An ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of 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 circumvents the island completely. Most temple ruins can be found at the north-west of the island, while accommodation and nightlife is clustered around the north-east. As non-Siamese peoples were not allowed to live inside the city walls, the sights from foreign nations can be found outside of the island.
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.
From Bangkok, one can get to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya by various routes:
- Take Highway No.1 (Phahon Yothin) via Pratu Nam Phra In and turn into Highway No.32, then, turn left to Highway No.309 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Highway No.304 (Chaeng Watthana) or Highway No.302 (Ngam Wong Wan), turn right into Highway No.306 (Tiwanon), cross Nonthaburi or Nuanchawi Bridge to Pathum Thani, continue on Highway No.3111 (Pathum Thani – Sam Khok – Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena into Highway No.3263 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Highway No.306 (Bangkok–Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani), at Pathum Thani Bridge Intersection, turn into Highway Nos.347 and 3309 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Expressway No.9 (Si Rat Expressway) via Nonthaburi – Pathum Thani and down to Highway No.1 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, turn left into Highway No.3469 towards Bang Pahan and turn right at Worachet Intersection to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
One can also contact a taxi for pick up at the international airport of Bangkok. For example: Car Service, phone: +66 (0) 2819 5390, email: [email protected]). Advance booking possible. ~1200Bahts one way.
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 2 – 2.5 hrs depending on the type of service. Second class seats(A/C) cost 245 baht, third class is just 20 baht (!) (no reservations and seats are not guaranteed). (Fares in April 2010) Check time table here: www.railway.co.th (Please note that fares listed on the Thai railways site are out of date and incorrect) Also note that railway employees prefer not to sell 3rd class tickets to foreigners so if you’re on a budget; do insist with a smile.) And that some train stations (for instance Bang Khen) does 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 4 baht.
Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit*) directly to Ayutthaya. First class air-con buses charge 50 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 Northern Bus Terminal, take to Moh Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting gantry gates, cross the bridge on the right to go to 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. Cross the bridge to get to the Bus Terminal.
Also you can take a minivan from the Victory Monument direct to Ayutthaya. Takes ~1 hour and costs 100 baht. Minivans depart every 20 minutes or so.
The buses are from 4:30AM–7.15PM. For more details, please call Tel. 0 2936 2852-66 and Ayutthaya Bus Terminal, Tel. 0 3533 5304.
In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Thanon Naresuan 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 500m 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 from the main bus station to Suphanburi for 45 baht (2 hours), then another local bus to Ayutthaya for 40 baht (1.5 hours). A taxi from Kanchanaburi costs 2000-2500 baht (2 hours).
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)
Convenient minibus service (can get stuck in traffic, but makes no stops like regular buses) operates from the Victory Monument square in Bangkok. Take BTS Skytrain to the Victory Monument station, and go right on the elevated walkway – keep on it until you cross a large road, then descend – the buses are parked at the side side of the main traffic circle). The cost is usually ~70 baht, takes around 1 hour or 1 hour 20 min. It’s quite convenient since you don’t have to go to bus terminals (nearby Mochit) but the only problem is that the minibuses don’t have much space to put big bags and have to wait until the car is fully filled.
Minibuses (van) from Kanchanaburi can be arranged by guesthouses or any tour operators for around 350 baht.
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. — Boat from Ayutthaya to Bangkok leaves 11:30AM daily (arrives Bangkok ~4PM) = 1350 baht/person PH: 08 97662672
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.
Bicycling around the ruins is the most enjoyable and fun way to spend the day. The archaeological park is easily reachable and manageable on bike even if you aren’t very fit. The paths are paved and the distances between temples are small. You can rent a bicycle for around 40 baht per day. (Feb 2011) The bicycles are not necessarily well maintained, so be sure that they work properly (wheels are firm and inflated, seats adjusted to your height and well attached, handlebars don’t slip); good shops will give you a free bike lock as well. There is a good bike shop directly opposite the train station. Free map of the city is widely available in all hotels. The park opens at 7.30 AM. It is recommended that you begin your tour early, before the tour groups arrive from Bangkok. Take a big bottle of water with you.
Bicycle rentals: Soi 2 (where the majority of tourist hotels and restaurants are located) have numerous bike rental facilities. They are all next to each other so it will be easy to shop around and find the one with the best bike for you. At T.W.T tourwiththai(before Tony’s guest house which not far from minibus stop at Soi2) has bicycles big and small size and seat for small child for rent. If you short of time maybe you can go around by motorcycle which you can rent at the same area.
Alternatively, you can get around town by tuk-tuk (motorized 3-wheeler). Ayutthaya’s tuk-tuks are larger than the Bangkok variety and you can easily squeeze six people in on facing benches. Only “official” tuk-tuk drivers or tourist “helpers” can pick up passengers from the train station. You can verify their status by looking for their photos/name on a “Tourist Officials” board displayed at the southern end of the platform. These people are required to charge/work for fixed charges, usually quoting 300 baht/hour, but this can usually be bargained to a slightly lower price (eg. 1000 baht for 4 hrs).
You can also flag down tuk-tuks from the street and try to hire them, most drivers carry with them a stack of postcards featuring the famous sites of the city to ease communication, they also are used to the standard temple hopping circuit. If you have a map you can point out any of the destinations that you wish to see and they’ll often quote a trip price and will wait for you at each stop. 200 baht per hour seems to be the starting point for tourist tuk-tuks picking up backpackers away from the station, although it can be possible to negotiate a lower price.
From Ayutthya, mini-buses can be taken from the railway station into the city. Hiring a mini- bus within Ayutthaya costs between 400-500 baht/day. For travelling between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-in, mini-buses regularly leave Chao Prom Market, Chao Prom Road starting from 6AM.
Boat trips to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Thai lifestyle along the Chao Phraya River, the Pa Sak River and around the town island of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya are available. A long-tailed boat can be chartered at the pier in front of Chanthara Kasem National Museum, Pom Phet Pier, and Wat Phananchoeng Pier. The fare depends on the route and duration. Rice barges are also available for groups that offer a relaxed way to see Ayutthaya.
Places of Interest
Ayutthaya is 76 kilometers north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. The ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia’s (and probably the world’s) most prosperous cities in the 17th Century and beyond. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 13, 1991.
There were three palaces in Ayutthaya: Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace (the Front Palace) and Wang Lang (the Rear Palace). In addition, there were many other palaces and buildings for royal visits located outside Ayutthaya, such as the palace at Bang Pa-In and Nakhon Luang Building at Nakhon Luang.
The temples with entry charges are usually in ruins, so there is no dress code, although visitors are still requested to refrain from blatant stupidity like clambering up the Buddha statues. Working temples tend to charge no fees and there are often no officials to check that a dress is appropriate (though it is advised to follow these customs to show respect for sacred places).
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Sri Sanphet Rd. 8AM-6PM, daily. The largest temple in Ayutthaya, known for its distinctive row of restored chedis(Thai-style stupas) 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-meter 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.
Bang Pa-in Palace was restored by King Rama IV, but it was not until the reign of King Rama V that Bang Pa-in Palace was fully developed and took its present shape. During his reign, several magnificent buildings in the Western style were constructed, such as Utthayan Phumisathian and Warophat Phiman Mansions. Also, the two-storeyed Chinese-style palace, Wehat Chamrun, was built and presented to the King in 1889 by Chinese merchants as a token of the long-lasting brotherly relationship between the Thai and Chinese peoples.
Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, Sri 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.
Wat Ratchaburana, Naresuan Rd. This 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. 30 baht.
Wat Thammikarat (วัดธรรมิกราช), U-Thong Rd. A 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 metres in length, with both feet gilded and inlaid with glass mosaic.
Wat Suwan Dararam, (Southeast of the island). This modern Wat with no ruins can be accessed by side streets off U-thong rd. The Wat contains a few small spires, and some nicely decorated modern buildings.
Phet Fortress, (Southeast of the island). This fortress was the city’s most important defensive structure in the 15th century. Originally built of wood in 1350 A.D. 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 Phra Ram, Sri Sanphet Road. 8AM-6PM, daily. This temple consists of one huge prang and some smaller Chedi and outbuildings, all in disrepair though the top of the prang is complete. Staircases to the side of the prang give views of Ayutthaya. This monastery was located outside the grand palace compound to the east. King Ramesuan commanded it built on ground where the royal cremation ceremony for his father, King U-Thong, took place. A big lagoon is in front of this monastery. Its original name was “Nong Sano”; it was changed to “Bueng Phraram” and currently is Phraram Public Park. 30 baht.
Wat Phra Mahathat, Naresuan Rd (Across the road from Wat Ratburana). A large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked by the Burmese. Several Leaning Prangs 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. When taking pictures of you and the Buddha head, make sure you sit on your knees to show respect, as it is considered holy by Thais. 50 baht.
Phra Chedi Suriyothai (เจดีย์พระศรีสุริโยทัย), U-Thong Rd. A white and gold coloured Chedi built as a memorial to a previous queen. Set in a small, well-kept gardens, it is the memorial for the first heroine in Siamese history. It’s of some interest as a proof of the honour that ancient Siamese society gave to women. It was renovated in 1990, and during the renovations some antique objects were found such as a white rock crystal Buddha image in the posture of subduing Mara, a chedi replica, and a golden reliquary. These ancient objects were brought to be under the care of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Wat Borom Phuttharam (วัดบรมพุทธาราม), (Inside Rajabhat University). Built some time during 1688–1703 during the reign of King Phetracha on his former residence area near the main gate of the southern city wall. Its location and area plan was confined to be in the north-south direction 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.(Wikitravel)
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