Once the capital of the powerful Kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya is the perfect destination for visitors to Bangkok who want to immerse themselves in the ancient culture and history of Thailand. This beginner’s guide to Ayutthaya will introduce you to everything you need to know, tips and tricks, as well as the most important sites to see while you are exploring this fascinating UNESCO site.
How to Get There
There are several options to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, depending on your preferences and budget:
Taxi: Takes approx. 1 hour and costs between 1000-1500 baht. If you want to get there fast and don’t mind spending the extra money, then this is the option for you.
Minivan: Takes approx. 1 hour and can cost as little as 50-70 baht. This is a speedy and cheap alternative, however these minivans usually don’t provide high levels of comfort and many do not have space for luggage.
Train: Takes approx. 2 hours and tickets start at 20 baht for a 3rd class ticket. Travelling by train is perhaps the cheapest and most convenient way to reach Ayutthaya from Bangkok. Although it is not required, we can recommend paying a little extra and reserving your seats in advance.
Arriving at the charming train station in Ayutthaya, you will be approached by tuk-tuk drivers with laminated cards showing all the possible attractions they can take you to see. These drivers will present themselves as guides, but usually they are just drivers and will drop you off at the sites and wait by the tuk-tuk for you to return. Prices are fixed and agreed upon at a small desk with an English speaking clerk, who can make sure that your driver knows exactly where you want to go and what hotel you are staying at etc. For the best possible experience, we recommend that you book a tour with a real guide who can tell you about Ayutthaya’s fascinating history and knows the best times to see what.
Where to Go and What to See
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
This was the holiest and most important temple in ancient Ayutthaya. Three impressive chedis remain, towering over the ruins of this once sprawling religious center and pilgrimage site. The best time to see this site is at sunrise or sunset, when the three chedis are beautifully silhouetted against sky.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
This monastery complex houses an awe inspiring chedi, flanked by two gigantic Buddha statues. A steep staircase leads to the relics contained inside. The surrounding structures contain what seems to be endless rows of white Buddha statues, dressed in striking saffron coloured robes. A giant reclining Buddha lies next to the chedi, draped in golden cloth.
Located in the center of what remains of the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, this sit is home to what is probably the most famous attraction in the region: the head of a Buddha statue lodged within an ancient tree. The site also contains hundreds of Buddha statues which have been fragmented over time so that only the torsos remains, giving the area an eerie feeling.
Bang Lan & Hua Raw Night Markets
There is more to Ayutthaya than ancient history, a star attraction is also the incredible range of food and snacks served in the local night markets. Bang Lan market is more centrally located, but the Hua Raw market offers the added charm of riverside seating, where you can enjoy your meal while looking out at the boats and rafts passing by.
Tips & Tricks
- Although they are plentiful near the markets, historical sites and train station, it can be hard to flag down a tuk tuk or a taxi once you get outside the main areas. It is best to hire a tuk tuk for the day and agree on a price beforehand, so that you will not have to haggle every time you need a ride.
- It is generally better to visit historic sites early in the morning, but a local guide can advise you on the best times to visit certain sites depending on the time of year. A local guide will also be able to point out interesting details you might otherwise miss among the sprawling ruins of this ancient capital.
- Although many of the religious structures are in ruins, some are still active centers of worship. It is advisable to always be respectful, wear proper clothing and refrain from touching or climbing on any statues. Read our Do’s and Don’ts at Historic Sites in Asia.