Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam until its defeat in 1767, is located just north of Bangkok.
Ayutthaya is all about history. The ruins of the old capital still stand on a defensible island in the Chao Phraya River, easily traveled by bicycle, motorbike, or hired tuk-tuk.
Because of its proximity to Bangkok and its history, Ayutthaya is one of the cheapest and most exciting day-trips that you can take from Bangkok.
Getting to and from Ayutthaya
The cheapest, and undeniably more fun, is by train. Trains leave frequently from the beautiful and historic Bangkok Hua Lampong Train Station (accessible by MRT Hua Lampong Subway Station).
Tickets for the third-class commuter train cost 13 baht (about $0.40) and depart every hour or so. The journey is slow and leisurely, taking about two hours through the countryside with several stops along the way.
There is no reserved seating and tickets are on a first-come first-served basis. Arrive early to ensure a window seat for the best views and experience!
The train station is directly at the river. It’s quite simple to cross on the three-baht ferry to Ayutthaya Island, where the historical park is located.
The fastest way to travel between Bangkok and Ayutthaya is by bus. Buses depart frequently from Bangkok MoChit Bus Terminal (take A1 Bus from Mo Chit BTS) and cost 60-100 baht ($2-3). The trip takes between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on traffic. Be warned though, you may end up in a “minibus” (a cramped van) instead of one of the larger government buses!
Getting around Ayutthaya
The ancient capital of Ayutthaya is small; built on a tiny island surrounded on all sides by the Chaophraya River. It’s small enough to easily get around by bicycle or motorbike.
From the train station, cross the river on the three-baht ferry. On Ayutthaya Island, you’ll find no shortage of guesthouses renting out bicycles for the day. You do not need to be a guest at the hotel or guesthouse to rent a bike. This costs between 40-60 baht ($1.50-$2.00) for a day. Bike rental almost always includes a map with the top sites highlighted and a suggested route to follow. Ayutthaya Island is small, and it’s not difficult bike around. It can get very hot in Ayutthaya though, so bring a hat and sunblock! Stay hydrated! Bottles of cold water is available nearly everywhere, sold by vendors on the road side.
There is some traffic, so please remember that
cars in Thailand drive on the left-hand side of the road.
Ayutthaya’s fleet of iconic and unique tuk-tuks look markedly different from those in Bangkok. They curved front has been compared to everything from a Japanese samurai helmet to Darth Vader.
You can find tuk-tuk drivers waiting almost anywhere in Ayutthaya. You can hire a driver for the day for around 300-500 baht ($10-$15).
What to do in Ayutthaya
The main attraction is the Ayutthaya Historical park. Several sites across the island contain the ruins of Siam’s ancient capital, the seat of the kingdom from 1351 until 1767 when the city was sacked by the Burmese, and the Siamese capital was moved south along the Chaophraya river to Bangkok. Pick up a map when you rent a bike, and follow the suggested route to hit Ayutthaya’s biggest sites..
Each site has a small entry fee of 50 baht ($1.50), but on holidays admission is free. Admission goes towards upkeep and maintaining the historical park.
The first big site you’ll reach is Wat Mahathat, an impressive and sprawling temple complex. Feel free to explore the ruins, but be respectful of Buddha statues. Do not climb or pose with these statues. It is against the rules, and besides, rude and disrespectful to Thai belief.
The most famous thing at Wat Mahathat is the head of a Buddha image that has been overgrown by the roots of a sacred tree. This is a holy site, and some Thai Buddhists will make offerings and prayers here.
Just next to Wat Mahathat is Wat Ratchaburana, which contains a royal crypt you can climb down into. Inside the crypt, look for the remains of the beautiful fresco paintings on the walls.
Especially don’t miss the Ancient Palace, the most impressive site and the historical royal residence of the Ayutthaya kings.
If you've got an extra day in Bangkok, or if you live in the city and want to spend a day out in the country, don't miss Ayutthaya. It's cheap, quick, and easy to get to; definitely a site worth visiting!