On our second visit to Bangkok, we did a day trip to visit the Ayutthaya temples. It was raining like crazy when we visited, so we had to hide inside a temple where locals were praying amongst us, tourists. For more than 400 years, Ayutthaya was the second capital of Thailand after Sukhothai. Unfortunately, the Burmese destroyed it in 1767. In the 18th century, it was considered the largest city in the world with around 1 million inhabitants. Unlike Sukhothai, it is completely incorporated into the urban setting, although the main area on the peninsula has a similar natural feeling.
Day Trip to Ayutthaya
The name Ayutthaya comes from Sanskrit and means the Unconquerable. The city should be an obligatory stop on every route around Thailand. Since it’s located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, just 85km north of Bangkok, it is easy to organize a day trip to Ayutthaya. Due to its strategic location, the Ayutthaya Kingdom was one of the wealthiest in the region. Sadly, the Burmese damaged most of the temples. The only completely intact edifice is the Wat Pra Si Sanphet with its three stupas. In 1991, Unesco included the surviving Ayutthaya temples in its world heritage list.
What to See in Ayutthaya
In Ayutthaya most temples are inside the so-called Ayutthaya Historical Park. This incredibly green lush park has plenty of ruins to discover. Wat Pra Si Sanphet is the grandest temple in Ayutthaya. Behind it, you will find the Wat Lookayasutharam, famous for its giant Reclining Buddha statue. Once inside the park, search for one of the most photographed spots in the whole of Ayutthaya. Indeed, tourists flock to Wat Pra Maha That to photograph the Buddha head wrapped in a tree. Though other important temples are a bit away from the Ayutthaya Historical Park, across the river, they are sure worth your trouble. The most interesting ones are Wat Yai Chaimongkol, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, and Wat Phutthai Sawan.
Where to Stay in Ayutthaya
As mentioned above, Ayutthaya makes for a great day trip from Bangkok. Nevertheless, the place is full of historical sites, so spending a night or two is a great idea. Take note that the modern city of Ayutthaya is fairly big. However, most of the historical temples are on the central island. Therefore, stay on the island or across the river. The best hotel in town is Sala Ayutthaya. Located in the middle of the ruins it has first-class facilities and fabulous views. Two great guesthouses on the island are the Krodyle Mindfulness House and the Phuttal Residence. Another interesting hotel is the iuDia Hotel. Finally, if you are into resorts you’ll find two great options: Baan Tye Wang Guesthouse on the island and Baan Thai House across the river.
How to Get to Ayutthaya
The coolest and most scenic way to get to Ayutthaya is by train. Several trains depart each day from Bangkok’s train station and get you there in under 2 hours. Remember that Bangkok’s main Hua Lamphong is near Chinatown. The Ayutthaya station is just across the river from the Ayutthaya Historical Park. If you rather go by bus, take note that the journey should take the same, but you can run into traffic jams. Buses depart Bangkok from Moh Chit north bus terminal and arrive in the center of Ayutthaya.
To visit the whole area you can either rent a bike or hire a Tuk-tuk. The later is a better option if you are unsure where to go. There are several bike rental places across town. On the other hand, Tuk-tuks wait next to the bus stop and the train station. We hired a tuk-tuk and didn’t have to worry about anything! Tuk-tuk drivers in Thailand are the best. Drivers are nice, professional and know their country. Hire them whenever you can and relax. No need to bargain or be stingy. How much would you pay for such class A service back home?