I’ll be honest with you, I hadn’t initially warmed to Thailand. I’d spent the first week being underwhelmed by the southern islands, but as I travelled up through Bangkok, my perspective began to change. I was fascinated by Ayutthaya, which is located only 80km north of the capital city. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukothai. The kingdom was once one of the largest and most impressive cities in the world, home to over one million inhabitants! This all came to an end when the Burmese invaded in 1767, and the kingdom ultimately fell. The Burmese rampaged, leaving the kingdom desecrated and destroyed. Take it from me, this ancient kingdom is well worth a visit.
Today the remains of Ayutthaya are preserved in the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. Many of the temples are situated within an island which makes up the historical sight. There are numerous ruins to explore hosting desecrated Buddha images and towering chedis.
How to get there
- Train – for a true Thai experience. Trains run regularly from Hualamphong Station in Bangkok, and cost a mere 15 baht for a third class ticket, which is more than acceptable for the short journey!
- Minibus – you can get a minibus from the Victory Monument in Bangkok. It usually costs around 100 baht each and you’ll have to wait until the seats get filled!
- Guided Tour – there are an abundance of day tours on offer from Bangkok.
What to Do
- Cycle around the ruins – one of the best ways to explore the ancient city! Distances between temples are short, which means that cycling around is a great choice.
- Take a sunset boat cruise – a great way to see some of the ruins located further away. You can usually book these through your accommodation.
- Visit the Bang Lan Night Market – located near to Wat Mahathat. Its predominantly a food market with a variety of food stalls on offer. Open between 5-10PM.
How to get Around
- Cycling – bikes can be rented from the Ferry Pier near the train station for 50 Baht.
- Walking – although it would take a lot longer to explore the ancient ruins, you can also walk around for free!
- Tuk Tuk – renting one of these for a few hours will probably set you back around 600 Baht, but its a good option to have in summertime.
Which Temples to Visit
- Wat Mahathat – Arguably the most well-known ruin, famous for its image of a Buddha head which is entangled in the routes of a Bodhi tree. There are several theories as to how this ended up here. Whilst some say that during the Burmese invasions it was abandoned on the floor where the routes grew around it, others have suggested that thieves hid the Buddha head in order to retrieve it at a later time!
- Wat Ratchaburana – home to the biggest chedi in Ayutthaya. This ruin also has an interesting backstory about two brothers. The temple was founded by King Borommarachathiraf II, and was built on the cremation site of his two elder brothers, who had died fighting on elephant-back for the royal succession!
- Wat Thammikarat – one of my personal favourites! Within the complex there’s a huge display of rooster statues. The story goes that after the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya, they took the Thai Prince Naresuan captive to Burma. Whilst he was there, he raised a bet with a Burmese Prince that should his rooster win in a cock fight, Ayutthaya should be freed from Burmese rule. Naresuan’s rooster won the fight, humiliating the Burmese Prince.
- Wat Lokayasutharam – located further away from the other ruins, known for its huge reclining Buddha.
- Wat Phra Si Sanphet – often regarded as the most outstanding temple. It is known that the temple was once home to a 16 meter tall gold-covered Buddha, which was melted down after the kingdom had fallen. It’s an impressive sight due to the three enormous chedis that remain, which offer a great insight into how impressive the city once was.
- Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit – an active temple with a large, golden Buddha inside.
- Wat Phra Ram – built by King Ramesuan at the cremation site for his father. If the site is closed like it was when we were there you can cycle along the river and admire its huge prang.
- Wat Phanan Choeng – housing Thailand’s largest ancient Buddha image. Renovations are ongoing in this active temple.
- Wat Chaiwattanarm – a fairly large ruin and one of the most impressive, with huge prangs, chedis and desecrated Buddha images.
What to Bring
- Snacks – as Ayutthaya is small there’s not a great selection of snacks on offer. My suggestion would be to stock up in Bangkok.
- Sun protection – it can get roasting hot in Ayutthaya so make sure you come prepared!
- Long trousers – the ruins are sacred, ancient sites. Cover your knees and shoulders as a sign of respect.
- Hand sanitizer and toilet roll – these aren’t provided in the toilets.
- Money – many of the ruins have entrance fees which vary between 20-50 Baht.
I hope this has inspired you to visit Ayutthaya! If you’ve already been, what did you love about it? What else is on your Southeast Asia agenda? If you’ve enjoyed this post please share or comment in the section below!
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