Bang Pa-In The Royal Summer Palace. Before reaching Ayutthaya we stopped to visit the Royal Palace. King Prasat Thong constructed the original complex in 1632, but it fell into disuse and became overgrown in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, until King Mongkut began to restore the site in the mid-19th century. Most of the present buildings were constructed between 1872 and 1889 by King Chulalongkorn. Amidst vast gardens and landscaping stand the following buildings: Wehart Chamrunt (Heavenly Light), a Chinese-style royal palace and throne room; the Warophat Phiman (Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode), a royal residence; Ho Withun Thasana (Sages' Lookout), a brightly painted lookout tower; and the Aisawan Thiphya-Art (Divine Seat of Personal Freedom), a pavilion constructed in the middle of a pond. The palace remains largely open to visitors, as King Bhumibol Adulyadej and his family use it only rarely for banquets and special occasions.

We had the idignity of being driven round in this mobility scoooter, but it did expedite the tour.

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Wat Niwet Thammaprawat is a Buddhist temple (wat) of the Dhammayut Order, located within the grounds of the Bang Pa-In Royal Palace in Thailand's Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province. Founded in 1878, it is remarkable among Thai Buddhist temples in that its architecture mimics that of a European church, being built in the Gothic Revival style. The temple is located on an island of the Chao Phraya River, next to Bang Pa-in Royal Palace. It is nowadays accessible by a cable car from the palace.

The construction of Wat Niwet Thammaprawat was commissioned by King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) in 1876, to serve as the royal temple for the newly expanded Bang Pa-In Palace. The temple was designed by Joachim Grassi, one of the first Italian architects employed under the king's government. Many public buildings were built in the Western style during Chulalongkorn's reign, a trend reflecting the modernisation of Siam (as Thailand was then known) at the time. Wat Niwet Thammaprawat was built in Gothic Revival style, with stained glass windows and a Gothic altar. Its appearance resembles that of a Christian church, with the temple's main Buddha image in place of a Cross. Construction was completed in 1878

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Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya's ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok.

Today you come to see the temples - the town itself is fairly scrubby and dirty, and you would not visit if it were not for the temples. The temples are usually in ruins and no longer function as temples. The central area is UNECO World Heritage. An extension of the World Heritage property is under preparation which will cover the complete footprint of the city of Ayutthaya as it existed in the 18th century, when it was one of the world’s largest urban areas. This will bring other important ancient monuments, some of which are outside of the presently-inscribed area under the same protection and conservation management afforded to the current World heritage property. In addition, new regulations for the control of construction within the property’s extended boundaries are being formulated to ensure that the values and views of the historic city are protected.

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The layout makes it really one big town, rather than a series of individual temples. The day ended with a visit to one of the temples at sunset - Wat Chaiwatthanaram on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, outside Ayutthaya island, but within the heritage area.. It is one of Ayutthaya's best known temples and a major tourist attraction.

Baan Thai House Hotel

Their own web site and on Booking.com at 9.0 and on TripAdvisor

Twelve individually theme villas in large tropical landscaped gardens. The hotel layout is strange. There appears to have been an original "big house" set in large gardens and with a lake. The "big house" remains as the reception/restaurant area. But the opposite side of the lake now houses a large modern house not in keeping with the original house. The individual guest villas are modern and scattered round the grounds The swimming pool is part of the large modern house, . Much of the ornamentation of the original house still is scattered rounds the grounds, but has not been painted over the years, and most of the wooden pieces are crumbling away. Wooden boardwalks are not treated either and are on the way out. The grounds look tired now, and in a few years will be seedy unless something is done on maintenance.

The only villas worth having are the ones overlooking the lake - there is a cluster of, I think 5, villas which do not overlook the lake, and are to be avoided. Service for a hotel of this sort is somewhat limited. There is no pool service either for drinks nor for towels. The pool furniture is a mish mash, and is very dated/run down. There is no bar, and the drinks menu available in the restaurant is limited. Restaurant food at both breakfast and dinner is very middle of the road. Quite acceptable, but nothing special The hotel is a way from town. A 10 minute walk to the railway station, then over the tracks, and onwards a longer distance to get to town. Or you take a tuk-tuk. We did not come across an owner and/or a manager during our two days here. But the idea/intention is good, and if they worked on the (considerable) maintenance deficit, then it could become so much better

We took a 15 minute walk through the train station to the edge of town, didn't find much to see there, and just bought an iced coffeee before returning to the hotel.

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Transfer to Bangkok International Airport for international flight and home

With just enough time for a frisson of excitement at Singapore Airport.


Burma Holiday