If you are planning a trip from Bangkok to the North of Thailand, don’t forget to make a stop in this ancient capital on the way. It takes only a short ride and you’ll find yourself in a totally new (old) world.
Think you are short on time? Make it a day trip. Ayutthaya is definitely worth a visit, even if you feel comletely “templed out”. Many companies offer day trips from Bangkok to Ayutthaya by bus or a minivan. But you can visit the ruins in a more efficient and exciting way if you take the train. It takes about 1,5 hours and cost an incredible 15 BHT to get there. Not to mention that the ride is an amazing experience by itself. Share the seat with the locals and don’t forget to buy some of the goodies from the passing peddlers – from sweets to stir fry, you’ll get to try more great food than in some restaurants.
However, I definitely recommend considering to spend a night in this historical town and enjoy it at your own pace. Hire a bike (cheapest and coolest way to get around – about 50 BHT for 24 hours) and browse slowly through the ruins. Then, when the sun goes down, don’t forget to make your way to the bustling night markets. From all the places in Thailand we enjoyed these markets (well, together with some in Chiang Mai) the most. Walk through the stalls with cheap clothes, souvenirs and other and merchandise to finally find yourself in a foodie heaven. You can enjoy a small snack while standing or choose one of the many “restaurant” stalls with a seating area. However, cheap eats or fine meals, rich families or working class – everyone still shares little folding chairs and tables. And that’s what makes the markets one of the best, their cool atmosphere.
What to see:
Wat Phra Si Sanphet – one of the most iconic places in Ayutthaya which used to be the city’s largest temple accommodating a 16m tall Buddha covered in gold. Unfortunately the statue was destroyed during one of the wars, but these days you can still admire the three big chedi towers (inside and out) and walk through the whole complex for only 50 BHT.
Wat Mahathat – in this big complex you can besides another look up many headless Buddha statues lining the walls, making a perfect backdrop for your pictures. However the favourite subject of all photographers is a total opposite of these – Buddha’s head without a body, mysteriously grown in one of the surrounding trees. The admission is also 50 BHT.
Reclining Buddha – not as big as the famous Reclining Buddha in Bangkok, still the 7m long open-air statue will take your breath away.
What to skip:
Elephant ride – It’s still very usual in Ayutthaya to see tourists overlooking the ruins from the back of an elephant. The only thing I have to say about this is please try to do some research before you blindly book one of these tours. Instead of riding elephants I definitely recommend to visit one of Elephant sanctuaries (mostly located in Chiang Mai, I recommend the elephantjunglesanctuary.com) and learn more about these beautiful animals.
Floating market – this floating market was built for tourists and that is also how it looks and feels. But if you are visiting Ayutthaya with children, this might be an option how to spend the afternoon.
If your trip is continuing from Ayutthaya more to the north, don’t forget to stop in Lopburi too. This little town is one of the oldest in Thailand and these days is known especially for it’s cheeky little dwellers. So if you would like to get closer to monkeys, here is your chance. Just be careful 😉