Amazing Ayutthaya, Thailand’s Second Capital and World Heritage Site
After Sukhothai, the Siam (Thai) Kingdom’s capital city was moved to Ayutthaya during the 15th century. The World Heritage site, founded around 1350, is the birthplace of true Thai art, including architecture and wall art. It was also my favorite city for in-tact, stunning historical Thai architecture, second only to Sukhothai.
To get there from Bangkok, you can take a bus or train. We opted for the train, which runs about every hour, and takes anywhere from 90 minutes to 2.5 hours (depending on the train that day).* The ticket cost 15 baht there ($0.50 USD) and 30 baht return ($1.00 USD). There was no air conditioning…..And it was HOT….
Suggestion: Bring a packet of wet-wipes with you to keep you fresh throughout the day. Try Wet Ones or Ponds Wet Cleansing Towelettes. Seriously, I was there in the “cool” season. You will need them.
Researching Ayutthaya, it seemed the best way to see the highlights of the historical area would be via tuk-tuk. You can hire a driver to take you around the city to visit all of the “must-sees” in 3-4 hours for about 500-1000 baht ($15-$30 USD). You can also rent a bike and ride around. This option, after our visit, seemed inefficient to me. The city is much more spread out than Sukhothai (where biking is the best way to see the old, ruined city), and navigating the town on bike while holding a map, camera, bag and water would not be the easiest feat. The highlights are at all corners of the map, in and surrounding the modern city. Unlike Sukhothai, the historical monuments are not consolidated in a small, pedestrian-friendly area. You must traverse the hustle-bustle of the modern city in order to get to the old stuff. Additionally, it would take twice or three times as long to see about 6 or 7 sites, so plan for a full day if you choose the bike option.
If you’re lucky, the Thai man who fondly refers to himself as Bob Marley would be available for hire. He ran us around the city with his namesake’s tunes playing on his outdoor speakers to see 6 landmarks in 3.5 hours (we had to make the 4:30 PM train, which was really a 5:30ish train). Bob Marley tunes are nice and relaxing when your sweating and on a time-crunched mission to see as much as possible in three and a half hours (Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing’s gonna be alright).
Wat Yai Chaimongkon
First stop: photogenic Wat Wat Yai Chaimongkon. The ancient royal monastery is a large complex filled with chedis and Buddha images swathed in flowing, orange-gold saffron cloths, and it houses a large reclining Buddha draped in a saffron robe. You can climb up the stairs of a chedi for sweeping views of the monastery. Once inside, you will find locals praying and placing purchased gold sheets on Buddha statues.
Thai people really like their reclining Buddhas!
That’s a big Buddha!
The reclining Buddha at Wat Lokaya Sutha, also known as Phra Buddha Sai Yat, was an impressive site to behold. The reclining Buddha image seems to be a revered style to the Thai people. There are quite a few of them throughout Thailand, but this one was one of my favorites. It was originally housed in a viharn that collapsed, but it was more impressive to me than the reclining Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Pho because it stands (or rather lays) alone. It is a striking image in the open-air, measuring about 42 meters long and 8 meters high.
Wat Phra Mahathat
Wat Phra Mahathat is home to the famous Buddha head swallowed by a tree’s roots. Although a a popular tourist attraction, this spot is holy to the Thais, so it is appropriate to kneel and show respect before or after taking your photos alongside the Buddha head.
The gravity-defying, leaning prangs and rows of headless Buddhas add to the mystical atmosphere.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya and is known for its distinctive row of restored chedis (or Thai-style stupas). This temple was only used by the royals for their religious ceremonies and was is within the grounds of the former royal palace.
Wat Phra Ram
This Khmer style pagoda, directly across from Wat Phra Si Sanphet, reminds me of an alien relic or ship that you might see in a Sci-Fi movie.
Riding elephants seemed to be a popular activity at Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
My favorite site was Wat Chaiwattanaram. It was was built in classic Khmer architectural style (which is my favorite style) to commemorate the victory over the Khmer in 1630. The inside is currently closed due to flood damage, but you are able to walk around the complex (for free). This temple is the image on the official Ayutthaya tourist pamphlet and is not to be missed.
There were more butterflies in Thailand than I think I have ever seen any where else in the world!
Wiharn at Wat Thammikarat
Wat Thammikarat is a working wat (temple) in conjunction with ruins of a large chedi and roofless vihan, the tall brick columns remaining and a tree picturesquely growing out of one wall.
All in all, 4 hours seemed to be enough to cover the highlights of Ayutthaya. With more time, a full day might have been better to hit all of the must sees.
The capital of Thailand was moved from Ayutthaya to Bangkok (current), which will be the focus of my next post.
Thanks for stopping by! Merry Christmas ~ Happy Holidays to all!!!!!
*Thai trains are historically late and unpredictable, so just keep that in mind during your travels!