- Location: 85 km. north of Bangkok, Thailand
- Attraction Type: Ancient City
- Significance: Temples, Ruins, Palaces, Museums, Elephant Rides, Golf
- Best Time to Visit: Any time of the year
- How to Reach: You can reach the city from Bangkok, to which it is located through many roadways. Many consider trail to be not only the cheapest but the most exciting way to reach the city. All north and north east liners that depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station stop at Ayutthaya. Buses and minibuses are available. Cruise boat provides a more exciting but more expensive way of reaching the city.
- Nearest Airport: Suvarnabhumi International Airport, Bangkok
The French emissaries to the city in the 16th and 17th centuries likened it to Paris in wealth, prosperity and apparent glory. Although Ayutthaya was not fortunate enough to share the great fortunes of the French capital in the later days, the great temple towers and regal ruins of palaces bespeak of a rich past and great heritage. Presently, Ayutthaya is a modern vibrant city with a rich culture, well preserved in the spectacular ruins of its early days.
History of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the capital and the main seat of the Siamese Kingdom in Thailand and was founded by King U-Thong in 1351, largely in an attempt to escape a raging epidemic. This new place, named Ayutthaya, or the ‘city that cannot be defeated’ became the center of a very powerful kingdom and civilization. At its height, the city state counted among its vassals a large number of kingdoms in the Southeast from Malay to parts of China. It had trade relations with nations as far as France, and there are evidences of Frankish presence at the Ayutthaya court and vice-versa.
From here, the kingdom, as well as the city grew from strength to strength, till finally it fell in the hands of dynastic struggle. Weakened from inside, the kingdom became an object of Burmese invasion in the 18th century. Finally in 1767, the Burmese stormed the city and virtually razed it to the ground by putting fire to all its significant buildings.
The ruins of ancient Ayutthaya that still form the major attractions of this historic city mainly comprise of temples, palaces, parks and museums. While the temples and palaces beautifully manifest the past glory of this Siamese capital, the museums preserve the great art and crafts of this region. There are also a large number of crafts and artifacts that were brought here from other nations with whom the king of Ayutthaya had close alliance and business ties.
Temples of Ayutthaya
The temples of Ayutthaya are known for their chedis — Malaysian style spires of Buddhist temples. The chedis are almost emblematic of the pride and glory of this ancient kingdom. Some of the most popular temples ruins in Ayutthaya include:
Wat Phra Si Sanphet: The largest temple in the city, brought down partially by Burmese invaders, who were also responsible for the destruction of the iconic gold Buddhist statue. Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopitah: This temple is known for its large bronze cast Buddhist statue.
Wat Borom Phuttharam: Considered to be among the most beautiful temples in Ayutthas, this temple is noted for its glazed tile facades.
Wat Thammikara: This temple is still active, where regular prayers continue to be held. However, the temple itself is old and contains the ruins of large chedi and an immense wiharn, which looks spectacular because of the tree outgrowths out of it.
Wat Phra Mahathat: The rows of headless Buddhas create a unique feel in this temple, which was brought down to the ground during the Burmese invasion.
Wat Ratchaburana: This temple is quite picturesque as well as mysterious. This temple, once home to a large number of gold artifacts stolen by robbers at different points of time, is now noted primarily for its large phrang. A climb to the phrang provides excellent views while a descent through the stairs open up to chambers containing excellent frescoes.
These are only a few of the many notable temples in Ayutthaya. Each temple has its unique charm, although they form quite a comfortable set together.
Museums in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is home to some extremely fascinating museums that are virtual treasure houses of Buddhist art that date from different eras of the city’s history. Most notable is the expansive and elaborate Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, which has a collection of some of the Buddha heads that were lost in different phases of temple destructions in Building I of the museum. Building II has a great collection of art from different epochs. Building III has a large number of Thai works of art.
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center is another notable museum in the city. This is a regular modern museum that attempts to recreate the life in Ayutthaya with the help of models. It also has an information center and a library that supplies information on the history of the city.
Apart from the temples and museums, there are a large number of magnificent palaces and parks in the city. Belonging to the era of the city’s glory, most of them are well maintained to suit the sensibilities of modern visitors as well.
Things to do in Ayutthaya
Elephant Rides: In Ayutthaya, you can indulge in a number of off-beat as well as highly interesting activities, led by the exciting elephant ride tours. Elephant ride is one of the most popular activities in Thailand, and Ayutthaya is no exception. You can join the Ayutthaya elephant Camp to book elephant rides, or to see the bathing and feeding of animals from close quarters. You can also embark on the Royal Elephant Kraat and Village or Elephantstay program, for a comprehensive Thai experience.
Boat Trips: many consider boat trips to be the best way to experience the beauty of the Thai life. In order to satisfy this particular need of the travelers, a large number of boat trips have been organized in Ayutthaya. Some of the most popular ones are:
River tour around Phua Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, provided by6 Ruean Raprong Restaurant. Nawa Nakhon tour recreates an authentic old-world ambience with old boats and recreating a historical milieu. Pardit Boat Travel is another exciting motor boat tour around the island town of Ayutthaya. Cycling: Cycling is an extremely popular activity in Ayutthaya. In fact, many experienced and informed tourists use bicycles to travel around the city. They are available at quite affordable rates. However, make sure to check on the condition of you bike before you start your tour.
Golf: Golf is another popular activity that tourists indulge in during their visit to Ayutthaya. There are quite a few wonderful golf courses and tracks in the city, and you can peruse any of them for a good time. Check out Norther Rangsit Golf Club, Bang Sai Country Club and Mueang Ake Wang noi Golf Course.
Festivals and Events: The unique events and festivals of Ayutthayam are one of the greatest attractions of the town. There are a large number of events in the city that attract tourists from all over the world. Popular events in Ayutthayam include Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Center Fair, Wai Khru Bucha Tao Ceremony, Songkran Festival and the Ayutthaya World Heritage Fair.
Dining and Accommodation in Ayutthaya
There are plenty of hotels and guest-houses in Ayutthaya, all catering to the needs of the many tourists who visit here all the year round. Some of the most popular guest houses include Thong Chai Guest House, P-U Guest House, Mint Guest House and Ayutthaya Guest House. Do not forget to taste some authentic Thai cuisines during you stay here. There are countless restaurants in the region, including ones by the riverside and in the inner parts of the city. Boat Noodle, the Vegetarian Restaurant on Khlong Makham Rieng Rd and Siam Restaurant are some places you may try out.