Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya (อยุธยา), full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya (พระนครศรีอยุธยา), is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok.

Understand

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, an ideal location between China, India, and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands, and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies, and a visiting flotilla of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city to the ground.

Today, only a few remains give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural value of Ayutthaya's ruins was officially recognized in 1991, when the historic city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travellers from that city.

Orientation

Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya river, the Lopburi River, and the Pa Sak River. As the train station is on the east bank off the island, most visitors will need to cross the river by ferry boat. Navigating your way around the island is not particularly hard: U Thong Rd is a ring road that circles the island completely. Most temple ruins can be found at the northwest corner of the island, while accommodation and night life is clustered around the northeast. As non-Siamese peoples were not allowed to live inside the city walls, the remains of foreign nations can be found off of the island.

Get in

Map of Ayutthaya

By car

From Bangkok, one can get to Ayutthaya by various routes:

One can also contact a taxi company for pick up at either Bangkok airport. For example: Car Service, phone: +66 2 8195390, email: raksacharoen@hotmail.com. Advance booking possible. ~1,200 baht one-way.

By train

The cheapest and most scenic way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. It regularly departs from Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station and stops in Ayutthaya. The trip takes about 2-2.5 hr depending on the type of service. Second-class seats, air conditioned, costs 245 baht, third-class is just 20 baht (!) (no reservations and seats are not guaranteed). Check timetable here. (Note that fares listed on the Thai railways site are out of date and incorrect). Although in the past railway employees preferred not to sell 3rd-class tickets to foreigners, as of 2011 the employees were explicitly offering 3rd-class seats to Western tourists as a standard option. Also note that some train stations (for instance, Bang Khen) do not appear on the ticketing map, and that tickets may even be cheaper than indicated.

The railway station is not on the island but across the river a short ferry ride away. Walk across the main road and down the small street straight ahead. Ferries run every few minutes and cost 5 baht.

By bus

From Victory Monument

The easiest is to take a mini-van from the Victory Monument BTS station direct to Ayutthaya. It takes about 1 hour and costs between 60 and 100 baht. Mini-vans depart every 20 minutes or so.

From Northern Bus Terminal

Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal directly to Ayutthaya (despite what locals say, the last bus leaves at 18:00). First-class air-con buses charge 50 baht. This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of/into Bangkok.

To get to the Northern Bus Terminal, take Skytrain to Mo Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting gantry gates, cross the bridge on the right to go to bus-stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77. (air-con buses charge 12 baht, non air-con buses charge 7 baht). The bus ride is about 10–15 minutes and the Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the buses. However, buses do not stop at the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across the street. Cross the bridge to get to the bus terminal. Bus service 3 runs also near Khao San. It goes by Chakrabongse Rd which is a street at the west end of Khao San. The trip to the Northern Bus Terminal from here takes around 1 hour in the morning. Getting back in evening can take longer due to traffic.

The buses run from 04:30–19:15. For more details, call Tel. +66 2 9362852-66 or see BKS or Ayutthaya Bus Terminal, Tel. +66 35 335304.

From Southern Bus Terminal

There are mini buses to Rangsit, in the north of Bangkok, cost 50 bath. In Rangsit they stop on at a highway junction, where you can directly transfer into another mini bus going to Ayatthaya center, cost 40 bath. (as of Dec 2015). Total travel time 1,5 - 2 hours.

From Kanchanaburi

From Kanchanaburi, take a local bus from the main bus station to Suphanburi for 45 baht (2 hours), then another local bus to Ayutthaya for 40 baht (1.5 hours). A taxi from Kanchanaburi costs 2,000-2,500 baht (2 hours).

There is also a central bus station east of town serving northern destinations. It can be reached by songthaew. Ask around to find the appropriate stop.

Leaving

In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Naresuan Rd next to the Chao Phrom Market. songthaews to Bang Pa-In also leave from here. Some 1st-class buses to Bangkok, however, leave from the north side of the road some 500 m to the west, on the other side of the khlong (canal); the queue for air-con buses is easy to spot.

By mini-bus

Convenient mini-bus service (can get stuck in traffic, but makes no stops like regular buses) operates from the Victory Monument Square in Bangkok.

Take the BTS Skytrain to the Victory Monument station, leave by heading towards exits 3/4, bearing right on the elevated walkway. Stay on the walkway until you cross a large road, then descend at the first set of stairs. The buses are parked on a side soi (Ratchawithi 11) parallel to the market stalls at the bottom of the stairs. Head to the front end of the buses to find the ones that are about to leave. The cost is 60 baht, and take around 1 hour to 1 hour 20 min. It's quite convenient since you don't have to go to the bus terminal (nearby Mo Chit), but the only problem is that the mini-buses don't have much space for big bags and you must wait until the bus is fully filled.

Mini-buses from Kanchanaburi can be arranged by guest houses or any tour operators for around 350 baht.

By boat

Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. You'll need to book in advance as there are no scheduled services, just trips for tourists. It's a fairly lengthy trip (at least one whole day) and some of the larger boats offer (pricey) overnight tours.

Travelling by boat to Ayutthaya is popular among foreigners as it reveals the beauty as well as lifestyle of the people on both sides of the Chao Phraya River, and also recalls life at the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom when the Chao Phraya River served as the highway for trade with foreign countries.

Get around

By bicycle

Cycling around the ruins is the most enjoyable and fun way to spend the day. The archaeological park is easily reachable and manageable on bike even if you aren't very fit. The paths are paved and the distances between temples are small. You can rent a bicycle for around 40 baht per day. The bicycles are not necessarily well maintained, so be sure that they work properly (wheels are firm and inflated, seats adjusted to your height and well attached, handlebars don't slip); good shops will give you a bike lock as well. There is a good bike shop directly opposite the train station.

A free map of the city is widely available in all hotels.

The park opens at 07:30. It is recommended that you begin your tour early, before the tour groups arrive from Bangkok. Take a big bottle of water with you.

By tuk-tuk

Alternatively, you can get around town by tuk-tuk (motorized 3-wheeler). Ayutthaya's tuk-tuks are larger than the Bangkok variety and you can easily squeeze six people in on facing benches. Only "official" tuk-tuk drivers or tourist "helpers" can pick up passengers from the train station. You can verify their status by looking for their photos/name on a "Tourist Officials" board displayed at the south end of the platform. These people are required to charge/work for fixed rates, usually quoting 300 baht/hour, but this can usually be bargained down to a slightly lower price (e.g., 1,000 baht for 4 hrs).

You can also flag down tuk-tuks from the street and try to hire them. Most drivers carry with them a stack of postcards featuring the famous sites of the city to ease communications. They also are used to the standard temple-hopping circuit. If you have a map you can point out any of the destinations that you wish to see and they'll often quote a trip price and will wait for you at each stop. 200 baht per hour seems to be the starting point for tourist tuk-tuks picking up backpackers away from the station, although it may be possible to negotiate a lower price.

If entering the city by mini-bus, there is a possibility your driver will drop you off at a tuk-tuk who offers to take you around the wats for 2,000+ baht. The driver may have a book filled with positive testimonials in a range of different languages from tourists who were his past passengers. Don't let these positive comments convince you otherwise, simply say "no, thanks" and move on to find another tuk-tuk driver with whom you can negotiate a fair rate.

From Ayutthaya, mini-buses can be taken from the railway station into the city. Hiring a mini- bus within Ayutthaya costs between 400-500 baht/day. For travelling between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa-in, mini-buses regularly leave Chao Prom Market, Chao Prom Rd starting from 06:00.

By boat

Boat trips to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Thai lifestyle along the Chao Phraya River, the Pa Sak River and around the town island of Ayutthaya are available. A longtail boat can be chartered at the pier in front of Chanthara Kasem National Museum, Pom Phet Pier, and Wat Phananchoeng Pier. The fare depends on the route and duration. Rice barges are also available to groups. They offer a relaxed way to see Ayutthaya.

See

Ayutthaya is 76 km north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. The ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia's (and probably the world's) most prosperous cities in the 17th century. Ayutthaya Historical Park, a vast stretch of historical sites in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 1991.

There were three palaces in Ayutthaya: Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace (the Front Palace), and Wang Lang (the Rear Palace). In addition, there were many other palaces and buildings for royal visits located outside Ayutthaya, such as the palace at Bang Pa-In and Nakhon Luang Building at Nakhon Luang.

It seems there is an ongoing scam, not against tourists, but against the government. Ladies selling tickets take the money from you and allow you to enter, but will not give you a ticket (and probably put the money in their own pockets). If you want your money to go for temple renovation and conservation instead of going into private pockets, insist on a ticket.

On the island

The temples with entry charges are usually in ruins, so there is no dress code, although visitors are still requested to refrain from blatant stupidity like clambering up the Buddha statues. Working temples tend to charge no fees and there are often no officials to check that a dress is appropriate (though it is advised to follow these customs to show respect for sacred places).

Headless Buddha statues, Wat Mahathat
Wiharn at Wat Thammikarat
Phra Chedi Suriyothai

Museums

Off the island

Much of Ayutthaya's history revolves around trade with other nations, but these nations were not allowed to set up camp inside the city walls. Thus, surrounding Ayutthaya's waters are plenty of remains from the countries that once set sail here, such as the settlements of Japan, the Netherlands and Portugal, as well as the interesting Thai-Chinese temple of Wat Phanan Choeng.

Chedi at Wat Phu Khao Thong
Ayothaya Floating Market

Foreign Settlements

Do

Eat

Ayutthaya is famous for its river prawns, but also plenty of other delicious dishes.

Drink

The main traveller-oriented area is Soi Torgorsor, between Pamaphrao Rd and Naresuan Rd, opposite the west end of Chao Phrom Market. It has a number of bars staying open until late, some with projection screens for sports.

Sleep

This guide uses the following price ranges for a standard double room:
Budget Under 500 baht
Mid-range 500 to 1,500 baht
Splurge Over 1,500 baht

There are a large number of traveller-oriented guest houses on and around Soi 2 between Naresuan Rd and Pamaphrao Rd, opposite the western end of the Chao Phrom Market. Accommodation in the upper price brackets is limited though there are some options by the riverside. Many people choose to day-trip from Bangkok.

Budget

Mid-range

Respect

Wear long trousers/skirts to temples, and no sleeveless T-shirts or revealing blouses. Treat Buddha images with utmost respect, just as you would in the rest of Thailand.

Stay safe

Ayutthaya has a lot of hungry stray dogs in poor condition. They can particularly be a problem in the off-season when there aren't so many people in the streets. While largely docile and harmless, to avoid being chased around by a pack of them it is best not to walk around alone, particularly at night. For those accustomed to travel in developing areas, there should be no problem.

When cycling around the city beware of motorcyclists. Do not put any valuable items in your handlebar basket, as they may be snatched at traffic lights. Also, female travellers have been groped by passing-by motorcyclists, so beware if someone slows down next to you.

Go next

Routes through Ayutthaya

Nakhon Ratchasima Saraburi  N  S  Bangkok
Chiang Mai Lopburi  N  S  Bang Pa-In Bangkok


This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Wednesday, December 30, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.