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Welcome to Ayutthaya
76 km north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya is one of Thailand's historical highlights. Many travelers take a one-day trip from Bangkok, which provides approximately 3 hours on the site, but for people with an interest in archaeological ruins, one or several overnight stays in Ayutthaya are necessary.
From the establishment in 1350 by King U-Thong (Ramathibodi I) until its fall to the Burmese in 1767, Ayutthaya was Thailand's capital and home to 33 kings and numerous dynasties. Since the city was at its highest, and until the mid-18th century, Ayutthaya was a majestic city with three palaces and 400 beautiful temples on an island surrounded by canals and was a sight that really impressed European visitors on their trip to Thailand.
In 1767, after a 15-month siege, the city was destroyed by the Burmese, and today there are piles of ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where an empire once thrived. Even though the temples are decayed they are still awe-inspiring, and a visit here is memorable. (Fun note: do not miss the Buddha head placed in the tree trunk at Wat Mahatat, it is unique).
The architecture of Ayutthaya is a fascinating mix of Khmer, ancient Cambodian style, and early Sukhothai style. You will experience cactus-shaped obelisks (tall, 4-sided monuments which end in a pyramidal top), the Khmer influence makes it look like one of the famous towers in Angkor Wat. The more pointed stupas are ascribed to Sukhothai.
There are several options to get to Ayutthaya while in Thailand. The cheapest and most colorful way to get to Ayutthaya is by train. All north and northeast trains depart from Bangkok's Hualamphong train station and stops in Ayutthaya, a trip of about 1.5-2.5 hours depending on the train operator. Trains pass the following provinces: Amphoe Bang Pa-in, AmphoePhraNakhon Si Ayutthaya, and AmphoePhachi , where the railway lines in Ban Phachi Junction separate the north and northeast. Then, you can get a mini-bus from the station into the city. It may be necessary to look at Thailand "State Railway" for schedule and prices.
Please note that when you find information on train traffic in official information and ticket offices the prices may vary, perhaps because of the confusing train traffic.
Ayutthaya Train Station is located east of the central island. The easiest way to get to the central Naresuan Road is to walk straight out from the station and take the ferry across the river at the price of 4 baht.
Another option to choose is to go by bus. They run every 20 minute or so from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit) directly to Ayutthaya. First class air-con buses cost 60 baht, while second class costs 45 baht. The trip takes at least two hours because the buses stop rather frequently and there are often traffic jams on the roads in and out of Bangkok.
In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is located on the south side of ThanonNaresua. Some first class buses to Bangkok depart from 500 meters further 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 the city which runs to the northern destinations. It can be found by songthaew – ask around to find the right stop.
Practical minibuses (can get stuck in traffic, but have no stops as the regular buses) run from Victory Monument Square in Bangkok. Take BTS Skytrain to Victory Monument station, and walk on the elevated walkway – keep on it until you cross a major road, and then walk down – the buses are parked next to the main roundabout. Prices are usually 70 baht and takes about 1 hour or 1 hour 20 min. It is very convenient since you do not need to go to the bus terminal (Mochit), but the only problem is that minivans do not have much space for luggage, and you have to wait until the bus is fully loaded with passengers.
You will find that, like most of Southeast Asia, Ayutthaya also has a tropical climate. The temperatures are relatively consistent throughout the year, and despite a noticeable rainy season, there is plenty of sunshine.
The average temperatures do not vary much in Ayutthaya. February to August are the hottest months, with an average low temperature of 24-26 degrees Celsius up to 33-35 degrees. April is the hottest month. September to January is a little cooler, with the lowest temperatures averaging from 22 to 26 degrees, and high temperatures from 31-33 degrees.
Precipitation varies from almost nothing to almost daily rain. The rainy season lasts from May to late October, and during this period there is a monthly rainfall of about 10 to 13 cm, in September with an average of 20 cm. From November to April there is usually only a little rain, averaging about 2.5 cm.
Ayutthaya gets about seven hours of sunshine a day, depending on the season. This is not the time between sunrise and sunset, but rather the amount of direct sunlight. From November to May, all months usually have average of eight hours of sun per day. The exception being April with an average of ten hours of sun each day. These numbers drop slightly during the rainy season because it’s often cloudy. September and October have about six hours of sun a day and July to September about five hours.
The Indian monsoon season, with storms from the southwest, affects the central region of Thailand, including Ayutthaya. The Indian monsoon season begins in late June or early July and lasts until the end of September. The Chinese monsoon, with storms arriving from the north from December to March, is not as fierce as the Indian monsoon season, and does not usually affect Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center
Located on the main island on Rojana Road, across the road and to the east at Chaophraya National Museum.
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center is a more modern museum than Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, trying to portray life in Ayutthaya by using models.
It is a national research institute devoted to the studies of Ayutthaya, especially during the period when Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam. The center is responsible for the museum and the history of Ayutthaya, which has exhibitions with reconstructions of the past. The center also has an information service and a library containing historical materials about Ayutthaya which may be worth immersing yourself in, if you are interested in history.
The center is open every day from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, Holidays from 9 AM to 5 PM.
For further information please contact telephone number: 0 35-24 5123-4.
This is a good place to start or end your trip, but it’s a bit expensive (by Thai standards): about 100 baht.
Located on the north side of the main island.
Lythonglian Meepan and his wife established Ayutthaya Elephant Palace and Royal Kraal in 1996. Since then they have launched progressive programs to rehabilitate sick elephants, and increasing the elephant population with more breeding. There have been 32 successful births since 2000.
The current goal is to purchase land for the establishment of a sanctuary for retired elephants.
The foundation of this elephant home started in 2006. Normally, elephants work till they die to pay for maintenance, but Lythonglian wants elephants to retire in peace and with respect. Therefore, money from the elephant home is used to invest in development projects, as well as medicine and food for the elephants.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Located on the main island of TambonPratu Chai, on Rotchana Road opposite Rajabhat University Tk Si Ayutthaya.
Price: 30 Baht.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum is the place where you can find some of the Buddha heads that are clearly lacking elsewhere. The museum opened in 1961 and most interesting taking a look at is the golden regalia in Wat Ratchaburana, on the 2nd floor of Hall 1.
The construction of this museum was funded from the proceeds of the sale of the findings discovered in the underground crypts, primarily from Prang tower Wat Ratchaburana. Because the temple was built by King Borommarachathirat II (Chao Sam Phraya), the museum was named after him. The opening ceremony of this museum was held in 1961 and was led by Their Majesties the King and Queen. It was the first museum in the country that presented a new kind of exhibition showing many objects in an exciting presentation in three research buildings, which makes it worth discovering.
The museum is open Wednesday-Sunday and on holidays from 8:30 AM to 4 PM, and is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Admission fee is 30 baht. pr. person.
A ticket valid for 30 days can also be purchased for 180 Baht per. person, which covers both admission to Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Old Palace Complex, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Ram, Wat Chai Watthanaram, Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, and Chantharakasem National Museum.
KhlongSra Bua Floating Market
Experience this floating market which is more of a cultural theater than a functional market. KhlongSra Bua Floating Market is a replica of the old KhlongSra Bua village, a community of clay pot makers and home to an important river trade route north of the city. Today, the village brings a piece of the old village to life with the addition of exciting performances on its "water stage". The performances depict various scenes from traditional Thai folk tales, boat songs, and stage dramas seen only rarely today.
Admission includes a lunch-buffet and five shows.
Opening hours: 10 AM to 5:30 PM (Sat, Sun and public holidays)
Location: KhlongSra Bua, north of Ayutthaya Historical Park, opposite King Naresuan the Great Monument.
How to get there: From Pa Thon Road, turn right into KhlongTho Road and continue over the bridge to Highway 309.
When you see the King Naresuan Monument on your left, the floating market is on your right.
Thai Boat Museum
You will find that Ayutthaya is home to Thailand's most talented boat builders. Previously, the city had more klongs (channels) than roads, and boats were the main mode of transportation. This private museum belonging PhaithunKhaomala, a famous boat designer and former boat builder. His extensive collection, often built of teak and Malabar ironwood, derived from Thai and Chinese trade fleets, rice ships, trade ships, and even small royal ships. Some of them are over 100 years old.
Hours: 8 AM to 5 PM (by appointment only)
Location: Bang Ian Road, just off Chikun Road, opposite Wat Mahathat. Phone: +66 (035) 241 195.
How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Chikun Road and before you reach Wat Mahathat, turn right again onto Bang Ian Road.
Wat Chai Wattanaram
Wat Chai Wattanaram is located by the river, facing the inner city. This royal temple brags of being one of the most detailed interpretations of the Mount Meru concept of the ancient Khmer architecture, which has also had a major influence on the architectural style of the late Ayutthaya period (1629-1767).
The main prang (tall, tower-like spire), symbolizes the center of the universe, while the surrounding chedi depicts the four continents and outer space. On every corner the chedis contain two large Buddha images in a wooden frame. The surrounding galleries contain eight smaller chedis that include decorations and patterns. The four sets of stairs leading up to the main Prang is very steep, so be careful.
Opening hours: 9 AM to 4:30 PM
Location: On the west bank of the Chao Phraya River
How to get there: From U-Thong Road, cross the bridge on the west side of the island (Highway 3263), turn left at the first intersection and continue about 2 km.
Ayutthaya is home to skilled craftsmen and women, and is one of the best cities in which to find all kinds of crafts. In the olden days, each community in the city practiced a certain craft such as iron work, boat building, basketry, weaving, clay pottery, or stone masonry. Today, you will find these at many outdoor markets around the city.
If you are very interested in Thai craft, Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center is the place to go. Here you will find about 20 workshops of various crafts and see how craftsmen and -women construct their pieces from scratch. Thai Village is also noticeable – here the regional Thai houses are built with the crafts specific to each region. If you're here for a short stay, Bangsai Arts and Crafts Center is definitely a good place to include in your itinerary.
Chao Phrom Market
This busy market has existed since Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam. There are many amulet shops, food stalls, and traders who sell all kinds of items that you can find elsewhere in the city. Although the market has lost its old charm – now, many of the shops have a concrete facade instead of a wooden one – it is also one of the few places you can still enjoy a cheap and delicious meal. Or if you collect amulets, this is definitely the place you should visit on your trip to Thailand. Note that the shops open and close at different times, so there are no official opening hours.
Location: At the corner of Naresuan and U-Thong roads.
This modern shopping mall has about 400 stores in its two zones. Plaza Zone offers lifestyle products from brand clothing to leather goods, cosmetics, and fashion accessories. The Water Zone has a great bass pond, and around it are a number of fast food restaurants, other food, and an activity area with live cultural performances (weekends and holidays).
Location: KhlongSuanPluDistrict where Highway 309 meets Highway32
Although there is 'steak' in the name, this casual eatery also has a selection of tasty Thai dishes as well as spaghetti, macaroni, and salads. Although the interior is common, with wooden tables and bamboo mats, the atmosphere is still cozy. Guests are mostly backpackers and a few Thai visitors who come here to enjoy a decent steak.
Opening hours: 4 PM to 10 PM
Location: Phamapraw Road (near the backpacker street)
Price Range: Affordable
The decor – an attractive antique house built by King Rama VI's reign and with picturesque views of the river – is a big part of the eating experience here. The cuisine is mainly for foreign backpackers, here BaanKhunPhra serves a selection of traditional Thai dishes, seasoned with herbs and spices to make you yearn for more. The atmosphere is relaxed and unpretentious. You can easily relax outside in the afternoon, while enjoying the view of life on the other side of the river.
Opening hours: 10 AM to 10 PM
Location: At the corner of U-Thong and Pa Thon roads, about 150 meters south of ChomPhrom Market
Price range: Affordable
A favorite of weekend visitors from Bangkok, this riverside, open-air restaurant serves a good selection of seafood grilled to juicy perfection. One of the must-try dishes at this restaurant includes grilled giant river prawns, garlic, fried freshwater fish, and salt-grilled snakehead fish.
Opening hours: 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM
Location: 36/2 U-Thong Road (on the way to Hua Ror Market)
Lopburi is very relaxed, and its location an hour or two from Ayutthaya makes it a great place for a day trip.
Lopburi has become known for its groups of monkeys wreaking havoc and destruction. These incredibly smart animals are tolerated by the locals, and people travel far to experience is, which means this small town has landed a spot on the tourist map.
There are two downtown areas in Lopburi: New Town and Old Town. Most of the important sites, plus the train station is in the old town, while buses arrive and depart from New Town.
By Petter Hederstedt
As you may know, Bangkok has not always been the capital of Thailand. The city of Ayutthaya was the capital for 417 years until Burmese soldiers invaded it 1767 and forced the King to flee the city. It might be hard to understand that the remaining ruins once were the homes of more than a million people; Ayutthaya was actually one of the biggest cities in the world.
A quick history lesson: Ayatthaya was the Royal capital in Thailand between 1350 and 1767. 34 kings have ruled the city, their power was great especially during the 14th and 15th centuries. In the 16th century the city was visited by many European merchants and in the end of the 17th century it had about one million inhabitants. In 1765, Ayutthaya was invaded by Burmese soldiers and the city was lost. The Burmese destroyed everything that was sacred; statues, temples and texts were burnt down. However, the Burmese invaders were not powerful enough to remain in power, 1769 Phaya Taksin was declared king. He did not rule the country from Ayutthaya but from Thonburi. Ayutthaya was 1981 listed as a world heritage by UNESCO.
The historical park of Ayutthaya is a large area with ruins and temples, monasteries and other buildings. You can easily spend a day here just walking around the ancient areas and look at the partly renovated temples, despite the close distance to Bangkok it is surprisingly quiet and rather few western tourists find their way to Ayutthaya. The temples are scattered all around the city and it’s recommended to find a tuk-tuk (which by the way have an unusual look around here) and ask the driver to take you around. 400-500B for a few hours of guiding is a descent price. Ayutthaya is an excellent day trip tour, it’s located about 80 km north of Bangkok and you can get there both with bus and train from Bangkok. But remember, the hours around noon are very hot and you will not find many areas with shadow except inside the temples.
The modern Ayutthaya is not very exciting. Surrounded by the Chao Phraya river and its “klongs”, it doesn’t offer much from a tourist point of view. It has a population of ~60,000 people today.