Ayutthaya Thailand: The lost world of ancient Thailand & a treasure trove of temples


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 Thailand’s answer to Angkor Wat or Bagan, a huge complex of crumbling ancient temples awaits the intrepid to explore this historic gem. Easily accessible from on the Bangkok to Ayutthaya train it can make a great day trip or an enjoyable adventure for a couple of days away from the business of the capital. An Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok is easy and offers something very different to the temples in the city. 

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Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok: A local vibe from this not so popular stopping point of the amazing Ayutthaya temples. 

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 past 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! It’s also only an hour or so from Bangkok so a Day Trip to Ayutthaya is a perfect way to visit. 

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Taking the Bangkok to Ayutthaya train for a great Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok. 

The vibe here is very local, there aren’t many western restaurants or even than many hostels and accommodation 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!

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Ayutthaya temples: Thailand’s ancient kingdom of Siam awaits at the end of the Bangkok to Ayutthaya train!

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.

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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! 

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A hot and humid 2 days exploring the Ayutthaya temples 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 back streets will yield some amazing and little known ruins and temples. Most of the temples and sights however are on 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. 

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The Ayutthaya temples 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.

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Which Ayutthaya temples to visit on a two-day or Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok.

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. 

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Here you will find also a mixture of the old and new, many of the ancient Ayutthaya temples are in a state of 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!

Tips for visiting the Ayutthaya temples on your Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok.

* Push Bike rental is very cheap costing around 40-50 Baht for the full day (£0.90 / $1) and is a great way to get around the small city.

* 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.

* It can get extremely hot in Ayutthaya in the dry season and was almost unbearable. Be sure to go out early, take sun cream and a hat as well as plenty of water.

* If you are planning an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok be sure to plan out which temples you want to see. Use the app Maps.me to mark them off and plan a route so you can maximise what you see

* AVOID the elephant rides here, these animals are abused and tourists should not be supporting this barbaric practice. Take a bike instead!

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Practical information: Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok or a two-day visit taking the Bangkok to Ayutthaya train. 

Getting here is pretty easy as it is very close to Bangkok. How far is Ayutthaya from Bangkok? It’s only 85km and is an easy day trip. 

Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok and Bangkok to Ayutthaya train information:

* Taking the Bangkok to Ayutthaya train is quick, easy and cheap. You can take the train to and from the Ayutthaya temples in a single day or as we did you can visit over two days from elsewhere in the country.

* The Bangkok to Ayutthaya train takes around 2 hours and costs 15 Baht each for third class.

* If you take the third class option be aware that seats are not reserved so get ready to be quick once the train arrives!

* The train leaves Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok regularly, be sure to check the schedule before and be aware the trains aren’t the most punctual. Leave enough time for delays if you are doing an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok. Be sure to check the  Bangkok > Chiang Mai timetable for this route. 

* Getting to Hua Lamphong Station is easy via the MRT and the train station is next to the MRT station. You might have to transfer from the Sky Train to the MRT depending on your location in the city. Factor that in if you are doing an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok.  

* On the train there are toilets and also snack carts coming up and down

* Once at the station walk straight to the ticket counters to buy your tickets and ignore anyone trying to help you as scammers are common here or you could save the hassle and book via our recommended method of 12goAsia, you can use the box below to search for tickets which will include all methods of transport from trains, to buses to flights.

Book your train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya here:

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Bus and Mini bus options for an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok:

* You can take a minibus for around 60 Baht which takes around 1.5 hours as an alternative. Ask your accommodation to organise that for you or take one from Victory Monument. They leave often. 

* Public buses run from Northern Bus Terminal near Mo Chit BTS. They should take between 1-2 hours. 

Getting to Ayutthaya from Chiang Mai:

Night buses:

* 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. Be sure to tell the driver you need to stop in Ayutthaya and remind them through the night as we nearly missed our stop!

Night Trains from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya:

* In hindsight we should have taking a sleeper train overnight from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya as the bus as a nightmare, dropped us off in the middle of the night and in a bad location. The train station is much more central, the trains more comfortable and drop you off in a much better location.

* Prices vary according to which bunk you get. It costs 856 Baht for the bottom bunk and 766 Baht for the top bunk. Each have a curtain and a light and are much more comfortable than the night trains in China! Check out up to date prices here.

* The train from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya takes 12 hours. Food and toilets are on board and there is clean pillows and bedding too for each passenger. Check out the timetable here.

* Be sure to bring a good book, some snacks and drinks and a battery pack for your phone.

* Like all Thai transport the train might not be too punctual so expect it to be late and arrive late!

* Be sure to book a few days in advance as the route is popular and fills up quickly. You can do this at the station or online at 12goAsia. Search for your tickets below, this will include all methods of transport for you to compare prices and times!

Book your bus or train from Chiang Mai to Ayutthaya here:

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Travelling from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi:

* We travelled from here on to Kanchanaburi on a minibus which is a less popular route with only 1 bus a day for around 400 Baht (£8.91 / $11.51) and taking 3 hours.

* The transport options going on this route are limited and there is no train connecting the two

* The best way to travel from Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi might be to get the train to Bangkok and either stay over night or catch a connecting train. This would be a cheaper way than the minibus but would take longer.

* The train from Kanchanaburi to Bangkok takes around 2.5 hours and leaves from Thonburi station twice a day. 

Have you ever done a Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok or took a longer trip to see the Ayutthaya temples?

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Such an amazing daytrip from Bangkok. I’d just love to explore on bike.

Ayutthaya is such a fascinating place! I have seen pictures before, but just assumed it was Angkor Wat. I would love not having to fight as many tourists, too. The architecture is fascinating and good to know that it is listed as a UNESCO site. Are you two going to teach history when you are finished traveling? LOL You’d be the greatest!

It’s great that you mention Angkor Wat in here: interesting because I actually thought the first few pictures looked very similar to some of the more famous temples in the Angkor complex. The ancient cross-mixing of cultures is really shown through the varied architecture in the photos you took.

OK … laughing at the fact your bus driver forgot to drop you off and had to turn around. That is how you KNOW you are in for an adventure and going where few tourists tread. Nice. Therese and I have never visited Thailand … but want to for sure. Would love to see that Buddha head in the tree trunk for myself.

I didn’t quite get here when I visited Thailand but I now have it on my radar for the return trip! A visit to Ayutthaya looks amazing – so many temples and visiting on a bike is totally my kind of day trip! Thanks for all the helpful information about Ayutthaya.

We’ve never visited Thailand, but it’s on our bucket list. Ayutthaya seems like a great place to spend a day or two. It’s impressive to see a Buddha head in a tree trunk! We went to Angkor Wat several years ago and really loved it, so we’ll certainly love Ayutthaya as well! Thanks for sharing this.

This sounds like a great place to explore especially as it’s only an hour away from the major part of town. I like making day trips to the lesser known and less touristy areas. Funny how the driver forgot to drop you off! I would love to rent a bike and explore Ayutthaya.

Exploring Ayutthaya in 2 days on a bike seems lethal in that heat! But also a great adventure! The fact that it is less touristy than other famous temples like Angkor Wat is a big plus!

Biking through Ayutthaya was so close to making our Thailand itinerary. If we would have known how accessible the biking was and about night train options we probably would have made the trip. We kept considering the bus options or an expensive day trip. Taking the train and renting bikes when you get there seems like a great option.

Ayutthaya is definitely high on my list of places to visit in Thailand. Good to know that it is not as crowded or touristy as Angkor Wat. 🙂 Good advice on the planning of your itinerary when you visit. It’d be easier and convenient if you can plan your route ahead.