AYUTTHAYA

Ayutthaya (อยุธยา), full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (พระนครศรีอยุธยา), is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok. It is the Capital City of the Province of this name.

Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.

Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya’s ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok

Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya River, the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River. As the train station is at the east side off the island, most visitors will need to cross the river by ferry boat. Navigating your way around the island is not particularly hard: U Thong Rd is a ring road that circumscribes the island completely. Most temple ruins can be found at the northwest of the island, while accommodation and night life is clustered around the northeast. As non-Siamese peoples were not allowed to live inside the city walls, things foreign are found off the island.

Communication

Unlike other tourist hotspots, very few people speak and understand English. You may encounter difficulty at your accommodation, restaurants and shops.

Get there:

By car

From Bangkok, one can get to Ayutthaya by various routes:

  • Take Highway 1 (Phahon Yothin) via Pratu Nam Phra In and turn into Hwy 32, then turn left to Hwy 309 to Ayutthaya.
  • Take Hwy 304 (Chaeng Watthana) or Hwy 302 (Ngam Wong Wan), turn right into Hwy 306 (Tiwanon), cross Nonthaburi or Nuanchawi Bridge to Pathum Thani, continue on Hwy 3111 (Pathum Thani–Sam Khok–Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena into Hwy 3263 to Ayutthaya.
  • Take Hwy 306 (Bangkok–Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani), at Pathum Thani Bridge Intersection, turn into Hwy 347 and Hwy 3309 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, to Ayutthaya.
  • Take Expressway No.9 (Si Rat Expressway) via Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani and down to Hwt 1 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, turn left onto Hwy 3469 towards Bang Pahan and turn right at Worachet Intersection to Ayutthaya.

One can also contact a taxi for pick up at Bangkok’s airports.

By train

The cheapest and most scenic way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. It regularly departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station and stops in Ayutthaya. The trip takes about 1h20min – 2.5 hrs depending on the type of service. Second-class seats (A/C) cost 245-345 baht, third-class is just 15-20 baht (!) (no reservations and seats are not guaranteed). Check time table. (Please note that fares listed on the Thai railways site are out of date and incorrect).

Although in the past railway employees preferred not to sell 3rd-class tickets to foreigners, as of 2011 the employees were explicitly offering 3rd-class seats to western tourists as a standard option. Also note that some train stations (for instance Bang Khen) do not appear on the sites map, and that tickets may even be cheaper. If you have local friends, they may have some good advice.

The railway station is not on the island but across the river a short ferry ride away. Walk across the main road and down the small street straight ahead. Ferry boats run every few minutes and cost 5 baht. Alternatively, tuktuks are waiting in front of the station to take you into town for around 60 baht.

When taking the train, it’s best to get on/off in Bang Sue. The track inside Bangkok is at-grade, and the train often got stopped because of traffic signal. Delay is expected especially during rush hour.

By bus

Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit*) directly to Ayutthaya (despite what locals say, the last bus leaves at 18:00). First-class air-con buses charge 56 baht. This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of/into Bangkok.

  • To get to the Northern Bus Terminal, go to Mo Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting the gate, cross the bridge on the right to go to the bus stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77. (air-con buses charge 12 baht, non air-con buses charge 7 baht.) Bus ride is about 10-15 minutes and the Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the bus services. However, buses do not stop in the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across the street. Cross the bridge to get to the bus terminal.
  • To come back to Bangkok, if you don’t find any bus at the drop off point in Ayutthaya, check where the vans leave. Read the minivan section.
  • Bus service 3 runs also near Khao San. It goes by Chakrabongse Rd which is a street on the western end of Khao San. The trip to the Northern Bus Terminal from here takes around 1 hour. Getting back in the evening can take longer due to traffic. Official metered taxi directly from Mo Chit bus terminal taxi stand to Khao San Road costs 105 baht.

The buses run from 04:30–19:15. For more details, call Tel. +66 29 362 852-66 and Ayutthaya Bus Terminal, Tel. +66 35 335 304.

In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Naresuan Rd next to the Chao Phrom Market. songthaews to Bang Pa-In also leave from here. Some 1st-class buses to Bangkok, however, leave from the north side of the road some 500 m to the west, on the other side of the khlong(canal); the queue for air-con buses is easy to spot.

From Kanchanaburi, take a local bus station to Suphanburi for 50 baht and then official airconditioned “minibus” (actually Toyota Hilux minivan) nr. 703 to Ayutthaya for 80 baht (1 hour). Big bus from Suphanburi to Ayutthaya was cancelled and replaced by minivan service nr. 703 even according timetable on bus station, although there is no price mentioned on timetable so 80 baht is probably farang (foreigner) price and locals pay less (they use this minivan service too). The best advice is avoid this route completely, because it will cost you 130 baht and you will tired after spending 4.5-5 hours (incl. waiting) to get from Kanchanaburi to Ayuthaya, so it’s actually faster go back to Bangkok and get to Ayuthaya from Bangkok without any cheating or double prices and more comfortable for same amount of time or even faster and only little bit more expensive. A taxi from Kanchanaburi costs 2,000-2,500 baht (2 hours).

From Sukhothai there is a bus roughly every hour for 310 baht (including a meal somewhere in between). The bus stops at the high way where tuk tuk drivers will take you into the city for 100 baht. Cross the bridge instead where at Robinson there are songthaews are waiting to take you to the train station for 7B.

There is also a central bus station east of town serving northern destinations. It can be reached by songthaew. Ask around to find the appropriate stop.

By minibus (van)

These no longer go from Victory Monument, so you will need to go to MoChit bus station (also called MoChit 2), or to Rangsit to find one. To come back to Bangkok, the vans leave about 500m far from the drop off point. Looking at Mart market, turn right and walk till crossing the bridge. After that you will find the van in a parking area on the left of the road, few steps far from the bridge.

Minibuses (van) from Kanchanaburi can be arranged by guest houses or any tour operators for around 400 baht. Most tour operators charge 400 baht for the 2.5 hours drive. There is one tour operator charging 380 Baht, but this one is not recommended since it takes 5 hours to reach Ayutthaya. This one passes through Bangkok first.

From Ang Thong a minibus will cost B30.

By boat

Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. You’ll need to book in advance as there are no scheduled services, just trips for tourists. It’s a fairly lengthy trip (at least one whole day) and some of the larger boats offer (pricy) overnight tours.

Travelling by boat to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is popular among foreigners since it does not only reveal the beauty as well as lifestyle of the people on both sides of the Chao Phraya River, but also reflects the life in history at the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom when the Chao Phraya River served as a channel of transportation in trading with foreign countries.

Viharn Phra Mongkol BopitSri Sanphet Rd (Next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet). An impressive building that houses a large bronze cast Buddha image. It was originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east, but it was later transferred to the current location and covered with a Mondop. During the second fall of Ayutthaya, the building and the image were badly destroyed by fire. The building currently seen was renovated but does not have as beautiful craftsmanship as the previous ones. The open area east of the sanctuary (wihan) was formerly Sanam Luang, where the royal cremation ceremony took place. Free

Wat Phra Si SanphetSri Sanphet Rd08:00-18:00, dailyThe largest temple in Ayutthaya, known for its distinctive row of restored chedis (Thai-style stupas, more rounded appearance) found on many images of the city. Housed within the grounds of the former royal palace, the temple was used only for royal religious ceremonies. It once housed a 16 m high Buddha covered with 340 kg of gold, but the Burmese set fire to the statue to melt the gold and destroyed the temple in the process. The royal palace can also be accessed from the same entrance at Wat Phra Si Sanphet, but it only has a few free standing buildings remaining. 50 baht.

Wat Phra MahathatNaresuan Rd (Across the road from Wat Ratburana). A large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked by the Burmese. Several leaning prangs (Khmer-style stupa, more longer, finger-like appearance) of Ayutthaya are still feebly defying gravity though, and the rows of headless Buddhas are atmospheric. This is also where you can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head.Don’t take pictures of the Buddha or any Buddha as it is considered disrespectful. 50 baht.

Wat RatchaburanaNaresuan RdThis temple stands out for having a large prang recently restored to its original condition, clearly visible if you come in from the east. A major find of golden statues and other paraphernalia was made here in 1958, although much was subsequently stolen by robbers — the remnants are now in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum. You can climb inside the prang for nice views and a little exhibit. The mysterious staircase down, leads to two unrestored rooms with original paintings still visible on the walls. 50 baht.

Wat Thammikarat (วัดธรรมิกราช), U-Thong RdA working wat, but also contains the ruins of a large chedi and a huge roofless viharn which has tall brick columns leaning at alarming angles and a large tree growing picturesquely out of the side of one wall. It was already constructed before the establishment of Ayutthaya. The Wihan Luang once enshrined an enormous bronze head of the Buddha of the U Thong period, now exhibited at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The temple also houses a Reclining Buddha hall called Wihan Phra Phutthasaiyat, built by his queen consort following her wish made for her daughter’s recovery from an ailment. The wihan is located to the north of Phra Chedi with a base of 52 surrounding singha or lions, and houses a north-facing reclining Buddha image measuring 12 m in length, with both feet gilded and inlaid with glass mosaic. Free

Phet Fortress, (southeast island). This fortress was the city’s most important defensive structure in the 15th century. Originally built of wood in 1350 by King Mahachakraphat, the fortress was later rebuilt with bricks. A few walls still remain and the grounds have a nice view of the river. The fortress is close to Wat Suwan Dararam, and is right beside a ferry that can take you to Wat Phanan Choeng.

Wat Borom Phuttharam (วัดบรมพุทธาราม), (inside Rajabhat University). Built some time during 1688–1703 during the reign of King Phetracha on the grounds of his former residence near the main gate of the southern city wall. Its location and area plan was confined to a north-south orientation by ancient communication routes. Unlike other temples, the king had all buildings roofed with yellow glazed tiles and the temple became known as “Wat Krabueang Khlueap” or the “glazed tile temple”. The construction took 2 years and the temple underwent a major renovation in the reign of King Borommakot, who had 3 pairs of door panels decorated with fine mother-of-pearl inlays. One pair of them is currently at Ho Phra Monthian Tham inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the second is at Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple), and the third was turned into cabinets and is now exhibited at the Bangkok National Museum.