Pile Of Bricks

06 Dec 2006


Ayuthera is remarkably large for a town of 80,000 people. Couple this with the brutal heat and lack of shade, and walking ceases to be an option. Instead, we hire bicycles for just over a dollar a day each.

We get what we paid for.

My bike, a single-gear steel step-through, makes such a terrible noise when it hits bumps that Lyn keeps looking back to see if I've fallen off.

In straight lines it's okay, but corners are a little tricky. I do the first right turn straight up, at an unprotected[1] intersection. It's so frightening that from then on I dismount for turns and cross as a pedestrian.

After the second of these crossings, I come to the depressing conclusion that I can run with this bike faster than I can ride it.

Still, it's enough to get to four of the dozen or so ruined temples in Ayuthera. The locals have taken fantastic care of them. There's no litter to be seen, and the steps look newly swept. Perhaps they feel bad about letting them get sacked by the Burmese in the first place. For hundreds of beheaded Buddha images, it's too late.

There are much smaller, portable Buddhas at the base of some of the ruined larger ones. These, too, lack heads. If they're contemporary, then people have wrecked them so they'll fit in (or Burmese raiders walk among us to this day). If they're ancient, they've been there for hundreds of years and no one has nicked them.

We return in a chartered tuk-tuk in the evening, and see the temples lit by powerful halogens. The effect is as atmospheric as you'd expect. For all that they're just piles of bricks, these are powerful places.

fn1. Not that there are any protected intersections. Even a working traffic light is more of an "advisory".