Just when we thought we knew Thailand pretty well we came across Ayutthaya. This stunning city of ruins, 80kms north of Bangkok was the capital of Siam(old Thailand). From 1350 until 1767, it flourished as a prosperous international trading port. Then it was invaded by the Burmese and burnt to the ground.
With such a treasure trove of ruins on offer it is hard to know where to start exploring. After a false start at the Chao Sam Phraya Museum (useless) we found the wonderful Ayutthaya Tourist Centre. The ladies there gave us a great map, circled the must-sees and sent us upstairs to watch a film on Ayutthaya. And I mastered how to pronounce Ayutthaya “i-ute-tea-ah”.
The usual way to see the temples is by hiring a bike or a tuktuk and driver for the day. But of course we went our own way! We caught a tuk tuk to the first of the must see temples and then walked to the others as they are quite close.
Which temples are a must-see in Ayutthaya
Wat Phra Si Sanphet – The Grand Palace – Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit.
This is where you find the hero shot of Ayutthaya, the three stunning aligned chedis (or stupas). And it is a hero shot from any angle! There is a 50B (AUS$2) entrance fee. In the Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit is one of the largest bronze Buddha images in Thailand.
Wat Mahathat – Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Mahathat is my favourite, full of wonderful leaning wats and that wonderful Buddha head caught in the tree roots. There is a lovely park adjacent to this site which is nice for a walk, and a few lesser known wats are in here for you to explore. There is a 50B entrance fee for each of these. Entrance to the park and those lesser temples is free.
This one reminded me very much of Angkor Wat (Cambodia) with the central stupa and secondary stupas. And this is the place to go for the sunset. Again there is a 50B entrance fee. We did this one as part of our boat trip.
Another Must-do in Ayutthaya
Do a boat trip along the river. Ayutthaya is an island between three rivers so from the water is a great way to see the city. We found an evening boat trip at the pier which took 2 hours, stopped at three temples and cost only 200B (AUS$8) each. You can hire a boat for 800B (AUS $33) for an hour’s trip.
We usually like travelling by tuk tuts but we found the tuk tuk drivers here quite aggressive and they spoke little or no English which made it hard. All they really want to do is sell you is a city tour at the going advertised rate of 300B per hour, which we didn’t want to do. Grab (Asian Uber) works here and they were great, lovely clean air conditioned cars and cheaper than tuk tuks. Also a note for taller people, these tuk tuts are smaller than the usual tuk tuks and poor James kept bashing his head on the roof!
You can do Ayutthaya as an organised day trip from Bangkok as it is only 80kms away, with good road and train links.
If you can, stay on the river. We stayed in the Bang U Thong Restaurant and Accommodations and it was fabulous. Right on the river which is a hive of activity 24/7 and the food in the restaurant was the best we had eaten in Thailand. We ate all three meals a day there which is saying something for us!
It is hot here, I mean high humidity that sucks the life out of you. Hats, water, iced fruit smoothies and an air conditioned hotel room are the order of the day. But it is 100% worth it to see a different side of Thailand.