Ayutthaya: The Ancient Siamese Capital That Will Take Your Breath Away

There’s truly no other ancient city like Ayutthaya. The Ayutthaya Kingdom was once one of the wealthiest in the region (if not the world)! And although most of Ayutthaya’s former glory was burnt to the ground in 1767 during the Burmese invasion, the heart of the island is still recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its history and cultural significance.

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Getting to Ayutthaya
(from Bangkok)

There are several ways to get to Ayutthaya:

  1. Car
    You can either drive, or hire a private car or taxi to send you there. This is probably the most comfortable way to travel, but also the most expensive. Ayutthaya is about 80km away from the heart of Bangkok, and it will take around one to 1.5 hours to get there.
  2. Train
    For a more scenic means of transport, consider taking the train from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station. It takes slightly longer at about 1.5h, and there may be delays during rush hours. There are different fare types, with the 3rd Class tickets being the most popular. It is the cheapest, and many travellers enjoy that it’s not air-conditioned as the breeze adds to the experience. The Ayutthaya railway station is not on the island itself, and you’d need to take a short ferry ride across.
  3. Bus
    The last option is the most economical one: You can take several buses from Bangkok’s Mo Chit bus station, and if traffic is on your side, it’ll take you under an hour.

Ayutthaya Day Trip Itinerary

Since Ayutthaya was invaded by the Burmese in 1767, little of its glorious gold palaces and lavish monuments remain. Instead, what’s left today are the ruins of stone temples and other buildings. Most of these are located in and nearby the Historic City of Ayutthaya (the UNESCO World Heritage Site), and you can easily cover them all in one day.

Bonus tip: It may be far to walk, so if you can, rent a bicycle and cycle around the city! If you’re in a big group, consider hopping on a tuk-tuk.

Recommended Attractions

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#1 Wat Chaiwatthanaram
(in the Ayutthaya Historic Park)

An impressive Buddhist temple, used by the ancient royalty of Ayutthaya. Interestingly, canons were found during the excavation of the ruins, which leads many to believe that this lavish palace also doubled as a fortress. Although largely destroyed in 1767, the temple was restored in the early 1990s.

Must-see: The 35m prang (corncob-shaped tower) in the center of the temple. You can access the crypt where items were enshrined via the east stairway. The central prang is also surrounded by eight chedi (Buddhist stupa).

Open daily from 8am – 5pm; 50THB entrance fee.


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#2 Wat Mahathat
(“The Temple of the Great Relic”)

The Wat Mahathat was the center of Buddhism in ancient Ayuttaya. It too, features a central prang, that was built especially to enshrine Buddhist relics. It was also where the royalty performed important formalities, like the Royal Kathin ceremony.

Must-see: The central prang collapsed in the early 17th Century and was restored. However, when the city was burned to the ground, the upper half of the prang was again destroyed. It was never repaired, and so today, only the base remains.

Open daily from 8am – 5pm; 50THB entrance fee.

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#3 Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
(Part of the Royal Palace complex)

The Wat Phra Sri Sanphet was a royal monastery exclusive only to the ancient Siamese kings. There were no resident monks, and the temple was a part of the royal palace. It was first built in the 14th Century, but as different kings continued the reign, they added extravagant monument to the temple until its peak in the 17th Century.

Must-see: After the fall of Ayutthaya, only the three massive stupas remain. The bell-shaped monuments were once gilded in gold, as was a 16m tall image of the Phra Sri Sanphet Buddha. Unfortunately, it was melted down during the invasion and taken by the Burmese. When you visit, you will see parts of the walls that once held the image, as well as the alter behind it.

Open daily from 8am – 5pm; 50THB entrance fee.

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#4 Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon

One of the few ancient temples that are still in use today, the Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon is located on the east of Ayutthaya. It is easy to spot the stunning structure, with the large chedi towering over the area. The temple was previously called Wat Pa Kaeo, but was renamed after the Chedi Chai Mongkhon was built to commemorate the victory against the Burmese in 1592 (Battle of Nong Sarai).

Must-see: Visitors can climb up the east stairway to see the interior of the 60m tall chedi. Outside, in the northeast area, you will find the the Viharn Phra Phuttha Saiyat, also known as the Reclining Buddha. The Buddha has a gold cloth draped across its body, and its feet painted gold.

Open daily from 8am – 5pm; 20THB entrance fee.

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#5 Wat Panan Choeng

This temple is most famous for its 19m seated Buddha statue, the Phra Chao Phanan Choeng. Next to it are images of Buddhist disciples, Sariputta and Moggallana. Interestingly, the famous Buddha was constructed in 1324, way before the temple was built in the 14th Century.

Must-see: The golden Buddha monument, of course! Besides that, you can check out the small Chinese building and Lady Soi Dok Mak shrine near the river bank. Many myths and legends surround this temple, and it’s even said that the giant Buddha shed tears before Ayutthaya’s fall to the Burmese.

Open daily from 8am – 5pm; 20THB entrance fee.

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#6 The Ayuttaya Palaces
(in the UNESCO Historic Park of Ayutthaya)

Aside from the breathtaking temples, you can also visit the ancient palaces. There’s the Wang Luang (Grand Palace), where the kings lived. Only very little of the building is left, but you can see the replica at the Ayutthaya Historical Study Center. Then, there is the Chandra Kasem Palace (Front Palace), for the crown prince. It is now a museum that showcases ancient Ayutthaya artifacts. Lastly, there’s the Wang Lang (Rear Palace), built by King Maha Thammarachathirat for his son.

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