Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Training in Ayutthaya

One of my favorite training adventures in Bangkok involved a day-trip to the city of Ayutthaya, a 2 hour train-ride from the center of Bangkok but well worth the early wake-up.  The city is actually a UNESCO “World Heritage” site and was the capital city of the region for over 400 years before it was destroyed by the Burmese army toward the end of the 18th century.  During our visit it was pretty easy to see that the “city” that is there today survives mainly due to the busloads of tourists that come through to see the numerous temples that are scattered around the “city limits”.

On the train out of Bangkok.  Kiell and I were still a bit groggy.  Photo courtesy of Violetta Beral.

Annty and Leon were a bit more enthusiastic.  Photo courtesy of Annty Marais.

The train ride to Ayutthaya was pretty enjoyable (since we had to leave pretty early) and the first thing we did after getting off the train was to rent bikes and scooters to make our way around the city.  While we did have the specific objective of “getting good photos”, we hadn’t really planned much beside that and we decided to split up to better explore the city at our respective paces.  I headed off with the bicycle contingent and within 10 minutes of riding along one of the main road we had found our first temple.

Our first temple.  Still hesitating a bit before climbing all the way up.

In various states of disrepair, but not entirely forgotten.

Annty, the first one up.

Although the maps we had gotten at the bike shop seemed to be rather dominated by the temples, I hadn’t quite grasped the fact that apart from the small “modern area” near the train station at the south of the city, the “city of Ayutthaya” is pretty much made up of patches of ruins and clusters of houses spread amidst the huge grassy expanses that separate the enormous temples and complexes.  The temples themselves range along the entire spectrum of disrepair, with the larger and more popular tourist destinations usually in much better shape than the smaller and “forgotten” locations, sometimes no more than a small pile of bricks tucked into a corner.

Leon investigating another temple.

There are actually 2 pillars here...

Of course being curious and particularly gifted at moving around and exploring foreign landscapes, our group soon started getting a better look at the temples.  While some may argue that it is disrespectful to climb or jump around on another culture’s sacred monuments, it should be stated that we meant no disrespect in our movement, and from my perspective, I think that moving around in the temple complex was our form of paying homage and respect to the culture that had built these structures, currently lying in disrepair by the cultures that had originally built them.  We also followed the “leave no trace” creed of responsible traceurs, limiting our activities to the structures that were still in good shape (in the interest of historic preservation as well as self-preservation).  Cultural disclaimers aside, it should be noted that being “up close and personal” with the temples and complexes gives one a much greater appreciation for the workmanship that goes into these structures in order for them to last this long.  It also makes one think about what will be left in our own cities for people to climb around on in a few hundred years…

Bruno documenting the ascent with his GoPro.  Photo courtesy of Annty Marais.

Pondering life and the view.  Photo courtesy of Annty Marais.

We ended the day at one of the largest complexes where our awesome photographers managed to snag a some good shots for a fitting end to a pretty awesome day.

One of Kiell's shots from the last temple complex.  Photo courtesy of Andy "Kiell" Day.

One of V's shots from earlier in the day.  Photo courtesy of Violetta Beral.

No comment.  Photo courtesy of Violetta Beral.

Photo courtesy of Violetta Beral

Annty taking advantage of the fading light.  Photo courtesy of Annty Marais.

The whole gang.  Photo courtesy of Violetta Beral.

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