AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Ayutthaya: A Trading City


Posted on Jan 24, 2014

At its peak in the 17th century the city of Ayutthaya was the largest in the world with a population of over 1 million. It was a rich, cosmopolitan city at the centre of an empire that got rich through trade rather than war. Ayutthaya is located 50 miles up the Chao Phraya River north of Bangkok, (which wasn’t founded until after the fall of Ayutthaya). Ships could sail up the river to the city. The city had trade links with China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and even as far as the Middle East. It was also well located in Thailand to get raw materials from the center of the country and ship them out. The first Europeans to reach Ayutthaya were the Portuguese. They were given a small settlement on the banks of the Chao Phraya river to the south of the city, just outside the city walls. The Portuguese dominated the spice trade from the East for a while but other European countries were eager to cash in on the goods from the East, particularly the Spice Islands We visited Baan Hollanda, which was the location of the Dutch settlement. It is also on the banks of the Chao Phraya river to the south of the city. There we learnt about the size, power and influence the Dutch East India Company. Much of the information we already knew, but the main thing we learnt was about the intra-Asian trade. Just carrying goods from east to west didn’t provide enough money to make the company profitable, so it traded between India, Siam, Indonesia, China and Japan. It carried goods around Asia for the local markets. China was a vast market and had huge potential and the Dutch tried very hard to monopolise the trade with China, using the friendly terms between the Chinese emperor and the Ayutthaya king to get a foot in the door. We then cycled for about 5 minutes south to the Japanese Settlement. This museum gave a wide ranging history of trading with Ayutthaya and which nationalities lived there and why. This was interesting because Ayutthaya was probably the most multi-cultural city on earth. It was filled with thousands of Europeans of all nationalities (British, Dutch, Portuguese, French, etc), Malays, Javanese, Japanese, Chinese, Muslims, along with Burmese and Lao slaves. An interesting read about a Japanese trader from this period can be found here. We learned a lot of interesting things about just how long Europe and Asia have had relations and how those relations have fared over the years. Posted from Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya,...

Read More

Ayutthaya: Ayutthaya Historical Park


Posted on Jan 23, 2014

This is just a variation on a theme of what we had seen in Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai. The remains of a massive city where only the temples had survived because they were built of stone. Ayutthaya is slightly different though, unlike the other cities it is still inhabited. The historical park is in the centre of the modern city, surrounded by houses, shops, schools, etc. Ayutthaya was the capital city of the Ayutthaya Kingdom which lasted about 400 years and became what is now modern Thailand. At it’s peak the city had a population of over 1 million inhabitants, making it one of the largest cities on earth in its day. It sits on the Chao Phraya River about 50 miles north of Bangkok and was a major trading location. It traded not only within the kingdom, but around Asia and also with Europe. This made it very wealthy and also gave the city a cosmopolitan feel, a huge achievement. We hired a bicycle each and set off exploring the many temples of the city. Nothing much else to say… We saw about 4 temples and a giant reclining Buddha. We had a decent day cycling around on the worst bikes we’ve had so far. The photos for today are split into different sets, one for each Wat. Wat Chaiwatthanaram Wat Phra Si Samphet Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit Wat Maha That Wat Ratchaburana Posted from Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya,...

Read More

Sukhothai to Ayutthaya


Posted on Jan 23, 2014

In an attempt to get fit we walked the one mile from the hotel (a 2 minute walk from the bridge in Sukhothai) to the bus station with our rucksacks. We are getting used to them now and can walk reasonable distances with the weight on our backs. There are two ways to get to the bus station, walk down the site of the main road which is busy and rather indirect or take the much shorter route down a number of back streets (we only managed this because I had maps and GPS on my phone). Upon reaching the bus station we bought bus tickets to Phitsanulok. The main train line from north to south is about 40 miles to the east of Sukhothai and goes through Phitsanulok, making it a regional transport hub. There is a regular bus service between Sukhothai and Phitsanulok so booking ahead is not required, simply turn up and ask for the bus. The bus journey was cheap, less than an hour long and best of all the bus driver wasn’t a psycho (the last bus driver must have been confused between his bus and a race car). All was going well until the bus drove past the bus terminal in Phitsanulok. (The bus did stop on the road opposite the bus terminal but we didn’t realise until it was too late). This was annoying because it’s only a 2km walk from the bus terminal to the train station, another walk we planned to do. I quickly went to ask the driver where we were going, he pointed in front and replied “bus terminal”. I guessed that as we were on a dual carriageway he’d drive down for a bit then do a U-turn and come back to the bus station. But no, we kept on going, further and further away from the city. Eventually the houses and shops were gone and replaced with fields. Then we turned off and pulled into Phitsanulok Terminal 2. Why the hell would anyone build a bus station so far out of town? (If you’re making this journey, ask for bus terminal 1 and be ready to get off the bus once you enter Phitsanulok, it’ll save a lot of time and hassle getting back into town). We couldn’t walk back to town (we were about 6km from the train station now) so caught a bus back into town. The bus had seen better days, flat out at 20mph it sounded like the engine was going to explode. The speed coupled with the least direct route into town meant the journey took almost an hour. The bus...

Read More