Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Weekend at Old Ayuthaya

Lois and I spent this past weekend at a the Ancient Capital of Thailand,

Sister Meeker waiting for the train at HuaLamphong Station
The city is located 1-1/2 hour train ride north of Bangkok in the valley of the Chao Phraya River. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong, who went there to escape a smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri and proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom, often referred to as the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam. Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, which give an idea of its past splendour. It is estimated that Ayutthaya by the year 1600 AD had a population of about 300,000, with the population perhaps reaching 1,000,000 around 1700 AD, making it one of the world's largest cities at that time. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The Ayutthaya historical park occupies the ruins of the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The city is located at the junction of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers. The old city is on an island formed by a bend of the Chao Phraya on the west and south sides, the Pa Sak on the east side and the Klong Muang canal on the northern side.

We were hosted there by Elder and Sister Sowards.  They are Senior Missionaries (Member Leader Services) serving in Ayuthaya.  They have rented a 3 bedroom house not far from the rented building that serves as the church in the city. 

On the Train to Ayuthaya
We left the Mission office and took the Subway to the Train Station.  We got on the 6:20 PM Commuter train for Ayuthaya.  Commuter Train means "the slow train" because it stops at ever station between Bangkok and Ayuthaya.  We were in Third class accommodations - only level of service available for that train.  The total cost for this 1 hour and 50 minute ride ....... 20 Baht each (abut 70 cents).

We arrived in Ayuthaya and the Sowards picked us up with their car.  They are the only missionaries in Thailand that have a car assigned to them full time. Their home is about 10 minutes away from the train station. It is a 3 bedroom home in a development that is several years old.  The house was built just prior to the large floods of 2011.  The house was flooded and was not lived in until the Sowards rented it in August of this year. 

On Saturday morning we found a Museum of a different variety than what you would expect for a city with so much history.  It is called the Million Toy Museum.  We had a good time browsing thru hundreds of displays of many kinds of toys from various countries and from different eras.  Lois and I had visited Ayuthaya two years ago before the flood.  We had seen most of the historical ruins, so the Sowards were looking to take us to new places that they had also not been to yet.
Lois with some of the Million Toys

Sister Meeker Joining with Super heroes

Even though Elder Meeker is Married to "Lois"[Lane] he doesn't quite measure up to Superman

Later we went to the Ayuthaya (water market in Thai) Floating Market (in English).  All of the actual boats are attached to the dock these days.  There are also shops on the land side of the dock surrounding the pond. It is quite a nice tourist area surrounding a very large pond . It features all kinds of souvenirs and food.  There are elephants to ride and goats and fish to feed. You can even dangle your feet and legs into a tank full of fish and have them eat off the dead skin (about 3 dollars for 15 minutes).

Elder Meeker enjoying the Floating Market (no his feet are not dangling in the fish tank)

Sister Sowards and Sister Meeker

We also got to spend a little time at some of the ruins which are abundant in Ayuthaya.  This National Park literally covers most of the Island because there are areas and acres of ruins - former great buildings of Ayuthaya.  Some of them are very huge . Note the size of the column Elder Meeker is standing beside.
 Our Host Elder Sowards is currently serving as the Branch President of the Ayuthaya Branch.  Elder Sowards previously served a Mission to Thailand like I did.  He is the 35th Missionary ( I was the 283rd) to serve in Thailand.  He arrived in Thailand in January 1970.  He and five other missionaries opened up Chiang Mai for the teaching of the gospel. 
Elder Sowards and Elder Meeker
Giant Reclining Budda with a saffron colored robe

 On Saturday evening we were invited to a Christmas party at the home of a member.  They run a private school out of there home.  So the party was on the driveway outside of there home. Their home/house is actually a commercial building three stories tall that has other businesses beside them.
The party was quite fun. There was some singing and entertaining by some of the children and then we ate - Thai food and some spaghetti ( Which I did not eat).  I am in Thailand to eat and enjoy Thai food.   They had music and played three rounds of musical chairs. They even got Lois and I out there. Lois lasted longer than I did. 

Earlier on Saturday the Sowards introduced us to a new treat.  They call them Ayuthaya Rodees.  I would best describe them as Crepes and Cotton Candy.  I really liked them.  The Crepes are small... thicker than usual crepes.  The sweet filling is spun sugar ... but much coarser than cotton candy, almost to the consistency of straw bit definitely better tasting.  You put some of the spun sugar into the crepe wrap it up and waa...laa... you have a very tasty treat. I am definitely going to have that again.

On Sunday we had Church from 9 AM till Noon.  Afterwards there was a Baptism for two young ladies.  They were baptized by the branch clerk in a very small above ground baptismal font in a back room just off of the chapel. After the baptismal service the branch had a Potluck lunch.  More Thai food .... yum.  After Church the Sowards took us to the Train Station and we caught the 4 PM express train into Bangkok .  The express train skipped a few stops and got to Bangkok 1-1/2 hours later.  We then hopped the subway and were home very quickly.  A great weekend.

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