Once regarded as one of the most prosperous cities of the world, Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand for 417 years. Just 85 kilometres north of the bustling city of Bangkok, Ayutthaya will mesmerize you with its glorious past and gorgeous historical ruins. The island city was a major trading port, where international merchants used to visit it from different parts of the world. In the 17th century, it became the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants.This ancient city was founded as Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya by King U-Thong in 1350 and was the capital of Siam. During this period, 33 kings of various Siam dynasties ruled this kingdom until it was plundered by the Burmese in 1767. The invasion made a major impact, leaving this city in ruins, enslaving thousands of its citizens, and it became an abandoned place for many decades. Though independence was gained within a year, but the capital was shifted to what is now known as Bangkok.
Located on the bank of Chao Phraya River, Ayutthaya will take you a few decades back with its magnificent cultural heritage. The towering monuments, historical ruins, mesmerizing Buddhist temples and treasure laden palaces will give you a glimpse of its celebrated past. I was spellbound by the first look of it. Not too far away from the maddening crowd, chaotic city life and a crazy traffic in Bangkok, Ayutthaya impressed me with its landscape and the lifestyle of the people. The slow and steady lifestyle of this part of Thailand is one of the delightful aspects of this region. This archaeological ruin city gives you enough reasons to be part of its defining history. I have listed a few must visit places here….
Top places to visit in Ayutthaya
If you are in Ayutthaya, visiting Wat Lokkayasutharam should be on top of your chart. The largest reclining Buddha, approximately 42 metres long, made of brick covered with plaster, is one of the major tourist attractions of Ayutthaya. The giant Buddha statue paints the place as one of the most picturesque places, spread over a kilometre behind the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya. This is one of the sacred places in the city.
One of the most iconic images, which take over your impression about Ayutthaya is undoubtedly the image of the head of Buddha wrapped within the banyan tree. How the tree grew to surround the head remains a mystery. Wat Mahathat is one of the most popular tourist places in Ayutthaya.
It was during the reign of King Songtham, the principal stupa collapsed, leaving only the giant base. While strolling around the heritage site, I could see the ruins of what was once a gorgeous place. Wat Mahathat houses a pagoda, prangs, Buddha sculptures and other buildings as well.
Wat Pa Nan Choeng
The most impressive and majestic Buddha Statue, 14.25 meters wide and 19 meters high, made of mortar, primed with black lacquer and covered with gold leaf is what you will notice first thing when you step inside the monastery. There is no record of the date of the construction of this temple. Apparently this temple existed even before Ayutthaya was founded. If you take a close look at the temple, you will notice Chinese character inside the temple. The Chinese influence is clearly visible in this temple. It is believed that the Buddha image was once repaired by a famous Chinese explorer named Zheng. The restoration of this temple was done by many Siamese Kings during their reign. Wat Pa Nan Choeng is considered as one of the most sacred places where people come and pray for good luck.
Wat Phra Ram
One of the most popular archaeological sites of Ayutthya is Wat Phra Ram. The Temple complex comprises of a large prang (a tower rich with sculptures) and a chedi (a stupa) and numerous ruins all around.
Located outside the grand palace, King Ramesuan ordered to build this site, where the royal cremation of his father took place. The shouting history of this place can be heard and seen in every ruins.
Bang Pa In Summer Palace
This illustrious palace was used as a summer dwelling by the Siamese royal family. The Siamese monarchs used this palace as a country residence after King Prasat Thong. But after the invasion of Ayutthaya by the Burmese, a new capital was established in Bangkok. Bang Pa In was ceased and left unoccupied for 80 years. It was King Monkut, who visited this palace during his reign and had a house built in the old palace compound. Later on, his son, King Chulalongkorn started visiting the place every year during 1868-1910 and constructed the Royal Palace as it is seen now. The summer palace comprises many iconic buildings which can be best covered by an electric cart.
Wat Na Phramen
This temple is located on the bank of Khlong Sabua, which is the northern side of Ayutthaya. The most interesting part of this temple is the oldest Thai architectural design.
Well decorated in regal attire, the huge Buddha Statue is quite impressive. Wat Na Phramen occupies a prominent place in front of the Royal Palace.
Ayutthaya can be best discovered by cycling around. You can even have an elephant ride to see the historical ruins in the city. You need to head to Elephant Camp to avail this option.
Don’t miss these things in Ayutthaya
Take a boat ride
The island city of Ayutthaya can be discovered well by boat. The spectacular landscape, the lifestyle of the Thai people and the captivating architectures of the temples and monasteries are best viewed from a boat.
I still cherish the moments when I was riding that traditional boat on the Chao Phraya River, when the sound of the river dominated the surrounding and the sun was leaving its last rays, leaving behind the temples in silhouette.
Sampling Roti Sai Mai
If you are in Ayutthaya, you cannot come back without trying their most celebrated sweet speciality from this part of Thailand. Roti Sai Mai are the colourful crepes, which are a popular snack, mostly eaten with cotton candy strands.
Seeing the local Thai woman making the Roti Sai Mai and trying my hands in making the cotton candy was one of the most delightful moments of my trip to Ayutthaya. This is a must have in your bag once you return from this amazing land.
Shop Local Crafts
You can have your shopping bags full with Thai Souvenirs in Ayutthaya. One can opt for the floating market to buy local crafts and other shopping essentials.
The local handicraft shops offer a variety of things to satisfy your shopaholic desires. You can buy Artificial Flowers, Silk Dyeing, Wood Carving, Miniature, Hand – Modelled Thai Dolls, handmade key rings, fridge magnets,Hand-Woven Silk, Cotton, etc.
Eat Thai Food
Food is another highlight of this region. You can have the best of seafood and traditional delicacies in Ayutthaya. The Giant River Prawns are a speciality of this region. Apart from this, don’t forget to have river fish, Stir fried lotus stems, boat noodles and pork dumplings.
How to get there
From Bangkok, one can reach Ayutthaya by various routes .
- Asia Highway : One can take this route to reach this ancient city. From Bangkok , drive on Phahonyothin Road , hitting the Highway No. 32 towards Ayutthaya. The distance between Bangkok and Ayutthaya is 80 kilometers on this route.
- Taling Chan-Suphan Buri Route : One can take the Highway No. 340 , passing Bang Bua Thong and other places , then hit the Highway No.3236 by taking a right turn, passing Bang Zai, Sena to the old capital of Thailand.
Ayutthaya is accessible by northbound and northeast bound trains as well. There are daily trains from Bangkok station , which passes by the province’s Amphoe Bang Pa-In, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya and AmphoePhachi.
Travelling by boat to Ayutthaya is one of the most popular options for most of the travelers. One can have a close look at the daily life of the people living on the bank of Chao Phraya River.
There are luxurious cruises available for tourist to travel to Ayutthaya as well. If you are looking for luxury on your travel , you can opt for the cruise to have a wonderful time over the river.
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