The former Thai capital Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of Asia's most impressive ancient cities and a must-see for those who come to Thailand. Menam, Lopburi and Pasak rivers flow through Ayutthaya Historical Park, the island where most of the temple ruins are located. Wandering through this thriving ancient city will make you feel like you've stepped back into the past. Besides exploring all the temple relics, other common things worth trying out include looking after rescued elephants and cycling through the old quarters of France, Portugal, England or the Netherlands.
The street of Ayutthaya
History of Ayutthaya City
From the time of King Loethai, the kingdom of Sukhothai began to weaken. The vassals of Sukhothai started to openly oppose. One of them is the Suphanburi area ruled by U Thong. In 1348, King U Thong moved its center to the Chao Phraya plain. On a river island, he established a new capital called Ayutthaya, named after Ayodhya in North India, the city of the hero Rama in Hindu epic Ramayana.
The ancient capital of Ayutthaya used to be the land where King U Thong ruled since the last years of the 13th century. With a convenient location surrounded by three major rivers of Thailand, including the Chao Phraya, the Pa Sak and the Lop Buri River, the population density of this city quickly grew to one million and became one of the most populous cities in the world in the years 1600 to 1700. By about 1765 - 1767, Ayutthaya became the battlefield between the army of King U Thong and the Burmese. This war resulted in the destruction of many temples and unique structures, making Ayutthaya a ruined land.
After defeating the Burmese troops, King U Thong moved the capital to Bangkok, leaving Ayutthaya even more desolate. Until today, when coming to this city, it still reflects the splendor of the time through the traces of war, the ruined architecture, the burned Buddha statues. It is not strange that Ayutthaya was recognized as a World Heritage site in 1991.
Top attraction in Ayuthaya
- Historic city of Ayuthaya: The first thing you should do when coming to Ayutthaya is to visit the History Research Center because it will help you better understand the overview of this ancient capital. Although the center is quite small and doesn't have much information in English, it provides an in-depth knowledge through sophisticated scale models and old photographs related to history, successfully depicting cultural life of Ayutthaya people in the past.
Ayutthaya History Research Center
- Wat Mahathat: One of Thailand's most famous images originated from Ayutthaya, which is the statue of a Buddha head in a tree located inside Wat Mahathat. Although this temple was destroyed by Burmese troops, the Buddha head statue still exists miraculously to this day. During the 100-year period, the original temple was abandoned. Instead of being crushed to ashes, a tree grew around the head of the statue and enveloped it lovingly. The construction of Wat Mahathat pagoda began in 1374 and completed between 1388-1395. Tourists have to show respect for this very sacred place by not turning your back on the Buddha image when taking pictures. In addition, this ancient temple is also famous for its headless Buddha statues.
- Wat Phra Si Sanphet: Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya and is also one of the most famous monuments here. In 1500, this temple once held a Buddha statue over 15 meters high, covered with hundreds of pounds of gold. To date, the focal point of Wat Phra Si Sanphet is three towering tombs containing the ashes of members of the royal family. In addition, you can also admire the remains of the Royal Palace in the same area of this temple. Entrance fee is 50 baht per guest.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
- Wat Phanan Choeng: There is a Buddha statue that you have to stop by to admire in Ayuthaya. This statue is located at Wat Phanan Choeng. To get here, you must take a short ferry. Wat Phanan Choeng was constructed 26 years before the city of Ayutthaya. It is still not clear who built the temple, yet it is believed that many kings had been restoring it. Inside the temple is one of the most famous golden Buddha images of Thailand, dating back to 1325.
Wat Phanang Choeng
Culture of Ayuthaya
Ayuthaya is a Buddhism country famous for countless of temples, so before packing stuff and heading straight to Ayuthaya, tourists should make sure to bring along: shirts with sleeves and long pants if you wish to visit any temple here. Hats and umbrellas are recommended under the heat and unpredictable pouring of the city.
Weather in Ayutthaya
The best time to visit Ayuthaya is from November to March since the weather is pretty dry and temperature is quite stable, perfect for outdoor activities such as visiting temples or exploring the ancient city of Ayuthaya.
There are many ways to get to Ayutthaya, but the most popular are buses, taxis, trains or private vehicles. Specifically:
- Taxi is considered as the most active and fast means of transportation to Ayutthaya. From Bangkok, it takes about 1000 baht to get to Ayuthaya.
- Minibus: From downtown Bangkok you can take the MRT, BTS or bus to Victory Mounument station, then walk for about 20 minutes through the park or take the buses route to enter Mochit bus station. From here, there are countless cars departing daily to the ancient capital with an average price of 60 baht / trip with the 6pm departure is the last one.
- Bus: Going to Ayutthaya by bus will only cost you about 50-100 baht / ticket and depart from Mo Chit Station.
After arriving at Ayutthaya, tourists should rent a bicycle or motorbike with super cheap price of only from 40 Baht (depending on the type) to explore the city in the most active way. This is also considered a self-sufficient, economical Ayutthaya travel experience that tourists should note down.