Welcome to my short series about the ancient cities of Thailand! I’m starting with Ayutthaya, and following up with Lopburi and finally Sukhothai.
I returned to Thailand much earlier than expected. I spent far less time in Laos and Cambodia than I expected, so I found myself with almost 3 weeks of extra time in Thailand. After getting my visa sorted for Myanmar, I was keen to either head north or south. July is the rainy season, so I figured that the islands may not be the best option. I decided I would head north, to Chiang Mai, via the old capitals of Thailand, Ayutthaya, Lopburi and Sukhothai.
Getting to Ayutthaya
I had been in Bangkok for a few days and I’d heard from a fellow traveller that the best way to travel to Ayutthaya was by train. I got a taxi to Bangkok central station (Hua Lamphong) for 50 baht. Trains to Ayutthaya are fairly regular so one was leaving 15 minutes after I arrived. I purchased my ticket for 15 baht (whaaaaat?? so cheap!) and got on the train. It takes just under 2 hours to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.
Where To Stay
I stayed at Stockhome Hostel which I highly recommend. The location is good and it’s possible to book tours through them. They also have free breakfast and a TV room.
What to See
I would recommend getting up early to see the temples for 2 reasons:
- It’s far too hot to walk around temples in the midday heat.
- You’ll beat the coaches of tourists coming to Ayutthaya for a day trip from Bangkok.
The first temple I walked around was Wat Ratchaburana. There was one other person there so I had the place pretty much to myself. Wat Ratchaburana was founded in 1424.
One of the most popular temples in Ayutthaya is Wat Mahathat, mainly because the head of a Buddha statue is embedded in the roots of a tree, making for an interesting sight. It reminded me of Grandmother Willow from Pocahontas. The tour groups were just starting to filter in when I arrived around 10am.
Something that all the old temples have in common, is that many Buddha statues have been decapitated. This is from the 18th century when Burmese forces sacked the city of Ayutthaya.
Sunset Boat Tour
I booked a sunset boat tour through my hostel for 200baht. Pick up was at 4pm and the boat stopped at 3 temples. The boat arrived back at the pier before sunset but at least it was a bit cooler in the day for walking around temples.
The first stop of the tour was Wat Panan Choeng. Our boat driver dropped us off and told us to return in 20 minutes. Entrance to this temple was 20 baht. This temple was very colourful but the main highlight was the enormous statue of Buddha in the middle. The doorway leading to the statue is small so I stumbled upon it very suddenly.
Stop number 2 was rather disappointing. It was a modern temple with some ruins situated a short walk beyond. The problem was that the ruins section was closed when we arrived!
Where to Eat
Ayutthaya has a number of restaurants dotted around the city which serve both Thai and Western food. In the evening there’s plenty of street food stalls to choose from.
Stay tuned for my next 2 posts about Lopburi and Sukhothai – 2 more ancient cities in Thailand. If you want to read more about visiting ancient sites, check out my Angkor Wat post.