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Thailand Smiles Travel (Managed by Thai Voyage Co ltd) had arranged the most wonderful river cruise (part of the package) as grand finale after the ruins of Ayutthaya.

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Boarding the cruise ship from the pier, the return to Bangkok gliding along the mighty Chao Phraya River, taking in scenes of lush countryside to switchover of Bangkok’s skyline was a perfect way to end the day.

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Bangkok’s Royal Chao Phraya is the largest river in Thailand and is the lifeline of Bangkok city. Cruising along one can sight significant landmarks on either sides of the river.

IMG_1808.JPGGrand Pearl and Sun River are two of the best cruise boats to choose from. The air-conditioned luxury cruise boats can accommodate 200 pax. A scrumptious late lunch on board with a wide array of freshly cooked Thai and Continental cuisine can be enjoyed as you cruise along.

IMG_1812.JPGThe cruise boat also has an upper/lower deck where coffee and tea are served and has all round panorama of the city skyline.

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A constant streaming of famous sites and sounds of Bangkok are announced at regular interval.

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The Grand Palace, The Wat Arun temple, Chinatown, the floating market and stilt houses, the temple of the Emerald Buddha are some of the famous attractions to watch out for.

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The cruise ends at River Point Pier, Bangkok and as part of the package a coach drops you to the hotel.

 Text/ Photo- Jyoti Shetty

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IMG_1685.JPGFrom an ancient royal temple like Wat Phra Si Sanpet within the royal premises of the ruins to the more modern temple away from the ruins is diverse to appreciate both as striking architecture.

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Wat Phra was the royal temple of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya built in 1448. This site is in great condition and is worth admiring. The 3 Stupas in front of the main temple are edifices of ashes containing the 3 Kings that ruled here.

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IMG_1684.JPGThe private chapel also held important royal ceremonies and functions. The staircases leading all sides are spired, and the central spired dome looms large. Absolutely amazing piece of architecture and design!

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A few from the group took an elephant ride around the sprawling Ayutthaya complex.

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The guide gave the modern temple outside the ruins a complete miss saying the other main highlight, the River Sun Cruise to be boarded on time!

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The temple houses a massive golden Buddha and two small jade Buddhas alongside. A ceremony was in progress and I sat in a corner soaking in the peaceful atmosphere.

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Wat Mahathat- is the royal temple that houses Buddha’s relics. Situated east of the Royal Palace in Pratu Chai district central part of Ayuthayya.

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The royal chronicles of Ayuthayya states that the main Pagoda was built in 1374. The temple complex was set on fire by the Burmese leading to its decay. The Wat Maha was totally abandoned during the reign of King Rama V1. Today only the base with a staircase remains.

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Buddha’s Head- This next site at the ruins of Ayuthayya is most iconic. A reminder of flourishing Buddhist art and is the most fascinating and photographed image. It was once the part of a sandstone Buddha’s statue that fell off.

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There is no trace of the of the body below the face on site.  Buddha’s placid face with vividly open large eyes perfectly  sculpted  got entrapped amid the snaking roots of an ancient Bodhi Tree remains.  The Buddha head appears symbolic of life’s resilience, triumph of a religion that still holds sway.

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There were 14-seated statues of Buddha around the Northern wall, directly in front of the arches. Mural paintings inside the main Pagoda were a highlight but time continues to fade away whatever traces existed.

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The serene statue that remains of the Buddha in a classic meditative pose, seated on a lotus base is imposing within the ruins.

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Thailand boasts of ancient history spanning over 1000 years, as the guide reels of facts the next stop is significant. Before bustling Bangkok became the capital of Thailand, the provinces of Sukhothai, Thonburi, and Ayuthayya were the capitals.

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The old city of Ayuthayya witnessed the Golden era of over 4 centuries. During that time there was prolific development of art and culture, palaces, public buildings a definitive reflection of strong trade and economically secure capital.

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The ruins of Ayuthayya are a grand reminder of the splendor and reserved witness of antiquity that stood the ravages of time and constant wars. The guide carefully takes us around showing us iconic buildings, statues and enunciating the bygone era that Thailand is proud of.

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From Bang Pa In Palace, Ayuthayya is half hour away stepping deep into the interiors of Bangkok’s countryside. The bus stops a distance away and a sidewalk takes you to the ruins of Ayuthayya.

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The guide reminds us to wind up, the ancient capital Ayuthaya is next on schedule and insisted we see two other landmarks before heading for the coach. After seeing some remarkable European style building at Bang Pa In Summer Palace, the ubiquitous red Chinese style mansion Phra Thinang is a must visit.

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This grand two storied palace is visually pleasing, with ornamental floor tiles (we had to remove footwear before entering), porcelain used exhaustively on the walls, balustrades, columns, all widespread. An ostentatious throne on the ground floor, an altar above is displayed and the distinctive maroon red, the royal colour in Chinese interior architecture is so prominently displayed.

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The observatory (HO THASUNA) close by is a tower for viewing the nearby countryside, also gives a bird’s eye view of Bang Pa In.

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The Tevraj Gate is an interesting building behind the Thai pavilion and principle entrance to the Inner palace. The adjoining covered bridge was for the ladies who could unobtrusively watch royal parades and events.

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Striking landscapes interspersed with vast surrounding ponds add beauty, charm and serenity at the sprawling Bang Po In Palace.

Next, the Thai style pavilion with attached porches in four directions is unique and adorns the cover of many brochures. The spired roof pagoda pavilion in the middle of the pond is a replica of the one in the Grand Palace. The Royals used the Phra Thinang as a pavilion for changing of regalia.

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Adjoining the Thai pavilion, in contrast stands a single-story mansion built in the Neo classic style still used by the Royals. Historical paintings depicting significant historical events and other literary scenes are displayed here. Both these buildings were being refurbished .

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