Ayutthaya: Palaces, Ruins, and Elephants Oh My! Part 2 Monastery of the Elephant

Elephant Trekking Among the Ruins

IMG_0366My favourite part of the trip to Ayutthaya was the elephant trek. From the Pang Chang Elephant Camp, two mahouts took us out among some of Ayutthaya’s ruins, including Wat Chang (Monastery of the Elephant). This was a terrific way to see everything. At first I was concerned when I laid eyes on the sharp goading tools (Aṅkuśa) that the mahouts carried, but through the trip I realized it was used like a bridle and reins are used on a horse, to guide the animal when necessary. The tool would need to be sharp or the elephant would not feel anything through such thick skin. I had read some reviews of the Pang Chang establishment that mentioned mistreatment of the elephants, but I saw nothing of the kind.  The mahouts were really good with their animals and the elephants seemed to enjoy the work. One of the mahouts explained that he bonded with his elephant when it was 2 years old and has been with her for 16 years.

At one point, both barefooted mahouts jumped off their mounts to take photos of us with our cameras. The elephants were docile giants and you could buy fruits to feed them. I was as fascinated by the elephant’s slow plodding gait, the way they drank water at the drink station, and their attention to each other. This was a seriously cool experience on a perfect day to be outside.

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One of the mahouts with his goading tool.

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A distance shot upon approach of Wat Chang. Photo credit: Stephanie Brinkman.

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Japanese tourists rounding the bell shaped chedi of Wat Chang (Monastery of the Elephant).


Buddha sitting below the chedi at Wat Chang.


We passed this well-tended Buddha along our tour.


Now this is exactly what I wanted! Traveling among ruins, though I never found the name of this site.


Magnificent! Not seen in the photos: a small group of people were recording a music video among the ruins.

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Such a great day! Time to give the elephants a fruit snack and say goodbye.


Ayutthaya: Palaces, Ruins, and Elephants Oh My! Part 1 Bang Pa-In

I had one of my best travel experiences when we day-tripped from Bangkok to Ayutthaya to see the summer palace Bang Pa, ruins of Wat Mahathat, and explore some ruins by way of elephant. I also really enjoyed Wat Mahathat which I explored on foot and got to see the famous sandstone Buddha head in the bodhi tree.

My travelling companions hired Nacorn, the driver who had picked up them up at the airport, for the whole day and we were off to Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya was my must see destination after watching Scott Wilson and Justin Lukach visit on their travel program, Departures. Thanks, you guys!


Bang Pa-In Royal Palace

IMG_0328Nacorn suggested the summer palace, Bang Pa, before we hit our target destinations. The palace is open for tourists since King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) uses it infrequently for special occasions. One of my companions who was dressed in shorts and a tank top was furnished with a traditional Thai wrap to cover herself with. She was not allowed to enter until she was “dressed politely”. We all got a good laugh from the resulting mismatch. The property was peaceful and indulgent. Some of the treasures inside were absolutely amazing, like a dragon figure made of camel bone or ivory. Photos are not allowed, but I did capture a few exterior shots of some of the more ornate buildings. Although beautiful, this wasn’t the type of experience I typically seek; most of the buildings were constructed in the late 1800s in Western style.


Elephant topiary in the palace grounds.

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Front exterior of the personal residence – Heavenly Light (Wehart Chamrun). No photos allowed of the interior.


Fu dogs draped with marigolds in the Thai style at a small palace alter.


Foreground: Divine Seat of Personal Freedom (Aisawan Thiphya-At Pavilion) Background: Excellent and Shining Heavenly Abode (Warophat Phiman)


Sages’ Lookout (Ho Withun Thasana)