Ayutthaya, about 80km north of Bangkok, has been the capital of the old Kingdom of Siam between 14th and 18th centuries. The prospering city was destroyed by the Burmese army in 1767. Today Ayutthaya is a huge archaeological site surrounded by a modern city. Exploring the massive red brick temple ruins gives an impression on how beautiful these huge monasteries and pagodas must have been.
Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
We hop on a commuter train from Bangkok for less than a dollar. The Thai people in our third class wagon look at us. We forgot a hand fan and certainly make a pitiful impression. It is extremely hot inside. All windows are open but the train moves slowly. No air circulates. I am waiting for the ticket checker to arrive. He will certainly wear bathing shorts, hand over some salt peeling to us and swing a towel over his head to fan hot air towards us in this mobile sauna.
After a 3 hours ride (distance covered is 80 km) we step out of the train station and get a shock: A gigantic purple Darth Vader face blocks our way! We jump backwards just to see that the dark night has tricked us. It’s just a Tuktuk. Darn, that was close.
Very convenient budget accommodation
Facing the train station is a small street that has all we need. We check in to the Baan Are Gong Riverside Homestay housed in an old teak wood building. See here on Google Maps.. After a more or less friendly welcome, we walk into our room through a wooden cabinet door. The beautiful room is completely made out of teak and has windows to the outside as well as to the neighbor’s room (closed with curtains). Pink satin bed sheets shine brightly in the light of an energy saving lamp.
At the end of the street is a boat jetty to cross the Pa Sak River to the historic center. Along the street are several restaurants, another hostel and a bar. During daytime all these facilities turn into bicycle rental services.
We dine in one of the family-run restaurants and go to sleep in our teak wood cupboard.
Cycling the terrain, walking the ruins
In the next morning we rent bicycles. The cheap option is 30B. We spend full 100B per person and saddle upon brand new mountain bikes. The better bikes give us more reach and there is much to see.
Ayutthaya is home to many ruins, temples and museums waiting to be explored. Most of the ruins take an entry fee of up to 50B per person. The sky is clouded and it is hot. But we are lucky and just few drops of rain fall down during late afternoon. We spend the full day cycling around the city and photographing the many sights. Here are the most photogenic places we discover:
- Wat Yai Chaimongkhon (Google Maps)
The most prominent sight in this place is a seemingly endless row of Buddhas robed with yellow fabric.
- Wat Mahathat (Google Maps)
Certainly the most popular place in Ayutthaya. Here you find the beautiful motive of the Buddha head grown into the tree. Long rows of former red brick walls and a gallery of decapitated Buddhas are also great sights. The terrain formerly housed a monastery and is really huge with many hidden spots for us to discover.
- Wat Chai Watthanaram (Google Maps)
The many oversized stupas in a row revive an image of the former magnificence of the place. Imagine them covered with gold leaves. What a marvelous picture!
We cycle through the green areas around the historic park and find some small off-the-path ruins. A local market on the southwestern end of the old town serves a great choice of local food and fruit.
A logistical challenge is crossing the river with the bicycles in the absence of bridges. Almost everywhere there are small jetties instead of bridges. We find boats willing to take us and the bikes to the other side of the river for a very modest 10B per person. It proves to be a bit challenging to get the bikes safely on and off board, but it is a lot of fun, too!
There is much more to visit in Ayutthaya. However, we feel that within one day we have covered everything we wanted to see and got a good impression on the former kingdom that made those huge brick structures possible.
We dine in the same restaurant as the day before, and the chef is very happy that we frequent her again. She prepares us extra size curries. A perfect ending for our stay here!
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