When I made my Bangkok itinerary a day trip to Ayutthaya went to the top of the list. I love studying history and have wanted to visit the historic capital of the Siamese Kingdom for a long time now. Needless to say, this trip was a dream come true. Located 80km north of Bangkok – roughly 2 hours by train – Ayutthaya is a popular day trip for travelers from all corners of the globe.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and served as the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The city was strategically placed on an island created by converging rivers.
for the next 400-years, Ayutthaya grew to become a major economic center. It’s position allowed it to develop far-reaching trade routes that stretched from Europe to the Far East. At one point it was the largest city in the world with one million inhabitants.
The city of Ayutthaya was abandoned after it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and the residents migrated away from the city. The surviving remnants of the Ayutthaya offer a glimpse into its past glory. Today, the main attractions are the towering prangs and stupas surviving in scattered clusters around the island.
Getting to Ayutthaya, Thailand
The best way to visit Ayutthaya is by hopping on a Northbound train from the Bangkok Railway Station. Third class train tickets on the ordinary train only cost 15baht and are fairly comfortable – Provided you are able to snag a seat. On the way, I was able to relax in one of the modestly cushioned seats and snap pictures of the passing scenery. The trip was listed at an hour and a half – but ended up taking a solid two hours. If you get lucky (or check the timetable beforehand) you can catch an express train that will deliver you in Ayutthaya a bit faster.
My trip back was also in third class – first and second class seats seem to sell out fast. When I headed back to Bangkok in the evening there were no seats left. The train was a bit crowded so I needed to stand for the two-hour trip back to Bangkok. But, for 15 baht I can’t complain!
Once you arrive at the train station you will need to cross the river onto the main island. There is a ferry that will take you across for 5 baht each way. If you rent a bike or motorcycle you can always cross into the city over the bridge.
If you have the baht to spare you could take a taxi to Ayutthaya. This option will be much more expensive and won’t really save you time. In fact, with Bankok’s traffic taking a taxi will likely be slower.
Getting Around Ayutthaya, Thailand
This time I opted for a tuk-tuk tour of the city since I was only there for a day. If I had more time I would have planned a bike trip around the Ayutthaya. The price most tuk-tuk drivers ask for is 300baht per hour, but I was able to find a 2-hour tour for 500 baht. The drivers know the area well and can suggest popular spots to visit. I told the driver where I wanted to go and he added a couple additional stops. We bargained for the price, planned the 2-hour itinerary, and were on our way in under 5 minutes – a vastly different experience from tuk-tuk drivers in other cities!
Renting a motorcycle would be a good alternative to taking a tuk-tuk around the city. Motorcycles cost roughly $10 (350 baht) for the day. I was worried about the driving in Ayutthaya, but once I saw the roads was put at ease. Traffic in Ayutthaya – and driving conditions -are much better than I have come to expect from Southeast Asia. If I visit Ayutthaya again in the future I will have no qualms about exploring the town by motorcycle.
Things To See
A list of places to visit in Ayutthaya can be easily found online, but here are three of my favorite stops. Planning out your trip first is recommended to avoid backtracking – the journey between temples can be long if you are biking around.
This was the first stop I made, and it was possibly the most impressive. It is a large grouping of ruins and has the ‘head of Buddha in a tree trunk’ – one of the most famous places to visit. I spent quite a while wandering around Wat Mahathat.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
The temple here has rebuilt to some extent so it gives off a different feeling from the other temples. The reason why I loved Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was because I could hike up to the top! The views looking down from the temple are amazing and definitely worth the visit. Inside the temple is a wishing well of sorts – a long drop down to a metal tray. Supposedly, your wish will be granted if your coin lands in the tray.
A postcard view of a large prang awaits you at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The buildings here are in good condition considering the damaging effects of time and war in the area. There are a lot of ruins in Ayutthaya but this is a good place to visit.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
This is one of the largest and most visited clusters of ruins in Ayutthaya. There is a model showing the arrangement of the city before it was destroyed. This is great because shows the immense size of the city in a way that the ruins can’t. There are a lot of ruins to see here, as well as a massive trio of stupas. The stupas have been rebuilt to show how they would have looked before they were destroyed.
Getting a hotel in Ayutthaya
If I changed anything about my visit to Ayutthaya, it would be to spend a second day there. When I headed home in the evening there were still a lot of things that I wanted to see and do. I passed by numerous guest houses and budget hotels in Ayutthaya as I toured the city. It would have been great to stay a night in Ayutthaya if I hadn’t already booked a hotel in Bangkok. I guess there is always time for a return visit!
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