Ayutthaya, Thailand: A Visitors' Guide
Ayutthaya, or to give it its full name: Phra Nakorn Si Ayutthaya, is a former capital of the old Kingdom of Siam, now central Thailand. It was founded in the 14th century and is one of Thailand's most visited locations. Once one of the world's most magnificent and important cities before its virtual destruction by invading Burmese forces, it is now famous for its ancient temples and temple ruins, and is a very popular destination in Thailand for both foreign and Thai tourists. If you like ancient temples and temple ruins dating back over 700 years, then Ayutthaya is a fascinating place to visit.
Yai Chai Mongkhon Temple
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (Yai Chai Mongkhon Buddhist Temple) is one of the city's most famous temples, visited by foreign as well as Thai tourists. It has some very impressive religious structures and is still a fully functioning temple and monastery.
Wat Mahathat (Mahathat Buddhist Temple) is an ancient site consisting of ruined Buddhist structures in the temple grounds. It was an important royal monastery. Its exact date of construction isn't known but is around late 14th century under the reign of King Borommaracha I or his successor King Ramesuan.
Chao Phraya River Trips
The famous river on which the Thai capital Bangkok is built, the Chao Phraya River, passes through Ayutthaya heading for Bangkok and the Gulf of Thailand. In fact, the river splits to the north of the city and rejoins to the south making the city a virtual island. There are river trips you can take from Ayutthaya by long-tail boat or river barge, and making use of both the river and canals, you can take a 13.6 kilometre circular boat trip around the city to see some pretty countryside and... more temples. Boat trips to Bang Pa-in, a beautiful former royal palace known as the Summer Palace, and which is located 24 Km from Ayutthaya, are also available.
In the 16th century Ayutthaya began to welcome foreign settlements, starting with the Portuguese, and expanding to include Dutch, British, Japanese, Chinese, Arab and more. The Portuguese-built, 17th century St Joseph's Catholic Church is one of the few remaining reminders of this cosmopolitan period of Ayutthaya's history.
Given its magnificent past and the UNESCO World Heritage status of its ancient sites and ruins, it's easy to overlook Ayutthaya's modern amenities. There are some good bars on lane 8 of Narasuan Rd (Thanon Narasuan, Soi 8), such as the Jazz Bar and Street Lamp, with live music most nights until midnight. There's also variety of restaurants, such as the highly popular Sai Thong restaurant on U Thong Rd. (Thanon U Thong) or the delicious Muslim snacks available at Chao Phrom Market on Narasuen Rd. Popular activities include organised cycling and boat trips, and a visit to the Royal Elephant Kraal, a non-profit elephant conservation program.
Accommodation in Ayutthaya
Accommodation in Ayutthaya is plentiful and reasonably priced with good, clean, modern hotel rooms starting from around $15 per night with WiFi, stocked fridge, cable TV and all the usual budget hotel amenities. Or you can have more luxurious options for a higher price that is still reasonable by Western standards. Check out Trip advisor for a list of hotels, their prices and booking availability.
Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
Ayutthaya is located about 65 Kilometres north of Bangkok and can be reached by bus or train. There are also daily private boat cruises on the Chao Phraya river to Ayutthaya.
You can get to Ayutthaya by bus in around two hours, depending on Bangkok's notorious traffic conditions, from the Northern Bus Terminal, Morchit. The one-way fare is around two dollars. Trains leave from Hualamphong station quite regularly. There are various classes of seating from third class costing around a dollar to 1st class costing around $8. The train journey is more scenic but often takes longer than the bus.
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