History: For centuries the ancient city of Ayutthaya flourished. Growing to become largest city of it’s day.
The economy was build on it’s geography, a city secured by three great rivers. This enabled the safe passage of trade and diplomacy.
The historical importance of the city was recognised in 2017 when the city was recognised as a World Heritage Site.
The rivers created a unique fortress protecting the Siamese city from the great armies of the time, who marched over land and sea from China to Myanmar (Burma).
With great wealth the culture of the inhabitants was nurtured enabling the city to expand over fourteen square kilometres.
The thriving city came to an abrupt halt in 1767 when the Burmese arm invaded. As the city burnt it’s residents fled.
What remains is the skeleton of a great city, a treasure bed for archaeologists and a wonder for tourists.
Scattered over the sparse area of the city are monasteries, palaces and Chedis (Stupas).
What to see: There are many options for tourist, so it’s best to read one of the guides and work out your priorities before you arrive.
The three I visited (in just under three hours) where:
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet: My favourite.
For a lonely stroll through the ruins of an ancient civilization, this is the place to visit.
The grounds were dug by Prince U-Thong in 1350 who established his palace. This is one of the oldest relics and later became the base his capital.
Over the centuries around the palace monasteries, glittering Buddha’s where build for the enjoyment of royalty.
Today what is left are the ruins, and rumours that the bones of Kings of Ayutthaya.
Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon
Packed with tourists the Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon is still well worth a visit.
Built by King U-Thong in 1357 the Monastery was designed to accommodate Sri Lankan Monks where sought enlightenment across the ocean.
It’s history can be traced back further, to over 2000BC where Kings prayed for strength to conquer their opponents.
You can climb the stairs to explore the inner cave of the Chedi, and walk around the perimeter to look over the row of statues down below.
Laid out by the river Chao Phraya, is Wat Chaiwatthanaram. This stunning Palace was home to King Prasat Thong after it’s completion in the 1630’s.
Overall recommendation: Traveling to Ayutthaya is well worth the effort, if only to get away from Bangkok.
Getting around the ancient city:
Tuk Tuk: It’s expected that you negotiate a price to hire a tuk tuk and driver. The price is often charged by the hour.
I paid 450 Baht ($6.59 USD per hour) for two and a half hours and it was worth every cent.
The train station is an hours walk to the city and there can be a fair distance between sites.
There is a lot of discussion about hiring a bike at the station and setting off to view the sites.
If you are a great rider and are prepared to travel the distance in the heat then it truly would be magnificent.
Getting to Ayutthaya
Even tours information centers recommend travelling by train.
The train trip can take up to two hours but as long as you have a seat it’s a pleasant journey through rural Thailand.
Cost: The cost for a single, adult, seated ticket from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is around $11.60.
Beware that not all tickets come with a nominated seat. If you don’t have a seat you’ll be expected to stand unless someone gets off the train.
If you do have a seat you may find someone has just sat in it. I watched the conductor throw people out of their seats if it had been allocated to a ticket holder.
You can buy a ticket through State Rail Thailand ( http://www.railway.co.th/Home/Index )
The Thailand State Rail website isn’t the easiest to navigate but can save a lot of time.