Exploring the Historic City of Ayutthaya, Thailand
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On our second day in Bangkok, we left the hotel early for our tour to the historic city of Ayutthaya. Last month, The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) invited a group of tour operators and travel writers from the Philippines for a joint Thailand and Vietnam familiarization tour to promote ASEAN tour programs. The Fam trip was made possible in partnership with Bangkok Airways and Philippine Airlines.
From Bangkok, It took about an hour and 20 minutes to reach Ayutthaya.
The ancient city of Ayutthaya used to be one of the largest cities in Asia after being found in 1350 by King Uthong. For about five centuries, the city thrived under the Siamese until in 1767 when the Burmese invaders overran it.
Today, what is left of the once majestic city are the ruins of temples and palaces, which now attract visitors from all over the world. It is among the top-ranking heritage destinations in Thailand.
Ayutthaya was a city to behold. It was located on a riverine island served by rivers Lopburi, Prasak, and Phraya. The city itself was fortified by a five meters thick brick wall running 12 kilometers long. According to a French Jesuit in 1687, a “single idol” located in Wat Phra Si Sanphet was “richer than all the Tabernacles of the Churches of Europe.”
There was no city in the world like Ayutthaya during the 16th and 17th centuries. It had over a million inhabitants with settlers from Persia, China, Arab, India, Mon, Japan, Cham, Viet, Khmer, Lao, Malay, Portuguese, French, Dutch, and British. The city reflected on these diversities with Chinese shrines, European churches, Persian mosques, and Brahman sanctuaries, alongside numerous Thai Theravada Buddhist temples. The city was the best place on the planet for religious coexistence.
The city’s prosperity started facing roadblocks in 1569 when it was invaded by the Burmese forces. The invaders took the Thai prince hostage, but he (Naresuan – Thai prince) escaped and defeated the Burmese forces in battle single-handedly according to the legends. The prince then re-established the city as an independent kingdom.
But, Ayutthaya fall on April 7, 1767, after it was then again attacked by the Burmese forces.
Best time to visit Ayutthaya
The best time to visit this astounding ancient city is between November and January. The reasons being it is the only period in Thailand when they experience little rainfall and the weather is perfect for visiting the island and crossing the rivers.
The region is generally hot and humid all year round even during winter. For this reason, the temperatures will remain high and you will be better served if you packed enough water.
How to get there
For a traveler, you have several great options to get to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Here are some of the best and common ways to get to the city.
Private Car Charter Between Bangkok and Ayutthaya
Visit ancient Ayutthaya or the city of Bangkok for the perfect day trip with a full day private car hire. Not only is this the easiest way to get between Bangkok and Ayutthaya or vice versa, but you’ll also get convenient transport and optional guide services.
Take a train
This is by far the best way to get to the prehistoric city of Ayutthaya. The train leaves Bangkok directly and you can catch one every top of the hour at the Hualamphong station. All you have to do is get to the station and buy the ticket for the next train and wait.
The tickets are quite cheap. For $0.50, you will have your 3rd class seat on the train. The ride itself is spectacular, with lots of scenic features along the way. Another great thing is that the trip from Bangkok to the ancient city of Ayutthaya takes only an hour and a half.
Buses to Ayutthaya
You can also travel to the site using a bus. There are plenty of options from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, at the Northern Bus Terminal, Mo Chit.
It is worth noting that the bus cost more and also takes longer than the train.
Cruising to Ayutthaya
If you want to add some whims in your trip, book a river cruise to the prehistoric site. This is the most interesting way of getting to the old city. But it comes in the form of a tour, which will take a few stops on the way.
You will also need to book the tour in advance because it is only available to the tourist alone. A day cruise including lunch will cost you $55.
Cycling to Ayutthaya
Probably the least popular way of getting to Ayutthaya, but it also comes with lots of benefits including the exercise and the authenticity of the trip.
This option will require you to join a cycling tour.
Ayutthaya prehistoric city is a sight to behold. Remember, the site is completely different from the modern city.
There are few options of navigating the site.
The fun way to get around the site and the temples are by using a bike. They are readily available to rent at the cost of $2 per day, but you will need to leave behind collateral in form of an ID.
Getting around the ancient city by bicycle requires you get there very early in the morning to avoid the sun. As mentioned earlier, the place is hot throughout the year.
If you feel cycling is too much, you can rent a motorbike. With $10 to $14 a day, you can have a motorbike to take you around the city. Of course, you will have to have enough experience riding a motorbike.
Even if you don’t know how to ride or have inadequate skills, you can still rent the motorbike (tuk-tuk) as well as a rider, and then just seat at the back and enjoy the views.
What to do and see
Being an ancient city with storied past, you bet there are millions of things to do and see in Ayutthaya. Anyway, we have selected the top things for you to visit and see in the city.
Visit Ayutthaya tourist information center
Before you ask, that is not a tourist attraction but a government office. The first thing to do, especially if this is your first time in the city, is to visit the Tourist Office. There, you can receive a free map of the city.
In the Tourist Office, you will get to see the exhibition of the ancient Ayutthaya, detailing its rise and fall in the hands of the Burmese.
Ayuthaya Tourist Center
Address: Pratu Chai Sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand
Hours: Opens 8:30AM
Phone: +66 35 246 076
Visit Wat Chai Wattanaram
Our first stop was at Wat Chai Wattanaram, It’s is a Buddhist temple in the city of Ayutthaya Historical Park. The temple is located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River and it is one of Ayutthaya’s best-known temples and a popular tourist attraction.
See the Buddha head entwined in the roots
This spectacle is located in Wat Phra Mahathat. The tangled Buddha head is the highlight of this area but you can also visit numerous temple ruins, prangs, and crumbly Buddha statues.
Wear Thai traditional costumes in Ayutthaya
Traditional Thai clothing is called chut thai, which literally means “Thai outfit”. It can be worn by men, women, and children. Chut thai for women usually consists of a pha nung or a chong kraben, a blouse, and a sabai. Outside most temples, there are shops that offers costume rentals. They are offering various choices for all sizes from clothing to accessories. After fitting the traditional costumes, they will allow you to roam around the temple to take photos wearing traditional Thai outfits.
Visit the Golden Buddha
In Wat Phanan Choeng, you will come across a gigantic golden Buddha towering 19 meters high. It is a busy place so get there early.
Visit Wat Lokaya Sutha
Wat Lokaya Sutha, “the temple of the Earth” is located near the North West tip near the old Royal Palace and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The monastery is popular for its 42-meter long Reclining Buddha image. Just like other monasteries in Ayutthaya, Wat Lokaya Sutha was destroyed by the Burmese armies during the invasion of 1767.
- Ayutthaya and Thailand as a whole are hot and humid. If you have never visited the country before, make sure you pack enough water to stay hydrated.
- Some temples are free to visit while others charge a small entrance fee. But you can buy a ticket that covers 6 temples for $6.70.
- Dress properly, the temples might be in ruins but they still are religious locations.
Ayutthaya Tour Packages You Should Try
Do you want to go on a tour package instead? These are five of the top choices on Klook:
Ayutthaya City Tour from Bangkok
Are you looking for an exciting and immersive experience in Thailand? Book an awesome tour in the ancient city of Ayutthaya and learn about its long history and cultural heritage.
Private Ancient Ayutthaya Day Tour
Travel 80 kilometers north of Bangkok to visit the historic city of Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya is once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam-and now it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the most famous attractions in Thailand. In this tour, you’ll visit Wat Yai Chaimongkhon or the Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory. Then you’ll head over to Ayutthaya Floating Market, where you’ll enjoy a delicious lunch or marvel at the walkways around the water and the boats plying their trade straight from the deck.
Do you have other helpful travel tips that you want to add in this Ayutthaya City Travel Guide? Please feel free to email us or post your comment below.