to be the best place to watch the sunset.

Wat Chai Wattanaram
Decapitated Buddha statues
Wat Chai Wattanaram
Wat Chai Wattanaram

Wat Lokkayasutharam

The high-light of Wat Lokkayasutharam is its enormous Reclining Buddha measuring 42 meters long and 8 meters high. In front of the Buddha is a small altar with a small reclining Buddha where visitors can make offerings, many of which use pieces of gold leaf given out by the local ladies.

Wat Lokkayasutharam
Wat Lokkayasutharam

Wat Phu Khao Thong

Wat Phu Khao Thong
Wat Phu Khao Thong

Wat Phu Khao Thong was a monastery originally built in 1395 on the north east side of the current site by King Ramesuan, however after the Burmese invasion in 1569 the current structure was built as a Burmese style chedi but was never finished. Years later Prince Naresuan had a Thai style chedi built on top of its base to commemorate its independence and victory over the Burmese in 1584. If you’re feeling energetic you can climb up all 79 steps to the top.

Wat Phu Khan Thong
Wat Phu Khan Thong

Important Information

There is no fee to enter the Historical Park; however most of the sites charge a small fee of around 50 baht or less.

It is also important to remember that although these are ruined sites they are still seen as sacred monuments to Buddhists, therefore please remain respectful, never climb on a Buddha statue, and please follow the dress code of covering shoulders and wearing long pants or skirts.

Ayutthaya Historical Park is a lovely day out from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok; just remember to bring plenty of water, a hat and sunscreen as the heat can be very intense especially during the day.

Have you been to Ayutthaya? If so let me know what you thought by commenting down below and if you enjoyed this article then subscribe or follow me on your favourite social media to be the first to hear about my new posts.

Thanks for reading,

Happy Travels,

Louise X

Have you heard of the ancient of Ayutthaya? If not check out this post for why it should be on your Thailand Itinerary! #ayutthaya #thailand #bangkok #thaitemples #ancientthailand #ancientcities #travel #travelguides #traveltips
Ayutthaya

A day in Phnom Penh, Exploring Cambodia’s Dark History

Cambodia has to be one of my favourite countries to visit; it may not be as commercialised, touristy or have the same infrastructure as its neighbours, Thailand or Vietnam but this is what sets it apart. I love the fact that you won’t find a Seven Eleven, a McDonald’s or even a Starbucks around every corner. Cambodia is full of history and culture; you can walk around the towns and cities and be welcomed with local shops, restaurants and very friendly locals. If you are looking for an authentic travel experience then Cambodia is certainty that, what you see is what you get!

Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia is no exception, the city is crazy and bustling with mopeds, tuk tuks, cars, vans and buses all tousling for the right of way, traffic is crazy and you will often see people taking no notice to road signs or traffic lights and even driving down the street on the wrong side on the road! I’ve seen mopeds with four or five people squashed on with many even carrying young babies! Don’t let this put you off though, just be prepared for lots of beeping! However Unlike Siem Reap, Phnom Penh hides a dark past!

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

The fact that Cambodia seems to be 20 years behind other countries in the area is generally due to the horrific and tragic events that took place during the reign of the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot from 1975 to 1979.  During this time is it estimated that up to 2 million Cambodians died of starvation, execution, disease or overwork. The Khmer Rouge attempted to socially engineer a classless communist society and took a particular disdain for intellectuals, city residents, ethnic Vietnamese, civil servants and religious leaders. Immediately after taking control of Phnom Penh the Khmer Rouge evacuated its 2.5 million residents, stripped them of their belongings and made them toil the fields as part of a re-education program.

The Khmer Rouge renamed Cambodia to the Democratic Kampuchea and under Pol Pot’s new regime the state controlled all aspects of a person’s life, children were taken from their families and made to join the military. Anybody who disagreed or complained about the new regime where usually tortured and sent to detention centres such as the infamous S-21 now known as the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and killed. It is thought out of the estimated 20,000 people imprisoned at S-21 there are only 12 know survivors! Many of the bodies of those killed were buried in mass graves known now as the killing fields.

A visit to the killing fields and the S-21 museum is a must do when visiting Phnom Penh, However is it not a pleasant experience! Both museums give insight into the atrocities at that time and give you a very sobering experience. At times I was overwhelmed with emotion but it is important to learn about such events in the hope that these atrocities and suffering don’t happen again. However it’s sad to know that this was not the last genocide the world has experienced and that in some places around the world these things are still happening now!

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – S-21

The S-21 detention centre was one of many in Cambodia and was formally the Chao Ponhea High School; however in 1976 it was turned into a prison and interrogation centre and was re-named the Security Prison 21. It is thought that there was as many as 1500 prisoners there at any one time who were repeatedly tortured and coerced into giving details of other family members or close associates who were then in turn arrested and tortured and killed themselves. Most of the victims of S-21 were soldiers from the previous regime, government officials, academics, doctors, teachers and monks, virtually anyone who was seen to be an intellectual. The prison had very strict rules and most prisoners were held there for up to 3 months, during this time the torture system was designed to make prisoner confess to whatever crimes they were charged with, regardless of whether it was true or not, after which they were then killed.

Cambodia a dark history
The strict rules!

In the beginning most prisoners who were killed were buried near the prison but eventually they ran out of space. This meant that prisoners were then transported out of Phnom Penh to what is now known as the Killing Fields, were they were executed and put into mass graves. Although the majority of those killed were Cambodian, there were many foreign nationals including some westerners.

Cambodia a dark history
One of the rooms used for torturing prisoners!
Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
Another area used to torture prisoners!

The S-21 museum can be easily reached by foot from the city centre and entrance fee is only $5, you can also get an audio guide for an extra $3 which is a must do! As you enter the museum you can easily imagine what the site was like when it was a school. Within Its typical square layout the large courtyard in the middle, you can imagine the children running around playing. However as soon you get to the first point on the audio guide you are right away transported back to reality and the atrocities that have taken place! At times I found it very difficult to read all the displays as the amount of information and graphic detail is so intense. To be honest as we have visited the Killing Fields beforehand,  I left the museum before seeing all of it as by that time I just couldn’t take any more  in. Doing both museums back to back is a very tough experience; I recommend if you have the time, visit them over two separate days.

Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
You can imagine how it looked like as a school.

Along with detailed accounts, photos and original fixtures the museum also plays documentaries, including survivor stories. There is also a gift shop and on some days you will find one of the survivors who has a book stall.

The S-21 museum is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm

For more information visit http://tuolsleng.gov.kh/en/museum/

Choeung Ek, the Killing Fields

The killing Fields Memorial is located about 17 Kilometres from Phnom Penh with an entrance fee is $3 with must have audio guide another $3. The audio guide here is brilliant and really helps you understand the site and the details of what happened. The only real transport to the site is by tuk tuk which you can hire for the day for about $20.

Choeung Ek The Killing Fields
One of the mass graves now underwater.

The site itself used to be a Chinese cemetery and orchard of which you can still see signs of today. It is though about 20,000 men, women and children were killed here and then dumped into one of the many mass graves. The site itself is just one of many found ‘killing Fields’ around Cambodia. Many victims had previously been tortured in one of the many security prisons such as S-21 and were brought here to be executed, however to save on bullets, they were killed the cheapest way possible, usually bludgeoned or hacked to death or by using the sharp leaves of the surrounding trees to slit people’s throats. The audio guide takes you from point to point painting a picture of what happened here, explaining what it would of looked like. As you walk around the site you will see many coloured bracelets which have been left as a mark of respect, you will also walk around areas of mass graves, many of which have not been unearthed. In some of these sights you will come across items of clothing or pieces of bone which have found their way to the surface due to heavy rainfall.

Cambodia a dark history
Coloured bracelets left as a mark of respect.
Choeung Ek The Killing Fields
Area where children and babies were killed.

Some points of the tour can be very harrowing especially the points were it is known that executioners beat and killed children and babies. The most poignant part of the tour is towards the end when you come face to face with the large stupa containing thousands of sculls as well as items of clothing and weapons used to kill. There are many parts of the tour where you and still and reflect and listen to some of the stories on the audio guide.

Cambodia a dark history
Stupa containg sculls.

The Choeung Ek memorial is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm

For more information visit http://www.killingfieldsmuseum.com/s21-victims.html

Are you travelling onward to Siem Reap? If so check out my post on visiting Angkor wat

Thanks for reading, if you would like to be kept updated on my future travels then why not subscribe or follow me on your favourite social media.

Happy travels,

Louise X

Travelling to Cambodia and Phnom Penh? Check out this guide to exploring Cambodia's dark history! #Cambodia #phnompenh #travel #travelguides #traveltips #historicplaces #museums

Athens, the Ancient Capital of Greece

As well as being the capital and largest city in Greece, The city is also one of the oldest in the world with landmarks dating back to the 5th Century BC.  However it doesn’t seem to get the same attention as the likes of Paris, Rome or London. Many people including myself have a love hate relationship with the city, on one hand it has the history, culture, beaches and nightlife to happily satisfy most tourists, but it’s also extremely busy, densely populated, plagued by traffic jams and pollution. However even with this in mind, I find it one of the most fascinating cities in Europe and believe it’s a city not to be missed.

Many tourists stay for just enough time to check out the famous Acropolis then leave soon as possible, eager to go island hoping around the beautiful Greek islands. Although this is a must do when visiting Greece, you should try to stay in Athens for a few days and get to know and visit more than just the famous Acropolis.

The city centre is relatively small, so getting to see all the sights by foot can be quite easy for most, however the city is quite hilly so walking around can be tiresome for some, especially in the summer heat.

Affiliate Disclosure – Lou Does Travel contains affiliate links. If you choose to make a purchase through these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to yourself.

Greece Acropolis at Night
The Acropolis at night.

The centre of Athens is dominated by the hill-top Acropolis which can be seen from every point around the city and looks magnificent in the evening all lit up. Most ancient sites can easily be found a short walk from the acropolis, however the city also has an excellent public transport system to help take the weight of your feet.

The ancient sites:

The Acropolis

The Acropolis is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the most famous of all the historical sites in Greece and possibly Europe. The site itself dates back to 7000 BC with its first human inhabitants occupying this site and the nearby Ancient Agora. The structures as seen today are thought to have been built between 490 and 250 BC.  If you enter the site at the quieter east entrance near to the Akropoli metro station you will be able to check out the Odeon of Herodes Atticus. This large amphitheatre was built in AD 161 by the wealthy Roman Herodes Atticus in memory of his wife Regilla.

Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Odeon of Herodes Atticus.

As you continue around the side of the mount you will then come across the Temple of Nike, this tiny marble temple is the earliest Ionic temple designed by Kallicrates and was dedicated to the goddess Athena Nike. In Greek Nike means victory (Athena the goddess of Victory).

The Parthenon Greece
The Parthenon.

As you continue up the hill you will be met by the Parthenon itself, its magnificent columns sweep up to what was once some of the finest carving of their time. The triangle structures topping the east and west facades were filled with elaborately carved sculptures.

Sculptures The Parthenon Greece
Sculptures on the east and west facades.

As you circle around the Parthenon you will then come across the Erechtheion, named after the mythical king of Athens, and the Porch of the Caryatids, these sculptures were modelled on the women of Karyai.  It is thought that the Erechtheion housed the cults of Poseidon and Athena, it was here that according to myths this god and goddess had a contest for the cities affections. Poseidon struck the ground with his trident producing a salt spring whilst Athena produced an olive tree. The flourishing olive tree that now sits beside the Erechtheion is thought to be the sacred tree that Athena produced to seize the victory in the contest for Athens.

Important information:

Opening times: 8am-8pm Apr-Oct and 8am-5pm Nov-Mar

Entry fee: Adults: €20 Child €10

For more information check out www.odysseus.culture.gr

The Acropolis Museum

The new €130 million Acropolis museum lies at the foot of the Acropolis southern slope and is a modern purpose-built museum that houses many of the surviving Greek treasures, this collection includes artefacts that where previously held in storage and those who have been returned from foreign museums. As you enter the grounds you will be met with a Plexiglas floor which displays the newly uncovered ruins excavated during the building of the museum. Just inside the museum you will encounter the foyer gallery which has an ascending glass floor which allows glimpses of the ruins below. The museum has been cleverly though out and has an abundance of statues, pottery and other artefacts found within the Acropolis site. If you want to delve deeper into Greek mythology and the history of the Acropolis, this museum is a must.

Acropolis Museum Greece
Newly found ruins at the Acropolis Museum.

Important information:

Opening times: 8am-4pm Mon 8am-8pm Tue-Sun 8am-10pm Fri Apri-Oct

Prices: Adult €5 Child free

For more information check out www.theacropolismuseum.gr

The Ancient Agora

This place was by far my favourite site, the Ancient Athenian Agora was the centre of ancient Athens and was set around a large open square in which residents would use for a variety of purposes such as markets, religious festivals and dramatic performances. Parts of this huge site are still being excavated but you can still wander around the site and visit the new museum housed in the Stoa of Attalos which was originally built around 200 BC

Ancient Agora Greece
The Museum housed in the Stoa of Attalos.

Inside the museum you will find a selection of the thousands of objects recovered in the past 75 years, reflecting the use of the area from 3000 BC. to 1500 AD. Walking around the grounds you will also find many artefacts and items of interest as well as the very well-preserved Temple of Hephasistos.

Temple of Hephaistos Greece
Temple of Hephaistos.

Important Information:

Opening times: Daily 8am-8pm

Prices: Adult €8 Child €4

For more information check out www.odysseus.culture.gr

Hadrian’s Arch

Hadrian’s Arch stands on the edge of one of one the busiest avenues. This arch was Built by the order of the Roman emperor Hadrian in AD 132 and thought to commemorate the consecration of the Temple of Zeus.  The northwest frieze inscriptions read ‘This is Athens, the Ancient city of Theseus’ whilst the southeast frieze reads ‘This is the city of Hadrian, and not of Theseus.’ This is thought to show that the arch was a dividing point between the ancient and Roman city.

Hadrian's Arch Athens
Hadrian’s Arch

Temple of Olympian Zeus

The building of the Temple of Olympian Zeus started in the 6th century BC but was never finished, it was only 700 years later was it finished by Hadrian in 131 AD. Originally there stood 104 Corinthian columns of which only 15 remain standing.

Temple of Olympian Zeus Athens
Temple of Olympian Zeus.

Panathenaic Stadium

The original racecourse stadium was built around 330 BC but was later rebuilt in marble in 144 AD by Herodes Atticus and had a capacity of 50,000 seats. It is thought to be the only marble stadium in the world and known to be the site of the first modern Olympic Games. The stadium is still used today and is also where the handover ceremony for the Olympic flame is held every 4 years.

Panathenaic Stadium Athens
Panathenaic Stadium.

Important information:

Prices: Adults €5 Child €2.50

For more information check out www.panathenaicstadium.gr

These are just some of the more popular historical sites to visit, there are many more hidden away in side streets, you don’t have to look far to find a bit of history. As well as the historical sites there are an abundance of other things to do, including museums, day trips further afield, great beaches. As well as great cafes, restaurants and bars, including some great roof tops bars that have some of the best views of the Acropolis. Be sure to make time to explore before jumping ship!

Have you been to Athens, if so did you check out all the ancient sites? Let me know what you thought in the comments below. Also, if you enjoyed reading this article then why not subscribe to my blog or follow me on your favourite social media to be the first to hear about my new adventures.

Thanks for reading,

Happy Travels,

Louise x

Do you have a trip to Athens planned? Want to know the best ancient sites to visit? Then check out this post on how to explore the ancient sites of Athens! #Athens #greece #visitathens #travel #ancientsites #travelguides #traveltips