Walking slowly through the ruins of Ayutthaya, I felt a strange energy buzzing in the air. An entire burned village stood before me; charred and ruined, yet still beautiful to the eye.
I was visiting Thailand for two weeks and Sophie, my local friend and guide advised that my journey in Bangkok would not be complete without a visit to the original capital city. As I walked down the path lined with statues of Buddha, his orange robes burning brightly in the sun, I saw what Sophie meant. The energy here was palpable, not something you would expect from such a war-torn place. I walked up the hundreds of stairs leading to one of the central temples. Halfway up, there was a slight perch, where you could stand and gaze out at the scene below. I saw temples with missing walls, a giant reclining Buddha whose feet cleared well above my head, and the color orange, ever prominent in this holy spot. The sun was high overhead and baking everything in sight. I adjusted my hat, a mandatory clothing choice in this heat, and kept climbing.
As I reached the top I saw a small doorway leading inside to a stone chapel. There was a nun sitting at the door, monitoring all of our actions silently. Our eyes met, for just a moment, and the piercing blue intensity of her gaze shocked me. It felt like she had seen deep inside my core, and I entered the chapel with silent reflection.
After a few moments of silence and deep thought, I began my descent back towards the ground. My moments high up in the air felt almost ethereal and I was reluctant to leave. As we wandered through the burnt temples once more, Sophie turned to me. She told me that the city of Ayutthaya was once the most vibrant and bustling city in Thailand, filled with magnificent temples and an abundance of gold. The city shone brightly and reflected the power of Thailand and its people. She then told me to close my eyes and place my hand on one of the ruined stones. Her eyes shone as she said how she could still feel the energy of the people that once lived here.
I closed my eyes and placed my hands on the warm stones. The energy that I had felt earlier, standing in front of the ruins was slightly magnified and I felt connected to this place. I felt its sorrow, the pain and loss that it had and yet its strength and fortitude to continue. I opened my eyes and gazed around with a new perspective.
As I slowly walked through the old temple paths one last time, I looked at the city before me and I did not see ruin. Instead, I saw the determination of a people to hold on to their culture, and the beauty that comes from the most unexpected places.