If you want to explore ancient Wat (temple) ruins of a Kingdom that once ruled most of Thailand, then it’s time you left the hustle and bustle of Bangkok and hop aboard a train that will take you back 665 years! It’s time to visit Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong following a smallpox outbreak and ravaged the neighboring city of Lopburi. For hundreds of years Ayutthaya was one of Asia’s biggest trading ports and developed into one of the world’s most sophisticated and wealthiest cities. During the 417 years the city was inhabited it was ruled by 35 kings and repelled 23 Burmese Invasions. In 1767 the Burmese successfully breached the island city destroying the beautiful structures and subsequently ending it’s golden age.
Today the ruins offer a glimpse into the extravagant past of Thailand, and with much of the ancient city having been partially restored and deemed a World Heritage Site it’s not hard to imagine the glittering and splendid city it would have been in its prime.
HOW TO GET THERE
Ayutthaya is located 81km North of Bangkok city, and is a two hour train ride away. From Hua Lamphong station you can purchase a third class train ticket for 15baht on the day of departure.
TRAVEL HINT: Third class doesn’t have assigned seating or air conditioning so try board the train at least 15 minutes before departure to secure a seat by the window.
Train Station via Tuktuk: If you are staying near the popular Khao San Road then a tuktuk ride to the train station should cost no more than 100baht, remember to haggle if the driver tries charging more, it’s all part of the fun!
Train station via bus: If you’ve had enough of tuktuks weaving through the traffic and are feeling more adventurous then you can walk to Ratchadamnoen Klang Road and catch the #35 bus for 6.5baht to the station, it will take approximately 30 minutes.
Once you arrive at Ayutthaya you need to walk for 5 minutes down the street directly opposite the train stations main exit until you reach the canal. As the ancient city is located on an island you will need to get a boat across. If you want to save money turn left at the canal and for 5baht you can board a public boat at the pier that will ferry you directly to the island.
WHERE TO EXPLORE
The most magical thing about Ayutthaya is that its an island bursting with Ancient and modern Wats, pagodas and canals. Once on the island your free to wonder and get lost in the allure of the past. My personal favourite is Wat Mahathat as its grounds contains the most captivating icon: A Buddha’s head entangled within the roots of a Banyan tree. The whole complex at Wat Mahathat is breathtaking, the crumbling stupas and prangs pitched behind headless Buddha’s create an eerie quality that makes you realize your walking through a sacked Kingdom that was home to a million souls.
TRAVEL HINT: The island is 4km wide and the ruins are scattered everywhere making it almost impossible to see and explore everything in one day so pick your top three must sees and start by visiting them first.
HOW TO GET AROUND
There are a multitude of ways offered by the locals to explore the ancient city, the most popular being tuktuk hire, boat tours and bicycle rentals. If your not excited by the sound of a guided tour and can’t or won’t ride a bike don’t stress Wat Phra Ram, Wat Mahathat and Wat Ratchaburana are a 15 minute walk from the canal.
Tuktuk Hire- Costs approximately 200baht per hour, though you can bargain for a lower price (i.e. 3 hours for 500baht). Drivers will usually use a standard sightseeing circuit, or alternatively you can point out places of interest on a map.
Boat Tour- A long tail boat (traditional Thai boat) can be chartered at the pier in front of Chanthara Kasem National Museum, Wat Phananchoeng and Pom Phet Pier. The price depends on the route, destinations and how many people are in the group. This is a relaxing way to enjoy the scenery.
Bicycle Rental- Costs 50baht for one day, and can be hired on the island (if you hire a bike on the mainland it will cost you 5baht to ferry it across). Biking is by far the most enjoyable way to explore the ancient city as it allows you to choose your own route and stop and explore the Wats at your own leisure.