Ayutthaya Thailand: A bike and boat tour of the Royal Kingdom

It’s a steaming hot day in Ayutthaya. I don’t think Thailand knows any other way.

There is a gentle breeze that picks up as soon as I start pedalling and I slip into bliss in motion.

I ride under trees with leafs shaped like ears, past crumbling ancient temples, and stupors retaining an inkling of the grandeur of their heyday hundreds of years ago.

It’s so quiet you can hear the birds. In all the years I’ve been to coming to Thailand I don’t remember hearing birds. Tuk tuks, motorbikes and hawkers yes, but silence enough to hear birds, no.

In Ayutthaya, you will find the silence amidst the ancient runs of what was once the biggest city in the world and said to be the most beautiful by traders and merchants from Europe.

Our first adventure getting an insight into this was a bicycle tour through the ancient city.

I really couldn’t think of a better way to see this World Heritage historical site than on a bike.

Our bike tour of Ayutthaya Historical Park

Ayutthaya world heritage site
One of my fave shots

Our tour guide leads us on a slow and gentle ride, teaching us the history and cultural significance of the temples and palaces we cycle past and stop at.

Non-royal life occurred outside the city walls on the banks of the 3 rivers that surround the island of Ayutthaya and feed the outer lying rice fields

Much of the ancient buildings have been destroyed due to flooding and wars since 1350 when the city was founded as Siam’s second capital.

The Burmese were responsible for invading and burning down the captial in 1767, destroying the beauty that my eyes now tried to put together with broken pieces and faded gold laden brickwork.

We cycle outside through covered markets. The smell of sweet roti dessert cooking wafts up my nose and causes my tummy to grumble. The shopping tourists are ambling about and the ding of my bell is not enough to interrupt their haggling for wooden handicrafts, handbags, food and fruit. I have to shout a warning and disturb my own peace.

I soon settle back into calm when we arrive at the gigantic reclining Buddha draped majestically in an orange cloth. He looked so happy and content. We took a moment to burn incense sticks and honour his spirit.

My favourite was one of the most important Buddhist temples, Wat Phra Mahathat. The Burmese tore this one up, pilfering the heads of the sitting Buddhas, leaving behind statues left behind of their erect bodies and empty minds.

Except for one.

Legend has it was dropped in haste at the bottom of a banyan tree whose roots wrapped around it forever ensconcing it as a holy shrine for Thai people. It’s a highly spiritual place and even though the head is low to the ground, you still must observe the act of lowering yourself to pay your respects.

reclining Buddha Ayutthaya
Paying our respects
Ayutthaya world heritage site
The headless Buddhas
buddha head in banyan tree ayutthaya
The head

Rice Barge Tour on the Chao Phraya River

Our legs soon grew tired with the heat and exercise so we retired to the Chao Phraya River for a leisurely lunch on board a converted teak rice barge.

You say Thai buffet, I say I’m in heaven.

It was easy to picture the once opulent life along the river and imagine the feast in front of us was what Kings and royal dignitaries once ate.

Ayutthaya rice barge cruise
Yum

It was the perfect afternoon floating along the River of Kings exploring the island of Ayutthaya from the perspective of the once great channel of trade. This was where it all once happened, the hustle and bustle replaced by serenity.

Elaborate wooden stilted homes, crumbling ruins, stupors and golden ornate temples rose above the banks; once they greeted sailors, traders and newcomers into town, now they welcome foreigners who arrive with a different reason.

Ayutthaya was once the land of wealth and grandeur laced with spiritual significance,  I found myself missing the lost city even though I’d never seen the full replication of it.

River cruise of Ayutthaya
Serenity and grandeur

The Thai perfect ending

You would think that after our bike and boat tour we would have been calling it the perfect Thai experience. Almost. That call was to be made a few hours later, after our traditional Thai massage.

The only thing I love more than a feast of Thai food is a Thai massage.

I don’t even know where we went, I just jumped out of the van and followed the hands outstretched leading me to the fisherman’s pants and the floor.

I certainly felt like I had morphed into a Royal body after it. Relaxed, stretched and feeling bloody fantastic. Have I ever told you how much I LOVE Thailand?

Ayutthaya was a unexpected surprise and one of my favourite Thai experiences.

Ayutthaya is only an hour from Bangkok, making it a pleasant day trip or overnight stay. It’s one of those Thai experiences you crave where you are slightly off the beaten track and other travellers, apart from being seen within the ruins, are rarely sighted.

It’s not as impactful or dramatic as the ruins you would find at Angkor Wat, Cambodia; but its softness seeps under your skin enough so that you probably enjoy it a little more.

More photos of Ayutthaya:

Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya historical park
Our bike riding crew

Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya historical park

Ayutthaya bike tour

headlesss buddhas
Headless buddhas
bike tour of Ayutthaya
Fun on a bike

reclining Buddha Ayutthaya

reclining Buddha Ayutthaya

buddha head in banyan tree ayutthaya

buddha head in banyan tree ayutthaya

bike tour of Ayutthaya
End of the tour
Ayuttaya Boat cruise Thailand
Time for lunch
River cruise of Ayutthaya
An important palace

River cruise of Ayutthaya

River cruise of Ayutthaya

Have you been to Ayutthaya before?

Is it on your list now?

Caz
Caz Makepeace is the co-founder of y Travel Blog and has been traveling the world since 1997, first solo, then with her husband, and now with her two daughters. Get her free email series on the 4 best ways to reduce travel costs. Follow her on Google+

26 Comments on “Ayutthaya Thailand: A bike and boat tour of the Royal Kingdom”

  1. Straight on the list!

    Reply
  2. I love the post and I think Ayutthaya is on my list now especially to eat the buffet on the rice barge if nothing else. I am impressed you rode a bike around in the heat.

    Reply
    • The breeze made it manageable and it was such a relaxing way to see the ancient city. Loved it

      Reply
  3. Sounds like the perfect day.
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  4. A bike tour would have been the perfect way to see Ayutthaya. We walked around, and took a couple tuk tuk rides to connect some of the ruins, but we didn’t see nearly as much as we could have and having some historical background would have been really nice (along with lunch on the river…sounds lovely!)
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  5. Despite the heat, I would LOVE to do this!!! What an incredible experience!
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  6. It’s been a decade since I’ve been there – but it was a lovely day trip. We took a boat down the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok. I remember being swarmed by wild dogs while walking through the ruins – so not quite as peaceful as your experience! But magical non-the-less. Thanks for sparking my memories!

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  7. We’re going to be here later on this week for a few days! Really looking forward to it :D
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  8. “It’s a steaming hot day in Ayutthaya. I don’t think Thailand knows any other way” – truer words have never been spoken, haha.

    Ayutthaya has been on my list ever since I got to Thailand. I keep getting distracted by beaches, but this places definitely looks worth giving up a weekend in the sand for.
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  9. Beautiful pictures! I crave for some Thai food right now… :)
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  10. That was fun Thailand trip. have you also been in beautiful beaches of Thailand?

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  11. Caz , I am simply mesmerized from the Buddha statues and the idols. The head enclosed by the roots of the tree made me imagine about the primitive days.

    Reply
  12. Boat and bike sound like the perfect way to see the place. I’m really looking forward to exploring the countryside on a bicycle. Great pics!
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  13. Oooh I’m in Bangkok now so might just do this. Thanks for the tip!
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  14. Thanks for sharing an useful information. Nice article and excellent images. Thailand is one of the most beautiful tourist place. Especially traveling with bike or boat with our friends is really awesome.. So enjoy your trip in Thailand and have fun..

    Regards,
    Mercy

    Reply
  15. This place is now on the top of my list, thanks for sharing these amazing pictures of the place, that leaning Buddha is my favorite, truly majestic like the man himself.

    Reply
  16. WOW! I think I will be in Thailand this summer and I will try my best to be in Ayutthaya! I love something like this! Something very historic. Its my first time to read your blog and I’m happy I found something. :D

    Reply
    • Awesome Ann! Thanks for finding us. I’m glad we could inspire you to go to a new place

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  17. Thailand is magnificent! This place is awesome! I would love to go back there and experience the beauty of Thailand again and again. Thanks for sharing! Beautiful blog! http://www.yachts4fun.com/

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  18. Hi Caz, I’m planning a solo trip to Ayutthaya. Could you share with me the contact of your tour guide for this bike tour? Thanks!

    Reply
  19. This was the first city I lived in Thailand when I started teaching. I loved having ancient temples ruins as my neighbors :)

    http://whereintheworldisnina.com
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  20. Nice to read some tips, heading there next week. Thanks :)
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  21. Hi caz
    Who did you do the tour with pls and did u stay there overnight. All sounds incredible. I’m going in April

    Reply
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