“This air is so thick, it’s like drinking a milkshake,” exclaims my travel companion, Annabelle, as we try to squeeze under the shadow of a remaining pagoda. We’re in the ancient Thai capital of Ayutthaya, taking in its impressive ruins on a tour.
But Annabelle isn’t my only companion. Decked out in vibrant silk and a fringed parasol, we’re touring the sites with a former street beggar. Years ago, our guide was taken off the streets, and given a new lease on life, transporting tourists around this World Heritage Site. Though our guide can communicate with us, she doesn’t speak English, nor does she walk upright. Yep, we’re taking an elephant taxi through the city’s impressive ruins.
Ayutthaya elephant ride
Once a common form of transportation and still a powerful symbol in Thai culture, elephants built this kingdom, and a journey through this sacked city atop one, is an opportunity to support and learn more about the mahout culture.
Our ride wasn’t exactly smooth, and was at times, somewhat perilous – especially when she stopped to a drink at any puddle that struck her fancy. But sitting high up on the howdah, we had a bird’s eye view of the stunning structures that survived the 18th century Burmese invasion.
With the oppressive heat and little shade, touring under a canopied carriage is the way to go! And, as you can see, the workers needed to rehydrate as well.
Ayutthaya day trip
Ayutthaya is an easy day trip from Bangkok, and if you’re just there for the day, be sure to stop by Baan Watcharachai, a local’s favourite, riverboat restaurant.
I ate some impressive meals in Thailand, and this one had the most succulent prawns I’ve ever eaten. The banana flower salad and fried ruby fish were also winners.
Baan Watcharachai: 9 Mu 7, Tambon Banpom, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand Tel: 035-321333
Have you ever been to Thailand?