Ayutthaya Thailand is the one time ancient capital of the Siam, the precursor to the modern day kingdom of Thailand. Founded in 1350 it is Thailands answer to Angkor Wat or Bagan, a huge complex of crumbling ancient temples awaits the intrepid to explore this historic gem. Easily accessible from Bangkok Ayutthaya can make a great day trip or an enjoyable adventure for a couple of days away from the business of Bangkok.
A local vibe from this not so popular stopping point
The first thing we noticed about Ayutthaya Thailand, apart for the temples of course, was the lack of tourists and amenities. We were literally the only ones to get off the Chiang Mai to Bangkok bus at Ayutthaya, we actually drove passed it as the driver had forgotten and we had to turn around so we could be dropped at the side of the highway, 10km from the centre at 4am… with no tuk tuks ready and waiting the stranded tourists which is often the case!
The vibe here is very local, there aren’t many western restaurants or even than many hostel and accomodation options. In this sense it is quite a refreshing look into Thailand especially considering it is only 84km from the capital. Despite the awkward beginnings we actually loved Ayutthaya because of this and it felt much more authentic and personal that places like Angkor Wat that are often swarming in tourists. Here there were steady local visitors to some of the more well known temples, but many we had all to ourselves!
Thailands ancient kingdoms await
Founded back in 1350 by King Uthong the city of Ayutthaya was once the grand capital of the kingdom of Siam. To visit these historic UNESCO listed temples dotted wonder is to step back in time, to that of these ancient worlds of shimmering temples and powerful rulers. Ayutthaya Thailand was once one of the grandest cities of Asia, it was said that the gold from the temples could be seen for miles on end.
However the Burmese over ran it in 1767 and left it to rot and ruin. Today a handful of these mysterious and ornate temples remain, offering those willing to explore them the chance to get a glimpse into the past splendor of this magnificent place. It must truly have been a breathtaking sight all those years ago! An interesting fact, especially since we have now visited the place is question, is that It’s thought that much of the gold used to create Yangon’s Shwedagon Pagoda came from Ayutthaya after it was plundered by the Burmese!
A hot and humid 2 days exploring Ayutthaya Thailand on bikes
Ayutthaya is best explored on a bike, the large and not very well defined area where the historical park lies covers quite a large amount of ground if attempting on foot. The city is a patchwork of the ancient and the new and a head for exploring all the nooks and crannies along passageways and backstreets will yield some amazing and little known ruins and temples. Most of the temples and sights however are on the the island that stretches between the Prasak River, the Chao Phraya River and west the Mueang Canal so it can easily be done in either a busy one day trip or more relaxed two day visit.
Ayutthaya Thailand might not have the scale of Angkor Wat or Bagan but it still manages to conjure up those romantic images of a lost kingdom, of a once powerful civilisation left in ruins and an ancient world we could only hope to get a glimpse into. To stroll inside these wonders is to walk in the footsteps of a past civilisation, to stare into the world of almost 700 years ago. The grandeur of these remains and remnants really allows you to imagine just how impressive this entire city of gold must have looked.
Visiting such temples as Wat Mahathat, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Wat Maheyong, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Phutthaisawan and Wat Phanan Choeng provide a beautiful and diverse look into the vast history of what is now Thailand.
Here you will find also a mixture of the old and new, many of the ancient temples are in a state or ruin, some have small restored sections and others have had much work to bring them back to their former glory and are very much working temples. Wat Phra Si Sanphet was a highlight for us with the amazing three chedis reflecting the evening sun over the large complex of ruins. Wat Phanan Choeng however provided a different experience with its huge 19m golden buddha towering over the faithful below. But of course, the most famous feature of all, the buddha head growing within the tree at Wat Mahathat was something not to be missed!
Getting here is pretty easy as it is very close to Bangkok.
Buses run from Chiang Mai to Bangkok overnight and can stop here if requested. However it is wise to arrange a taxi or tuk tuk in advance with your accommodation as you get dropped off at the side of the highway at 4am! The bus costs around 600 Baht (£13.37 / $17.26) for the sleeper and takes around 12 hours.
From here it is also very simple to get to Bangkok, you can take the train for around 3 hours for around 65 Baht ( £1.45 / $1.87) Or you can take a minibus for around 60 Baht which takes around 1.5 hours
We travelled from here on to Kanchanaburi on a minibus which is a less popular option with only 1 bus a day for around 400 Baht (£8.91 / $11.51) and taking 3 hours.
Bike rental is very cheap costing around 40-50 Baht for the full day (£0.90 / $1)
Most of the main temples do cost to enter. However we go lucky and arrived on a weekend designated for free entry. Expect to pay around 50 Baht ( £1.11/ $1.44) for those that do charge.
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