Category Archives: Ayutthaya

Wai Khru Ceremony at Muay Thai Festival

Muay Thai is truly an international sport these days as people all around the world compete in this ancient form of boxing. However, the spiritual home is definitely here in Thailand with the home base being in the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. Yesterday, 350 boxers from 35 different countries came together at Wat Mahathat to take part in the Wai Khru Ceremony. They came to pay respect to their teachers, and to pay homage to the legendary Muay Thai folk hero, Nai Khanom Tom.

Muay Thai is Thailand’s national sport and Ayutthaya, the home of its legendary hero is the stronghold of Muay Thai. According to legend, Nai Khanom Tom was captured by the Burmese after the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Along with other prisoners, he was taken back to Burma. During a Buddhist festival he was selected to fight in a tournament that was put on to see which forms of boxing were the best; Thai or Burmese. Nai Khanom Tom fought ten Burmese boxers in a row without pause and defeated them all.

The Wai Khru Muay Thai Ceremony is the most important date on the calendar for Muay Thai boxers from around the world. They come together in the days leading up to National Muay Thai Day, which is on 17th March, to pay respect to their teachers, and to pay homage to the legendary Muay Thai folk hero, Nai Khanom Tom. This takes place during the annual three day Thai Martial Arts Festival in Ayutthaya which is now in its 7th year. The aim is to preserve the Thai martial arts.

The Wai Khru Ceremony took place at Wat Mahathat on Tuesday 15th March 2011. Highlights of the event included Muay Thai exhibitions as well as demonstrations of Thai handicraft and cuisine. Over the following two days, 16th-17th March 2011,  there is a Muay Thai tournament with international boxers contending for the Nai Khanom Tom belt with a cash prize for the weight divisions of 60, 65, 70, and 80 kilograms. There will also be a Wai Kru competition for Thai students. This takes place at the stadium in Ayutthaya.


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Ayothaya Floating Market

There are now two floating markets in the old city of Ayutthaya which make a nice change from just visiting old temple ruins all day. Now you can break up your time to make a more balanced day trip from Bangkok. Earlier I visited Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market which is to the north of the old city. The next one that I visited is to the East [MAP] and goes by a similar name, though they use different spelling. This one is Ayothaya Floating Market. It is conveniently next door to the Elephant Camp so you can do an elephant ride for 600 baht if you like before visiting the market.

The two floating markets in Ayutthaya are very different. This one is more traditional and what you would expect to see at a floating market. Like the Pattaya Floating Market, it is purpose built. It is free to enter and wander around. There are shops with handicraft and souvenirs. Nothing tacky like the ones you can find at Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. If you want to eat then there are plenty of stalls selling delicious food. You can also take a boat ride around the canal for only 20 baht.

You can easily spend a couple of hours at this floating market. As well as shopping and eating, there are also regular shows during the day. These include boat parades as well as traditional dancing at various arenas around the market. We were there at the weekend and it was very crowded with coach tours and Thai tourists. If you want to escape the crowds then come during the week though the shows are not so regular. Parking is also a problem at the weekend.

If you are visiting Ayutthaya for the day from Bangkok then there is really only time to visit one of these floating markets, do an elephant ride and visit 3 or 4 temple ruins. If you want to visit both floating markets then I would suggest that you stay over night. I enjoyed myself at this market and would certainly bring friends here on my next trip. The market is open every day from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Weekday shows are 12 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. At the weekend it is 10:30 a.m., 12 p.m., 2 p.m., 4:30 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market

I have been to Ayutthaya a number of times. Sometimes by myself and sometimes taking friends. Every time, I go to the same old places; temples, ruins and a museum. It is an historical city and very different to other holiday destinations such as Pattaya and Chiang Mai. It is only an hour or so away from Bangkok and so it is an easy day trip. You can go there by bus or train and once there you can rent a bicycle. I was back there at the weekend with a friend, but this time to see two new attractions.

The first attraction was Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market and Water Theater [MAP]. In Thai it is called ตลาดน้ำอยุธยาคลองสระบัว. This is found just north of the old city not too far from Wat Na Phra Men. It is not your traditional kind of floating market. The name is a bit misleading. It is more of a “Dinner Theatre” experience that you sometimes get in Bangkok. There are some food vendors on boats like you can see in this picture, but most have set up normal stalls.

Despite it being the weekend, there weren’t that many people here. When you arrive you have two choices. First choice is to buy a ticket just to watch the Water Theatre. Adults are 50 baht and children 30 baht. The second choice is Dinner Theatre and the buffet. Regular price is 199/119 Baht or 119/99 Baht if you turn up after 2:30 p.m. This is excellent value for money as you are allowed to eat all day.  All prices are the same for Thais and foreigners.

In this picture you can see why they call it Water Theatre. It is basically a large pond surrounded on three sides by bamboo buildings on stilts. When you arrive, you are told where to sit depending on which ticket you bought. We decided not to go for the buffet meal as it was too early for lunch. But, we still had an opportunity to buy some of the Thai food on offer. We sat at tables and watched the show while we ate some snacks. The actors walk on pathways just below the surface making it look like they are walking on water. Signs by the edge warn you that the water is really 3 meters deep.

The floating market is only open at the weekend and on public holidays. It is open from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. There are five scheduled shows in one day. What I didn’t realize at first is that each show is different. The first one is at 11 a.m. and this is followed by four more shows at 12 p.m., 1:30 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. So, if you like, you can stay all day to watch as many shows as you like. Not only that, they have a rotation of about a dozen different shows so if you come back again, the chances are high that you will see something new.

We enjoyed the two shows that we watched. We had about half an hour between them but we spent that time buying and eating some more snacks. I would have liked to stay for a third show but we had a few more stops to go on this trip. I think the floating market makes a nice break from the ancient ruins and I highly recommend for you to come here. Maybe it would work out well if you saw a few temples first thing in the morning and then come here for a buffet lunch and a couple of shows and then back to more temples and ruins in the afternoon.

A couple of things that I want to mention about this place is that firstly it is wheelchair friendly. Secondly, the staff seem to be very honest. As well as some snacks, I bought an ice coffee. A little while later, one of the staff came over and said that they had forgotten to give us a coupon for a free iced coffee. As I had bought one already she just gave me my 20 baht back. That honesty was unexpected. And it also made the Water Theatre even more good value as the show was then 30 baht as I got a free ice coffee.

Finally: beyond the airport…

In Mid-April I finally got beyond the transit lounge of Bangkok International Airport. I’d been in the airport several times, but always on the way to someplace else. I’d been preparing for several months for this visit to the family of a friend in North-West Ang Thong province. But I still had misgivings. Could I cope with Thailand in the hot season after a New Zealand autumn? Could I cope with the food? The bathrooms? Would anyone understand my Thai?

A short flight from Hong Kong, but a world away in atmosphere. Just boarding the Thai Airways plane had a soothing effect. The runways and the transit lounge looked familiar. There’s an annoying space on the immigration form for a visa number. I don’t need a visa but I hate leaving blanks on a form! Looking at the “Address in Thailand” box I realised that I didn’t know where I was going! “Just write ‘Bangkok’” my friend advised. The immigration officer made no comment.

Out of the building and into a pickup. The heat was not as bad as I feared; it might be 35C but at least it’s not particularly humid. The expressway could be anywhere: are we in LA, Beijing, or Brazil yet? Bangkok was out there in distance somewhere, but this is the closest that I got on this trip. Next time…

I did a lot of research for this trip, including watching a lot of movies, and I drove a little in Malaysia in the 1990s. So once we got beyond the expressway the towns and roads were much as I expected. The drivers seemed a little crazy at first, but nothing as harrowing as I’ve seen in India or China.

My halting Thai at least made a good impression on my hosts. But I started to realise that just knowing a few greetings does not allow much exchange of information.

Since it was late afternoon we stopped at Ayuthaya for a little sightseeing and dinner. One thing that struck me was how small it was. And it hadn’t registered that brick would be so prevalent in the old ruins.

We spent some time at Wat Phanan Choeng, which, according to the guide book, features a 19m Buddha. It’s certainly neck-straining and stunning. I was pleased that I’d spent some time at the local Thai wat back in New Zealand, so I knew what to do with the incense and gold leaf that were thrust at me.

The next stop was a restaurant on the river, opposite a mosque (right-hand picture), which I didn’t anticipate. The food was even better than I expected. I’ve had good Thai food in Hong Kong but there’s nothing like being in the right place, with the right ingredients. My hosts were impressed that I didn’t pass out from eating the tom yam. Luckily I’d been practicing for this for months by cooking with lots of chilli.

One of my overwhelming impressions of Thailand is the amount of food I was persuaded to consume and how wonderful it all was. I eventually developed a self-defence response: the command “gin” would trigger “im laa-ou” from me.

We planned to come back and do the dinner cruise when the city is lit up at night, and I wanted see a few more temples, but in the end it didn’t work out. “Next time” was a recurring thought during my ten days in Thailand.

It was dark by the time we got “home” and I remembered that this was the tropics, and this was countryside. It was nice to see stars, even if they were somewhat unfamiliar.

Welcome to Ayutthaya

There are many little things that the Thai people do which make interacting with them fun and help make a trip to Thailand so pleasant. I was on an early morning train to Ayutthaya, moving through the atrocious smog that was waiting for the sun to rise higher and burn it off. Three high-school girls got on, and boldly decided to sit next to the big farang, though plenty of other seats were available. The were talking amongst themselves, and one mentioned Ayutthaya. I said that I was going there, and one girl told me that she attends school in Ayutthaya and will show me where to get off and how to get to my destination.

At one point or our train ride, the girls turned to the left and waied. I looked in that direction, and saw that we were passing Bang Pa-In. Not knowing whether to wai or not, I turned to the left and nodded respectfully, undoubtedly looking rather idiotic. This produced smiles and giggles all around.

From the Ayutthaya station, we walked to the pier from which a 2-baht ferry crosses the Pa Sak River. Two of the girls went off in a different direction, presumably to go to a different school. The remaining girl made sure I knew how to use the ferry and get to my guesthouse, although as I hear often from the Thais, she thought that I should take a motorbike taxi instead of walking. We got off the boat and parted near the Jao Prom Market, she heading for her school, and I with a smile on my face and a spring in my step.

I spent a lot of my time in Ayutthaya riding a bicycle to see some of the sights, plus to help me get used to the Thai traffic and subtropical heat. The staff at that Baan Suan Guesthouse บ้านสวน were extraordinarily helpful to me in practicing my spoken Thai, which needs the help. Tonight I will go to the final night of the Don Chedi Fair in nearby Suphanburi province. The fair is a party with a battle reenactment, as well as a sound and light show.