Tuesday, February 16, 2010

tuk-tukin' round the YOOT

So I've lived in Ayutthaya (pronounced uh-YOOT-tai-yaaa, and affectionately nicknamed The YOOT ) for almost 4 months now, so i figured it was about time i saw all the sights. with a friend in town and the sun shining, i finally had an excuse to be a tourist in my own city.

Kassem was our tuk tuk driver and tour guide for the day, and quite frankly, he was The Man. he spoke Thai with us - clearly and slowly - and somehow perfectly estimated how much we knew, because at all the right moments he would slip into a very articulate english.  "dern chaa chaa bundai jet sip gao ... around the back of the gold chedi behind the stupa... hen buddha suay maag". Not only did we understand HIS thai, but HE understood OUR thai - which is an amazing accomplishment in this little city.

In our further Thai-glish conversations with Kassem, we found out he was quite the ladies man,  also enjoyed rice whiskey, and wouldn't stop teasing me when my face got red after drinking a beer (damn asian flush).

of all the sights in ayutthaya, the reclining buddha is my favorite.This buddha is one of my favorite poses in general, where Buddha is about to die after his lifelong meditative battle with earthly suffering, escape samsara [reincarnation] and enter into nirvana [kind of like heaven, but not].

i find Ayutthaya's RB more beautiful than the more famous one in Bangkok's Wat Pho, mainly because you can actually see the whole thing at one time, and its not obtructed by pillars, nor contained by ceilings. It's just chillin' under the clouds, his orange robe wafted by wind, gold stickers sparkling in sunlight. He is relaxed and reclined, about to enter into the sweet blissful state of nirvana, and his expression captures this perfectly. his smile is sneaky and mysterious like the Mona Lisa, but definately at peace, euphoric with spiritual detachment and looking forward to his future liberation. he just looks so... content. almost smug. i love it.

Side Note: This is perhaps the reason why I prefer temples and buddhas over churches and crosses. Tell me the last time you were in a church surrounded by images of Jesus looking smug.... (never. its depressing.)

Another noteworthy temple of the Yoot is Wat Phu Khao Thong, an impressive chedi consisting of 79 steps but a rather bland extertior. While the name means "Golden Mount", it is actually white. More like dirty gray. But endure the 79 step walk up, and on the base of the chedi you will find a very small door, about 4 feet high, like something from Alice and Wonderland. It leads you down an equally shallow hallway, and there you will discover something amazing. Deep inside this pyramid there is small, clostrophobic room, 20 degrees hotter than it is outside, stuffy and... sparkling. It covered with glitter and gold, including a magnificent ruby Buddha unlike i've ever seen.

A monk was sitting quietly in the "room" already, but it was more like a closet. With only me, Eva, and the monk, the space was packed, the unmoved air stuffy with incense and farang sweat. Overcome with sparkling idols, I bowed to the ruby Buddha and humbly excepted a gift of sacred thread (yet another) and a blessing from the resident monk.

Our trip around Ayutthaya was tireless, but somehow visiting temples always leaves me rejuvenated and propitious. The city of Ayutthaya, it turns out, is much like the Golden Temple itself. As an outside observer,  it may look simply old and dusty. But look closer, and you will find a history deep as it is dirty, and full of beauty and blessings  in the most unexpected places.


  1. Smugness enroute to blessed oblivion...hmmm. Have you ever noticed that, unlike the Buddha, Jesus is never depicted as fat? Obviously, there's still one desire left to be extinguished. So wipe that grin off your face, buddy.

  2. rookie mistake, dad

    Many Westerners associate the name "Buddha" with figurine depictions of a certain fat, bald, smiling person. This is inaccurate, as the person in these figurines is not the Guatama Buddha at all, but Budai, a Chinese Buddhist monk who lived in the 10th century CE.