Just 100km north of Bangkok lies Ayutthaya, a city filled with temple ruins, headless Buddhas and crumbling walls radiating with history. Once upon a time, it was the capital of the Siamese Kingdom, a prosperous international trading port, but in the 18th century, Ayutthaya was destroyed by the Burmese invasion. While the capital of Thailand has since then moved to Bangkok, Ayutthaya has become a modern Thai city brimming with archaeological wonders.
This UNESCO World Heritage site is known for its red-brick temples, Buddhas clothed in orange fabric and is probably most famous for a mysterious Buddha head wrapped in the roots of a banyan tree. The historical park is essentially a series of gorgeous half-tumbling temples with an extremely powerful presence. It’s one of the most historic and culturally significant cities in all of Thailand, which is why I highly recommend taking a day-trip to go see it!
HOW TO GET TO AYUTTHAYA
Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok is super easy! Depending on your budget, you can choose to get there by taxi, train, boat, tour group or van.
To get to the temple grounds, we ended up taking a tour that included a bus to Ayutthaya and a return to Bangkok by boat down the Chao Phraya River. I’m so glad we did this because we got to experience the temples with a tour guide (which I highly recommend, because without one you really don’t know what you’re looking at). Plus, we had an amazing dinner on the boat on the way back to Bangkok – it really hit the spot after a hot day of temple hopping. (Our university organized the tour for us so, unfortunately, I cannot recommend a tour company, but this one seems to be pretty legit on TripAdvisor and has plenty of great reviews. These tours typically run anywhere between $35 and $75.)
You can also choose to organize your own transportation to Ayutthaya by taking a:
Train – Trains are probably the most authentic way to get to the former capital. You can easily get to the train station, Hualamphong, in Bangkok, as it is also a stop on the MRT line. Tickets start at 15 baht (48 cents!) for third class and go up to $10 for first-class, with the entire journey lasting about an hour and a half.
Van – Another affordable way to get to Ayutthaya is by taking vans that leave from Mo Chit bus station – they cost around 100 baht. The minivans are fairly new, well-maintained and even have air-conditioning, so the ride should be pretty comfortable. Keep in mind that the vans depart from the bus station once they are completely full and you might have to wait a little while for them to fill up.
Taxi – Taxis are the most expensive, coming in at 1,000 baht for a one-way trip.
Once you get to Ayutthaya, you’ll need to decide on how you plan on making your way around the temples. There are several options which include taking a tuk-tuk, renting a bike, or walking. We walked, but if I were to go again, I might rent a bike instead – it will take less time to get from one temple to the next, plus you get to cool off as you coast to each location!
Wat Chai Watthanaram
Heavily resembling Angkor Wat, at first sight, Wat Chai Watthanaram means Monastery of the Temple for the Advancement of Victory. Years ago, the primary access to this temple was from the river as the waterways were the most important means of transportation during that era.
This is where the famous Buddha head wrapped in a banyan tree can be found. No one really knows how the head got there, but stories say that the head was cut off and left on the ground. Over the centuries, the banyan tree’s roots grew up around the head to frame it, leaving it now, enshrined. Pretty amazing!
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
One of the most impressive temples, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was used by the royal king as well as other members of the royal family. This temple is most recognizable by the Buddha statues clothed in yellow fabric that surround the temple itself and line its gardens.
What to Wear to Ayutthaya
Whenever you visit a temple in Thailand, always make sure to dress appropriately. It’s super hot, but maxi skirts are a good choice since they’ll cover you up enough to enter the temples while still keeping you cool. A light scarf or sarong is a good thing to keep with you at all times because you can easily throw it on before entering a temple to cover your shoulders (or use it as a long skirt) and then take it off when you leave. It’s light enough and small enough to not take up too much room in your bag, and it can look pretty stylish.
Don’t Miss This in Ayutthaya
If you have a sweet tooth, then you can’t leave Ayutthaya without trying Thailand’s version of cotton candy – roti sai mai. This sweet treat originated in Ayutthaya and consists of Thai-style cotton candy (the orange stringy floss) wrapped in a roti (sort of like a crepe) – it’s the perfect treat to end a day of exploring Ayutthaya’s ancient ruins!
There you have it! If you’re spending a few days in Bangkok, take a day to visit Ayutthaya, I promise it’ll be worth it. If you’re heading to Bangkok for the first time, be sure to check out my Ultimate Bangkok Travel Guide for tips on what to do and what to see while you visit!
Have you ever been to Ayutthaya? What did you think?