The ancient capital of Thailand is located on an island at the confluence of 2 rivers and what you visit today are the magnificent remains of temples and royal palaces (recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site). Do you think it was so important that, in the period of maximum splendor (around 1650) it had 1 million inhabitants !! The remains of some temples are truly spectacular (here there is also the famous buddha head surrounded by roots) but I must admit that I remembered very little (I have the memory of a goldfish .. but it's also been 15 years!). In hindsight I am very happy to be back because it is really beautiful; if you are coming to Thailand for the first time it is definitely a destination not to be missed!
How to reach Ayutthaya from Bangkok
Ayutthaya is located north of Bangkok, and the most convenient means of reaching it from the capitake are by bus and train.
Trains depart from Bangkok Hualamphong station, close to Chinatown and the river. There are at least 25-30 a day and they take 1,5-2h. If you plan to visit Bangkok on your return trip (which I always recommend), you can also consider leaving for Ayutthaya directly from railway station located inside Suvarnabhumi International Airport. In this case you will avoid throwing yourself into Bangkok traffic to reach the city center (if you like it it takes at least 45 '!). You can buy tickets directly in the stations or through this site if you want to organize your trip from home without wasting time on site. If you plan to visit Ayutthaya in the day and leave for another destination the same evening (Sukhothai or Chiang Mai for example .. as I did), you can leave your backpack / suitcase at the luggage storage of the station for 10B.
Ayutthaya can also be reached easily by bus (it takes more or less the same time) starting from the North Station (Mo Chit) or from Khao San Road area. For example, I slept in the Khao San area and I preferred to use one of the many minibus services that depart from here booking it from this site (9,4 euros). The minibuses are for 14-16 people and are quite comfortable. They drop you off at Ayutthaya's Chao Phrom Market.
How to get around Ayutthaya
To move around Ayutthaya, to see the different temples, you have several options. You can do it on foot (as I did, starting from the Tourist Center, it's about 10-11 km), by bike (you can rent them in front of the train station or the market for 50 B) o in tuk tuk (almost all offer a tour of the 3 main temples with a stop of 20 'each for 200B). I took a tuk tuk from the station to the Tourist Center (for 100B) and from there then I turned it all on foot and then returned to the station (to "cut" there are boats that, from the market, allow you to cross the river for 5B). Of course you must enjoy walking! There are distances and walking under the scorching sun and 35-38 ° can be really tough. There is very little shade.
What to see in Ayutthaya: the temples not to be missed
As for tickets, at the visitor center they sell a combined ticket at 220B which includes 6 temples (with a saving of 80B if you intend to see them all). Alternatively, single entry costs 50B for each temple. I decided to buy them singles because I decided to see only 4 temples (which I will talk about below), one of which is free. I recommend, despite being an archaeological site, to enter each temple you must have covered arms and legs !!
If you start from Tourist Center (which is located more or less in the center of the island, inside which there is also a nice museum) my advice is not to miss these 4 temples absolutely. You can visit them following this order:
1)Wham Phra Mongkol Bophit
This temple is actually the only non-ancient temple you will see, but it is one of the most revered temples by Thai pilgrims because it houses one of the largest bronze buddhas in Thailand. The original one was destroyed by the Burmese in the 1956th century, and they also contributed to the reconstruction in XNUMX. Inside the temple there are (beautiful) period photos of what the temple was like before it was rebuilt and it really comes from to say that they could have left it that way, as they have done for all other temples, had much more charm. The temple is free to enter.
2) Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet was once the most majestic of Ayutthaya's temples (around 1450-1500) and was built as a private royal chapel. Today there remain the 3 chedi that were built to house the ashes of 3 Kings (and a little more) and represent the most iconic image of Ayutthaya. It is a very suggestive place.
3) Wat Mahatrat
This name indicates that the temple was erected to house the relics of the Buddha according to the royal chronicles. The golden casket containing the ashes was placed under a prang (a kind of pagoda) 38 meters high. Now there are the beautiful remains of this prang, but Wat Mahatrat is most famous for the head of the buddha now embedded in the roots of a tree. If you want to take a picture in front of your head you will necessarily have to sit on the platform in front of you (no picture standing in front of the buddha).
4) Wat Ratchanburana
Very close to Wat Mahatrat there is also Wat Ratchanburana, equally beautiful. Here there is a very high prang where you can go up to enter to see the crypt with wall paintings. Besides the prang there are also the remains of several chedi similar to those seen in Sri Lanka.
If you have more time, I recommend that you also see the Wat Chai Wathanaram and What Phanan Choeng, which are both located off the island, on the other side of the river. To reach them, however, you will need a bicycle (minimum) or a tuk tuk.
Where to eat in Ayutthaya
Burinda: this restaurant is located right in front of Wat Ratchanburana. It has the typical dishes of Thai cuisine, well done and very good. Next door there is a very nice café on 3 floors where you can get a good espresso.
Where to sleep in Ayutthaya
Pan Din Shop : Pan Din Boutique is a simple but very nice establishment. It is located 1,5 km from the Ayutthaya Archaeological Park and you can rent bicycles directly from them.