Ayutthaya was the second capitol city of Siam – the area now known as Thailand – after Sukhothai. Ayutthaya soon became an incredibly busy trading port, and merchants from all over the world journeyed here. The city grew so popular, that it became the world’s largest city around 1700.
When the Burmese invaded Siam in 1767, the city was burned to the ground, thus ending the golden age of Ayutthaya.
Where is Ayutthaya and Why Should you Go?
Ayutthaya is located 85 kilometres north from Bangkok. It is possible to day trip to Ayutthaya, but there is quite a bit to see, so we recommend staying at least one night in town. Ayutthaya is located part way between Bangkok and Sukhothai, so it makes a great stop off point for those touring the central and northern regions of Thailand.
Ayutthaya was an incredibly important city during the time of Siam, and the ruins of the old city were recognized as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1991.
How to get to Ayutthaya
There are several options you can use to get to Ayutthaya. Most travellers will come to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, so these are the options that I will explore in this post.
You can travel from Bangkok to Ayutthaya by boat, mini bus, regular bus, and train. Boat is the most scenic option, but it is also the most time consuming and expensive. These boats are operated explicitly for tourism so they need to be booked in advance. The trip will take the best part of a day, and overnight options are available as well.
A popular option with locals is the minibus. Minibus journeys take between an hour to an hour and a half depending on traffic and leave for Ayutthaya several times during the day. One thing to be wary of is a popular scam where the driver will tell you that you are at your destination, when in fact you are in the next village over. Then a tuk-tuk driver will approach you and offer to take you to Ayutthaya for a ridiculous fee. You will be able to tell if this is happening if all the locals are still on the bus, and the driver only tells the foreigners to get off.
Comfortable buses depart to Ayutthaya about every 20 minutes during the day and cost about the same as a mini bus. The bus journey does take longer though, as they make frequent stops. Buses depart from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Station.
The mode of transport that I took was the train. The train departs Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station regularly throughout the day and is the cheapest option to get to Ayutthaya. It takes between 1.5 hours and 2.5 hours depending on the type of service you go for.
What to do in Ayutthaya
The main reason to visit Ayutthaya is the temple ruins. There are several temple ruins sights all around the main part of the city. We will outline some of the most popular. Each site charges a small entrance. Conservative dress is recommended, but is not usually enforced.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet – This was the largest temple in Ayutthaya. The temple was originally houses within the grounds of the former royal palace and was primarily used for royal religious ceremonies. The temple was destroyed when the Burmese invaded and set fire to the temple to melt the 340 kg’s of gold from a giant Buddha statue.
Wat Phra Mahathat – This temple was badly destroyed by the Burmese, and yet it also it one that I found the most atmospheric. Here there are beautiful ruins surrounded by eerie headless Buddhas. This is also where you can spot one of the most famous and beautiful sites in Ayutthaya – the Buddha head. Here there is a Buddha head that is being lovingly cradled by the roots of a tree.
Wat Thammikarat -This is a working wat, but on the grounds there are the ruins of a large roofless chedi featuring a tree growing out of one of the walls.
Wat Ratchaburana – This temple is special because one of the prang’s (towers) has been restored so it now stands proudly out of the ruins. It has not been restored to it’s original condition but it still gives you a good idea about what these temples would have looked like before their fall.
Where to next?
If you are heading north, then head towards Sukhothai. If you are heading south, then Bangkok will likely be your next stop.