Find out what to do in Ayutthaya, the ancient Kingdom of Siam, on a day trip from Bangkok.
Just about one hour and a half from Bangkok you can easily visit the ruins of what was once one of most amazing cities in the world: Ayutthaya.
If you are planning to visit Thailand and wonder what are some of the things to do and to see in Bangkok, don’t miss this post: Ayutthaya it’s definitely worth a visit.
Ayutthaya: a bit of history
I don’t want to flood you with many historical facts, you can always check Wikipedia to learn more, but I think that to appreciate this historical place it’s important to have some basic info.
The kingdom of Ayutthaya, named after its capital, existed from 1351 to 1767 and included a big portion of South-east Asia: Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and a big part of Burma and Malaysia. Judging by the ruins and by what historians wrote, the city must have been really amazing. In mid-1600 the King Narai had strong links with King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris.
Ayutthaya was friendly towards foreign traders, including the Chinese, Vietnamese (Annamese), Indians, Japanese and Persians, and later the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the walls of the capital.
Sadly in 1767, the city was destroyed by Burma, and today, as a witness of its glorious past, it’s possible to visit the ruins of this great and powerful Kingdom.
What impressed me the most, was the incredible number of temples. People that lived in Ayutthaya were very religious and they mixed Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and, influenced by French Missionaries who arrived through China in the 17th century, some small areas converted to Roman Catholicism.
Ayutthaya things to do: visiting the temples
There are really many temples and these are the most important:
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
This Wat, on the South-eastern part of the city, was dedicated to the monks that traveled to Ceylon (Sri Lanka) to study and meditate.
The Chedi, a dome-shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine, is about 62 meters tall but, due to the weight of the bricks used to build it (more than 280000 tons) the floor is slowly collapsing.
The view from the top of the Chedi is great.
Wat Maha That
The Wat Maha That lies in the center of the city and was one of the most important temples of the whole kingdom. The architecture was studied very carefully to “align the building with the universe” so that it could get the right energies.
Generally the West was viewed as a bad cardinal point because the sun set in that direction. The south was neutral and the north was regarded as a good cardinal point. The best spot was the east because the sun rises in that direction.
Also most of the churches are built with the altar facing the east because many of them are built over the ruins of old pagans temples where the Sun God was worshiped.
The most famous site in the Wat Maha That is not a temple though but the head of a Buddha trapped by the roots of a tree.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This temple is famous for the 3 Chedis. It was the most important in the city and was used as a model to build the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok.
If you are in this area and you feel tired you can rest a bit in the market nearby and maybe try some of the delicious Thai specialties.
Wat Chai Wattanaram
This temple is not part of the historic city of Ayutthaya and is not even part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site but this doesn’t mean that is not worth a visit.
Actually, in my opinion, it’s the most beautiful.
Hot to get to Ayutthaya and when is the best time visit the city
If you stay in Bangkok and want to visit Ayutthaya on a day trip there are several options.
- You can book tours that will take you around the ruins on an air-con bus. The prices start from 1200 baht per person.
- If you want to save money take the train and you’ll pay only 20 Baht (one way and non-air-con).
- A third option is to get to Ayutthaya by minivan. Just ask your hotel where you can get one. The price is 60 Baht and you also have air-con: a good deal indeed!
Once in the city you have to decide how to visit the temple, because they are scattered all over the modern Ayutthaya, just like Rome, unless of course, you booked a tour in Bangkok. In that case, they’ll take you around the ruins.
One option is to rent a scooter and to get around the site by yourself. If you don’t feel like riding a motorbike don’t worry. As soon as you’ll get off the train many tuk-tuk drivers will approach you asking if you want them to take you around.
Remember that the first price they’ll ask you is way too expensive (at least 200 Baht) but you can, and actually have to, bargain. I paid 850 Baht. Maybe you can get an even lower price.
If you travel alone this is not the best solution though, because the difference in price between the tuk-tuk + train option vs an all-inclusive tour is not that big.
When is the best time to visit Ayutthaya
The best season to visit Ayutthaya if you want to avoid the heat is the months between October to March. This is particularly true if it’s your first time in Asia. Believe me: the heat can be unbearable.
During the months from April to October, it can rain quite a lot.