Ayutthaya: A Daytrip to Thailand’s Ancient Capital

On March 31, 2014 by Oren and Cassie

Just 86 kilometers outside of Bangkok and one and a half hours on the $1 fast train, Ayutthaya is a city full of royal history that you can’t miss. Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand from 1350 to 1767 and will keep you busy for hours visiting its historical ruins.

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One of Ayutthaya’s many temples.

This city is an easy day-trip from Bangkok, but we chose this as our first stop as we make our way north through Thailand. There is a river that flows between the train station and the Ayutthaya Historical Park. And of course a tuk-tuk driver at the train station kept trying to convince us that we NEEDED his services to get to the entrance of the UNESCO World Heritage site because it’s “so far.” But, thanks to Google maps, we knew better. We simply walked to the river, paid 4 baht (12 cents), and a boat took us across to the other side. From there, it was a 10-minute walk to the park entrance.

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Our first view of the temples. Not too shabby!

The best way to get around the site, in our opinion, is by bicycle. Some of the temples are close by, but others are pretty spread out. You can rent a tuk-tuk for the day, but it costs a bit more. We rented bikes for two days from our guest house for $5 each. Here are some of the temple highlights:

THE TEMPLES OF AYUTTHAYA

Most of the temples cost about a dollar to visit, and that’s an absolute bargain. You can spend as much time as you want walking around. Some are even lit up at night for a completely different perspective!

Wat Phra Mahathat – This was our first temple stop because it’s so close to the park entrance. While much of the site was destroyed during a Burmese invasion, there are some impressive towers that are still standing.

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This Wat’s remains speak to its former beauty.

We also found this eerie, but cool scene of a bodhi tree that grew around the head of Buddha. Everyone tries to snap a photo next to it. But, in order to show respect, you must bend down and sit below the head. This head totally reminds us of the speaking head from Legends of the Hidden Temple.

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As cool as it looks in the picture… if not cooler.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet – This is one of the largest temples in Ayutthaya and sits next to the old royal palace. It has three stupas which are still intact, but I can’t say the same for the rest of the site, which was leveled during a Burmese attack.

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The three stupas are stunning during the day…

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…and eerily spectacular at night.

There is a smaller scale model that shows why this temple used to be the largest in the area. It’s worth checking out so you can understand how massive the site really was.

Wat Mongkhon Bophit – This is a monastery right next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It looks very beautiful from the outside, but it’s most popular for the HUGE Buddha that sits inside. The bronze statue is one of the largest Buddhas in Thailand.

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This Buddha is proof that size does matter.

Wat Phanan Choeng – Some temples are across the river like this one. No problem though because you can bring your bicycle on the ferry. We happened to visit the temple on the weekend. Hundreds of people come here on Saturday and Sunday to perform a ritual of draping a piece of cloth over the 62-foot tall Buddha. It was a very interesting thing to see!

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When in doubt, always build a bigger Buddha.

AYUTTHAYA NIGHT MARKET

You’ll probably have your fill of temples by the evening. Around dinnertime, Soi Bang Ian turns into a huge night market.

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The night market is always packed.

Locals set up their carts, offering their street food specialty. Other stands sell ingredients for meals, like vegetables or noodles. Vendors also sell assorted goods such as clothing, shoes and accessories. This sounds like a touristy experience. But, it’s not. Almost everyone visiting the market is a local. And that’s what makes it so unique. Oren and I found our way to a pad thai street vendor the first evening.

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This is not pad thai, but it does look delicious.

Then the second evening, we had to go back, to walk around the market again. I said I wouldn’t buy anything, but I did cave and bought a fresh fruit smoothie. It was delicious!

NOT-SO-FLOATING MARKET

Because we had two days in Ayutthaya, we decided to check out the floating market that the city boasts. I have yet to see a floating market in Thailand, so I thought it was worth the trip. Well, I hate to disappoint, but my mental image of dozens of Thai people selling their goods from their boats on the river couldn’t be further from reality.

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No part of this “boat” is in the water.

There are plenty of vendors, but they are selling their merchandise from store fronts ALONG the river. A few vendors are in boats, but the boats are connected to the dock. I saw more of a floating market when we took the Backwaters of Bangkok tour.

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Me chowing down on… you guessed it… more pad thai.

Once you accept that you’re not at an actual floating market, you can enjoy browsing through the shops. (We stayed away from the animal areas based on other people’s recommendation.) I will say though that it was a great place to stop for lunch because they have a lot of food options at a great price.

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One more awesome temple picture to wrap it up!

Whether you’re in Bangkok for a few days or backpacking through Thailand, Ayutthaya is a fantastic city to visit and explore. You’ll be glad you put it on your itinerary!

-C.K.

 

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2 Responses to “Ayutthaya: A Daytrip to Thailand’s Ancient Capital”

  • We visited Ayutthaya on a daytrip from Bangkok, where we spent the morning biking around the ancient temples (hot, but fabulous!). Then we had a hot Thai lunch on a traditional teak barge going around the island of Ayutthaya, and followed that with a 2-hour traditional Thai massage. A great visit! We booked with Ayutthaya Boat & Travel. (And because no one else had signed up for the small group tour, it was a private tour just for the two of us, with our own tour guide :-).

  • Thanks for the informative blog post. This would help me know where to go and what to do on my next trip to Thailand. Happy living guys 🙂

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