A former capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya was a power house. It even held the record for becoming the largest city in the 1700’s for having over 1 million inhabitants. It was also a trading center between Asia in the East and Europe in the West.
That was until (former) Burma burnt it to the ground. But when I visited, it was still easy to see the city’s former glory, with towering temples and impressive palaces scattered everywhere.
I took the night train from Chiang Mai and arrived at 5 a.m! But the city was already bustling. Locals were up and getting ready for the day and the markets and food stalls had already started brewing.
From the train station, I walked across the street and took the short ferry across the river to the main island for 5 baht.
Since my hostel didn’t open until 8a.m, I decided to walk the 10 mins to my accommodation. Luckily, there was a nice outdoor area for me to hangout in until their doors opened (and a fellow packer I met in Chiang Mai coincidentally locked himself out of the hostel that morning, so I had a friend to chat with!).
So what did I do in Ayutthaya?
Rent a bicycle
I rented a bicycle for the two of the days I was there. For 50 baht, i got the bike for a full day!
For the first day I took my bike all around the main island. There are so many sites, it can be a bit overwhelming. It can also be fairly pricey if you want to visit the sites. It was 50 baht per site or you could get a plan and visit 5 temples/sites for 250 baht.
I’d suggest just taking a bike and just riding, but here are a couple specific sites I thought were extra interesting.
It doesn’t look like much from the outside, but inside there’s a great exhibition about Ayutthaya. It’s a great way to understand and appreciate all the sites around the city. It’s also free.
The archaeological site is pretty much one of the first sites you’ll come by if your’re starting from the center of the city. It’s a pretty big site and you get to see a fair bit of ruins. Inside you’ll also find the iconic buddha head entwined within the roots of a tree. It wasn’t mind-blowing, but it’s in all the guide books – if that’s something you care about.
A bit away from the main cluster of sites – it’s actually on the other side of the river, this temple is really impressive. It’s even more impressive during sun down time, but be prepared for hoards of others taking advantage of the beautiful view.
Take a boat ride
Tour operators, as well as hostels and hotels will offer this tour. I think it’s a standard 200 baht. It’s a river tour that starts around 4p.m and lasts for 2 hours. It brings you to 3 sites along the river. It’s a great opportunity to see these sites, if you’re not wanting to make the trek yourself. It usually stops for 15mins at each site, so you can poke around.
Sites the tour visits:
Wat Phanan Choeng
Ayuttaya seems to really like having over-sized buddahs in temples and this one might be the biggest in the city. It’s completely overcrowded with tourists and actual devotees. It was hard to even get a peak at the buddah, but worthy of a try.
Wat Samphao Lom
This temple was a nice change of atmosphere. It has a more rustic feel and is surrounded by overgrown trees.