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UN Neil Dana reporting from Ayuthaya, Thailand:



Oh Ayuthaya, what a beautiful place.  Who would have guessed, that just a couple hours outside of bustling metropolitan Bangkok lie the most laid back and historic ruins of the Siam Dynasty?  This is the wonderful surprise Adam, Colin, and I found when we left the rest of the team behind in Bangkok for a three-day visit to this wonderful paradise.  Bangkok is the capital of Thailand now, but back from around 1351 until the 1767, Ayuthaya was the Royal Capital of Siam, which encompassed the areas of present-day, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Burma, and Cambodia. Ayuthaya became the new capital of this area after the Thais conquered the Khymer kingdom in Cambodia. In fact, the Thaiís were so impressed with Angkor Wat, (next visit) they took many relics and architectural ideas from Angkor Wat to build their capital of Ayuthaya.  This was an immense kingdom, and the island in the middle of it all was where we went for a few days.  

We arrived in Ayuthaya by train and had read in the Lonely Planet guide that Tony's place was a great place to go and stay, so we went there.  When we arrived at the train station, a lady took us to a different hostel and tried to get us to stay at her place, but we insisted on seeing Tony's place first.  And when we arrived at Tony's, wow, what a great place and a friendly staff.  Tony was there, along with his wife and daughter Amber, who were visiting from Texas.  His wife and daughter haven't been to Thailand in over six years!   

Since we were filming Tony's place, he put us up and treated us very well.  He arranged for us to take a boat tour of Ayuthaya with a local guide, named Mr. Piah, who was a super-cool guy, and kind of looked like Mr. Miagi from the "Karate Kid."  He ended up taking us in a boat around to about four ruins that day, and we saw all kinds of Buddhas and different-style temples.  Some were heavily influenced by the ancient Khmer Kingdom, which they had taken over back in the 1300's and had the Cambodian-style wats.  There were newer ones that had the more Thai style with the roofs that curved into steep points.  It was really such a treat to see these old ruins, which were peopleís homes over 800 years ago!  It is hard to imagine what these places must have been like then, with different people and a different pace of life, without TV, radio, electronic games, mopeds, electricity, etc., a completely different existence.  

However ancient they were, they definitely were not ignorant; on the contrary, they were genius.  Their mastery of astrology, architecture, agriculture, etc. is fascinating.  I still remember just floating around and seeing the wonderful architecture everywhere, just incredible.  There were also all kinds of great wildlife wandering about, such as monitor lizards creeping out of the river into sewer holes.  It was fun seeing little kids swimming in the water, and other people relaxing alongside the river, or men just fishing out of their canoes.  It was a very peaceful place.  

There were woman selling all kinds of goodies, too.  One woman was selling dried fish, and another really old woman was selling this stringy sugar cane that you would wrap up in a tortilla and eat.  It was delicious; just like cotton candy, no joke. 

Many of the Buddhas were very different too, there was one that had been swallowed up by a banyan tree, and another huge gold Buddha, and of course all kinds of others scattered all throughout the ruins.  Many of the Buddhas didn't have any heads left, due to when the kingdom was sacked by the Burmese, and they beheaded the Buddhas and stole them.  Many of them had gold on them and other valuables.  However, since then, they have recovered quite a bit of the Buddhas, and pieced them all back together again.  I can't imagine the time it must have taken to take all the different parts of all the destruction and put it back together again; wild! 

Well, all in all, if you ever come to Thailand, you have to go to Ayuthaya.  It is a very peaceful and spiritual place.  You will love it, guaranteed.