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If you’ve been hanging around the stifling hot and bustling metropolis of Bangkok for a while, then it’s high time you took a day trip to somewhere more peaceful.
An Ayutthaya day trip offers just that – peace. Of course, it’s steaming hot in Ayutthaya; I don’t think Thailand knows any other way, but if you opt to explore the ancient ruins by bike, you can feel a gentle breeze that picks up as soon as you start pedaling and slip into a blissful motion.
Ayutthaya, or the Royal Kingdom of Ayutthaya, was once a bustling capital city in the Kingdom of Siam and the largest city in the world in its prime. It was a prosperous international trading hub and was said to be the most beautiful by traders and merchants from Europe.
Although today it lies in ruins, it still retains much of its original beauty. And you’ll find there are plenty of things to do in Ayuttaya besides checking out the ruins.
If you’re planning a visit to Ayutthaya from Bangkok, then this guide will tell you everything you need to know about visiting this historic UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- A Brief History of Ayutthaya
- Is Ayutthaya worth visiting?
- Things to Do in Ayutthaya Historic Park
- 1. Tour Ayutthaya Historical Park By Bike
- 2. Rice Barge Tour on the Chao Phraya River
- 3. Enjoy A Thai Massage
- 4. Visit the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
- How to Get From Bangkok to Ayutthaya
- What is the dress code for Ayutthaya?
- FAQs About Visiting Ayutthaya
- Final Thoughts on an Ayutthaya Day Trip
- More Thailand Inspiration:
A Brief History of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 as the second capital city of the Kingdom of Siam. From the 14th to 18th centuries, the city prospered and became a huge port of trade, as well as the largest center of international diplomacy.
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
Over the years, many of the ancient buildings have been destroyed due to flooding and wars. But it wasn’t until the Burmese invaded in 1767 that the capital was burned down, destroying the beauty of the architecture that my eyes now tried to put together with broken pieces and faded gold-laden brickwork.
The 289-hectare temple complex became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
Is Ayutthaya worth visiting?
Ayuttaya lies 85km outside the centre of Bangkok and requires a little bit of planning to visit. So the question remains, is Ayutthaya worth it? The simple answer is yes, it’s absolutely worth visiting.
Ayutthaya offers visitors something no other attraction in Thailand can; peace and quiet. 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 silence amidst the ancient ruins of what was once the biggest city in the world.
As well as this, its history is unmatched, and there are so many stories to tell about this ancient city. Visitors can see hundreds of ruins, from temples, palaces, Buddhist monasteries, and statues. If you’re looking for a unique attraction to visit outside Bangkok, this is the best one.
Things to Do in Ayutthaya Historic Park
Ayutthaya is a large city with so much to see and do. Here are some of the top things to do in Ayutthaya you must do when you visit.
1. Tour Ayutthaya Historical Park By Bike
Our first adventure in getting an insight into Ayutthaya was a bicycle tour through the ancient city. As you ride under trees with leaves shaped like ears, past crumbling ancient temples, and stupors that still retain an inkling of the grandeur of their heyday hundreds of years ago.
I really couldn’t think of a better way to see this World Heritage historical site than on a bike.
You can book bike tours with a knowledgeable local guide, or you can rent bikes yourself from the bike rental shop next to the Chao Prayer River, at the end of Khlong Tho Road. You will then be able to ride back to the temple complex.
Personally, the bike tour was worth paying for, as you get to learn about all the sites as you ride.
Our Experience Biking Ayutthaya
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.
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 orange cloth. He looked so happy and content. We took a moment to burn incense sticks and honour his spirit.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
The most important temple in the complex is Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which used to be located inside the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya and served as the royal chapel. It is here that you can sort of see the foundations of the once grand royal palace.
Wat Phra Ram
If you’re looking for some peace and serenity, make sure to check out the tranquil gardens of Wat Phra Ram, which is a quiet recreation area.
Wat Chai Watthanaram (great for sunset)
For sunset views, cycle over to Wat Chai Watthanaram on the west side, just outside Ayutthaya island. This is one of the most visited temples because it retains much of its original beauty and is perfectly positioned to glow during sunset.
It was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honour his mother and was inspired by Angkor Wat in Cambodia.
Wat Mahathat (Buddha’s Head in a Banyan Tree)
My favourite stop on the tour was at of the most important temples, Wat Mahathat. The Burmese tore this one up, pilfering the heads of the sitting Buddha statues, leaving behind statues left behind of their erect bodies and empty minds.
Except for one.
Legend has it that this one Buddha’s head was dropped in haste at the bottom of a banyan tree whose tree 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.
2. Rice Barge Tour on the Chao Phraya River
Our legs soon grew tired of cycling due to 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 whilst taking the river cruise and imagine the feast in front of us was what Kings and royal dignitaries once ate.
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.
3. Enjoy A Thai Massage
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?
4. Visit the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Another one of the main attractions of Ayutthaya is the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
The museum is located outside the historic area, located opposite Phranakhon Si Ayutthaya Rajabhat University.
It was named after King Borommarachathirat II, who commissioned Wat Ratchaburana. It has three buildings, each containing items from archeological excavations of the area.
What’s interesting about the museum is that it was funded by the public, and contains precious items found in the complex, such as precious gems from the underground crypt of the prang tower of Wat Ratchaburana.
How to Get From Bangkok to Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is very easy to get to from Bangkok since it’s only an hour away. If you want to visit yourself, you can get a train from Don Mueang, Hua Lamphong, and Bang Sue Station.
There are direct trains that leave directly to Ayutthaya, taking between 30 minutes to 1.5 hours depending on which train you take and from which station.
When getting to Ayutthaya by train, note that the train station is a bit of a way from the complex. The railway station is across the Pa Sak River and you need to get a short ferry across the water to the Ayutthaya Historic Park, but it’s still within walking distance.
You can also take a minivan, which is sometimes more expensive than a train and takes around 2.5 hours due to the traffic. You might prefer this option if you’re looking to stay in Ayutthaya since you don’t need to lug your luggage around train stations.
The minibus terminal is within walking distance of the complex.
You can also get a boat, which is a really fun experience and you can also stop off at the Bang Pa-In Palace and Summer Palace on the way.
The boat takes a few hours, so if you plan to visit Ayutthaya in a day, then you might want to take a bus or train back.
Of course, you can get a taxi but this is going to cost you a fortune so we wouldn’t recommend it. We also don’t recommend the public bus as the bus terminal is so far out of town you end up getting a taxi anyway, which costs more money and takes a lot of time.
What is the dress code for Ayutthaya?
If you’re not sure what to wear for Ayutthaya, then we recommend you follow the standard temple guidelines.
The dress code is “dress modestly” for the complex, and temple-wear for the temples. This means that your shoulders and knees need to be covered.
Ladies must not wear tight clothing or have their chest, shoulders, and knees on show.
Men can wear shorts for the main part of the complex but might be asked to wrap them up when entering the temples.
If in doubt, bring a scarf or wraparound with you so you can cover yourself.
FAQs About Visiting Ayutthaya
Here’s what people usually ask us about visiting Ayutthaya…
Can you do Ayutthaya in a day?
Yes, you can visit Ayutthaya in one day and see all the main highlights. It makes for the perfect day trip from Bangkok!
How much does it cost to visit Ayutthaya?
It is free to enter the historic city of Ayutthaya, but you have to pay to enter certain temples. Each temple has its own tickets price. The entrance fee for the temples tends to be between 20-50 baht for foreigners.
How much is tuk-tuk in Ayutthaya?
Tuk-tuk drivers charge as much as they please, so you should make sure to negotiate a cost before opting to explore Ayutthaya by tuk-tuk. Typically, the going rate is around 200-400 baht per hour.
Final Thoughts on an Ayutthaya Day Trip
Ayutthaya was an unexpected surprise and one of my favourite Thai experiences.
Ayutthaya is only an hour from Bangkok, making it a pleasant day trip from Bangkok 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 in Southeast Asia such as at Angkor Wat in Cambodia; but its softness seeps under your skin enough so that you probably enjoy it a little more.
One thing is for certain though, it must be included on any Thailand itinerary.
More Thailand Inspiration:
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Have you been to Ayutthaya before? Is it on your list now?