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.
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 made it a popular day-trip destinations for travellers 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 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.
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.
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: http://www.railway.co.th/English/Time_HTML.asp (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.)
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 bahts.
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.
Also you can take a minivan from the Victory Monument direct to Ayutthaya. Takes ~1 hour and costs 60baht. Buses depart every 20 minutes or so
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.
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 30 baht per day. (Apr.2010) The bicycles are not necessarily well maintained, so be sure that they work properly (Wheels are firm, seats adjusted to your hight and well attached, handlebars don't slip. Good shops will give you a free bike lock as well) 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.
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. You can sometimes negotiate this down to a pretty good deal (We easily negotiated it down to 600 baht for a trip to see five wats with the driver giving us as much time as we wanted at each stop).
As of April 2010 no trams were running.
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. The fare is ab
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.
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, 8AM-6PM, daily, Sri Sanphet Rd, The largest temple in Ayutthaya, known for its row of *chedis* (Thai-style stupas). 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.
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 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.
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.
Wat Thammikarat (วัดธรรมิกราช), U-Thong Rd, A working wat, but also contains the ruins of a large Chedi and a huge Viharn which has 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
Wat Phra Ram, 8AM-6PM, daily, Sri Sanphet Road, 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
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
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center, Interesting museum about the history of Ayutthaya. It's best to visit this museum before heading out elsewhere, as it places the remains into a historical perspective. A big part of the museum is dedicated to Siam's relations with other peoples, but village life, art and culture are also dealt with.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Most treasures of Ayutthaya were stolen, burnt and melted by armies or treasure hunters. Some pieces survived though and are exhibited at this museum. Most of the riches are golden statues found at Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Phra Mahathat.
Chantharakasem National Museum
Much of Ayutthaya's history revolves around trade with other nations, but these nations were not allowed to set up camp inside the city walls. Thus, surrounding Ayutthaya's waters are plenty of remains from the countries that once set sail here, such as the settlements of Japan, the Netherlands and Portugal, as well as the interesting Thai-Chinese temple of Wat Phanan Choeng.
Wat Na Phra Mane
Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร)), 8:30AM-5PM, daily, Bang Pa-in Rd, About 2 km southeast of town, turn south at the road 309 roundabout, A working monastery located south of Ayutthaya, no one knows how old it is, but it existed before Ayutthaya was founded as the capital. It contains the oldest large cast bronze Buddha image in Ayutthaya, called
Wat Phu Khao Thong, About 3 km north of town, west off the Ang Thong Rd, Impressive and huge white, and slightly wonky, chedi set in a big field. The actual nearby temple is still working and has small grounds with a smiling fat buddha image set in the ruins of a small viharn. You will see the 'Monument of King Naresuan the Great' on the way.
Wat Yai Chaimongkon (ดใหญ่ชัยมงคล หรือ วัดเจ้าพระยาไท), 8PM-6PM, daily, Bang Pa-in Rd, 1 km east of Wat Phananchoeng, The large pagoda from far away, and some it's ruins appear on well known photos of temples in Thailand. Constructed in the reign of King U-Thong, the temple features a large reclining Buddha in saffron robes in its own ruined wiharn, and, most spectacularly, a huge chedi swathed in golden cloth set in a courtyard which is lined by Buddha images all wearing saffron robes. Very photogenic
Dutch Settlement, Probably only interesting for Dutch visitors, as there is not that much left beside a plaque that the Dutch East India Company (VOC) had set up their base here. The foundation of the building still exists though.
Japanese Settlement, There's nothing left of the Japanese Settlement, so instead, the Japanese government decided to create a Japanese-style park at the location of where the Japanese Settlement probably must have been. The Ayutthaya Historical Study Center started a branch here, a museum about Ayutthaya's foreign relations with Japan and other countries. It starts with an interesting movie of about 15 minutes and then you can explore on your own about all the trading nations that visited this city.
Boat noodle, In front of telephone authority building and (2nd location) opposite Sri Nakharin Park along U-Thong Road., Original boat noodle was cooked on a boat. It's noodles and soup with meat and vegetables. They are served in a little bowl and most people would eat more than one to relieve their hunger.
Malakor, Chee Kun Rd, Opposite Wat Ratchaburana, Reasonably priced restaurant with great views of Wat Ratchaburana and very good food. Meat in most dishes can be substituted by tofu. Patrons have the choice of eating indoors or on the balcony. Also available is some of Ayutthaya's best coffee.
Roti Saimai, U-Thong Road and Si Sanphet Road junction, Opposite Phra Nakorn Si Ayutthaya Hospital, Roti Saimai is a Thai-style candy floss wrapped in a roti - a very popular local dessert.
Siam Restaurant, Chee Kun Rd, Serves unremarkable Thai and Vietnamese food, but makes up for it with an excellent location with views of Wat Mahathat as you eat, air conditioning, and possibly the best toilets in the city.
Vegetarian Restaurant, early-2PM, daily, Khlong Makham Rieng Rd, 50 metres south from the junction with Naresuan Rd, One of the usual Thai **rahn a-hahn jair**. With 8 different meals available and side orders of gluten and gluten.
The usual excellent night market fare is also available, ask your guesthouse for the most recent night market locations. At the same time, you may wish to ask some advice on what to order if you don't speak any Thai.
The main traveller oriented area is Soi Torgorsor, between Pamaphrao Road and Naresuan Road opposite the western end of Chao Phrom Market. It has a number of bars staying open until late, some with projection screens for sports.
There are a large number of traveller-oriented guesthouses on an Soi Torgorsor between Pamaphrao Road and Naresuan Road, opposite the western end of the Chao Phrom Market. Accommodation in the upper price brackets is limited though, and many people choose to day-trip from Bangkok.
Ayutthaya Guest House, a friendly place offering all en-suite rooms. With internet access and a 'order what you like' restaurant. The three 300 baht rooms along the side alley have air vents open to a public restaurant next-door. For budget travellers, they offer in a nearby building some rooms for 100 baht each, neat, friendly doubles with fan.
Baan Lotus, +66 035 251988, Pa-Maphrao Rd., This accommodation features rebuilt teak houses, and they rent bicycles too.
BJ1 Guest house, Opposite P-U Guest House, rooms are very basic but clean with a shared bathroom. Owner is very relaxed and they offer bike rental.
Mint Guest House, Located within the alley right in front of the train station. Clean rooms with fan and a separate washroom. Plus points; its within sight of the train station and night market manned by a friendly, jovial owner. It's a bit off the main attractions but motorbikes can be rented out for a mere 150 baht a day.
P-U Guest House, Despite its name, the place provides very clean rooms for a decent rate (~500 Baht for twin with fan and private bath, some knowledge of Thai may net you a small discount). It's hidden off Soi Torgorsor, keep walking north until you see the P-U sign on the left, it's at the end of the small lane. Well worth a look but this is one of the most expensive as it is the best on Soi Torgosor.
Thong Chai Guest House, On a road directly opposite Wat Ratchaburana, A little away from the main action, but closer to the sights, this guesthouse ffering fan-only rooms at 200 baht a night with private bathrooms, this is a more Thai-oriented guest house. Watch out, this is maybe too basic for you. Compared to what you get in Bangkok for 200 baht this is worse: no place to hang up the towel. You get a soap, but there is no place to put it in the bathroom. No sink: You can't wash your stuff. No flush (this is indeed Thai style).
Ayutthaya has a lot of hungry stray dogs in poor condition. They can particularly be a problem in the off-season when there aren't so many people in the streets. While largely docile and harmless, to avoid being chased around by a pack of them it is best not to walk around alone, particularly at night. For those accustomed to travel in developing areas, there should be no problem.
Bang Pa-In - famous for its eccentric palace and only 20 km to the south. It is a 40-minute songthaews ride away.
Bangkok - the capital of Thailand is only an hour away.
Sukhothai - the first capital of Thailand, also with impressive ancient ruins
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