You begin to know us now, and you know that even if you don't reject big cities, we have a penchant for the far off and quieter little places. So, when we left the huge Bangkok for the historic Ayutthaya made us feel good ! And we soon succumbed to its charms. Even if the ancient monasteries, temples, and others are in ruins, it didn't spoil the visit, on the contrary ! (My passion for history makes me easy to enjoy these things !)
Ayutthaya exudes a certain calm which has made us extend our one-night stay so we can enjoy it more. So we stayed there for 3 days, which gave us time to walk quietly and enjoy the beauties and attractions of the area without hurry.
Before starting, understanding Ayutthaya is knowing its history.
A bit of history :
Ayutthaya founded in 1350, becomes the 2nd capital of the Kingdom of Siam (the ancient name of Thailand). It is renowned both for its architecture known for its prangs or reliquary towers, and its plan in grids and for the commerce that takes place there. It has a flourishing period that stretches for several centuries before being attacked by the Burmese army in 1767, which destroys it and chases its inhabitants. The vestiges of the city have included it in the World Heritage of Unesco.
Located 80 km from Bangkok, these ruins attract tourists every year.
What to see and what to do in Ayutthaya ? The inescapable :
We are not going to lie, the great source of interest remains the archaeological vestiges. The city has a dozen different temples, scattered everywhere. Don't worry, we didn't list them all, just the ones that we think are worth the detour.
Wat Mahathat :
Surely the best known, and most important of the city. And for good reason, it holds impressive Buddha sculptures. But what has made its fame is the Buddha's head intertwined between the roots of a tree.
According to legend...
When the Burmese army destroyed the city, it also decapitated all the Buddhas, but one of the heads rolled to the roots of a tree that would only have entwined the entangled more.
Buddha head being sacred, It's venerated by the Buddhists which implies respecting some rules when taking a picture next to it.
You should not be higher than Buddha head this means that at the very least it's necessary to squat even if the position best seen is to be kneeling on the knees. It's also necessary to ensure a modest and humble attitude.
The best time to go is at the end of the afternoon, at sunset. There will be almost no visitors, but above all, the sun setting over the ruins creates a superb moment that only reinforces the strong atmosphere already present.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet :
One of the most important temples that served as a royal chapel. To be honest it's to be seen, as it remains impressive, but this hasn't been our favorite !
Wat Lokayasutharam :
It remains known for its statue of elongated Buddha. This is the only thing left of the temple. But the truth must be said: the present statue is not the original one, but was redone in the 1950s, and in a different way from the 1st.
How much does it cost ? :
Wat Mahathat : 1,30€ (50 bahts).
Wat Phra Si Sanphet : 1,30€ (50 bahts).
Wat Lokayasutharam : Free.
Actually, when we were there, a much more greedy price was requested for the 2nd temples. Surely a little trick, in any case, if you go around the temples, moving away from the main entrance, you will see that there are small "secret" entrances through the ramparts for free entry.
Rules of good conduct:
- You must not be higher than Buddha.
- You must have a humble and modest attitude when taking a picture near Buddha.
- You must not move something, or add something, either: you basically don't touch and don't form a cairn (the cairns are those clumps of stone made at the base to mark a place.).
- You must not climb the monuments (you will see that few people respect this unfortunately).
- Correct outfit is always appreciated.
Read also : What to do and not to do in Thailand ?
Walking through Rama Park :
It is a small park that surrounds Wat Mahathat. The walk is nice because you will see small temples as well as on varans and birds of all kinds. The only regret is to see so much garbage in the water especially when you see animals trying to find food there ...
The place stays very beautiful especially at sunset ! It's very soothing, ideal to start or end a day, that's why at these times you can see groups practicing tai chi.
On the road to Wat Mahathat, look at the trees, you will see adorable little squirrels enjoying the coconuts placed at their disposal.
Speaking of animals :
In Thailande, dogs are very territorial and don't hesitate to attack you if you approach too close ... It was the case here, a whole group was resting under a kind of patio near the road and when we wanted to pass, they all rose suddenly charging us and barking us. Fortunately, they didn't come too close as in Chiang Mai ... But watch out for bites (especially as rabies is present in the country).
Lack of time ? :
If you do not want to cross the city on foot, it's quite possible to rent bicycles. It's a very popular means of transport in Ayutthaya and and you will find plenty of places to rent one !
We preferred to walk (especially me because I am really bad by bike), but we had seen rates like 1€-1,30€ (40 - 50 baths) for the day..
Eating at the small street market :
Quite by chance we discovered, a market that stretches on an entire street. Perfect to buy food at the lowest price. There is something for all tastes and it is an opportunity to try typical Thai dishes. You will also find clothes and other at the end of the street. We only went there in the late afternoon and evening so we can't guarantee it will be open for lunch !
Avoid elephant rides :
By visiting the city you will not be able to miss the tourist activity which is the ride on the back of elephant. You will be sold it with dreams and glitter, but the sad truth is that these animals are beaten all their lives po meet tourist demand. We have witnessed this violence and mistreatment that left us a heavy heart.
We made an article on it if you want to know what is behind this activity: "The truth behind the elephant rides".
- We didn't have sunscreen, and it was sunny, we had pretty little red calves at night, so protect yourself.
- Prepare water, we quickly finished our bottles !
How long to stay in Ayutthaya ? :
Some people only stop there for a day, we think it is worth at least a night or two. As we said earlier, we even extended our stay with a third night, more to enjoy and relax more.
After that always depends on the same thing : the time you have and the interest you carry in the place. Some temples are quite far away and require a good walk, quite possible in a day, but not necessarily restful !
Where to stay in Ayutthaya ? :
We had a little crush for Chommuang Guesthouse that we discovered a little randomly.
A little off center, it remains very well placed. But the best is the completely furnished interior to provide complete relaxation and comfort ! Hammock, deck chair, darts, all in a typical house and with very friendly owners , always ready to help (they even brought us by car to the bus station so that we take our night bus to Chiang Mai).
As in all guesthouses and hotels in Thailand two complimentary bottles of water are available when you arrive. If it's not enough, Mary, the owner offers a fridge where you will find a good number of bottles of fresh water (against the moderate sum of 10 baths, that is to say 0,25 € that you have to deposit in a small box to trust is the key!). A mini kitchen with tea and coffee is also available. (Thais rarely have a real kitchen at home, since it is customary to eat outside so do not expect equipment to make you eat.)
We highly recommend this guesthouse ! But booking can be a good idea, because like all the good places they are requested and there are not many rooms !
Chommuang Guest House :
Website : Chommuang Guest House
Price : For a double room with private bathroom it takes about 15 €, but it is the same price with shared bathroom.
Activities : Wifi, terrace relaxation, mini kitchen, bicycle rental.
How to get to Ayutthaya ? :
At first, we wanted to take the bus, and then impossible to find the station (even on the internet, we didn't find a real answer), we thought it would be by train ! And no regrets, as in Vietnam, this mode of transport is ideal to discover the landscape and the local life.
Security isn't at all the same as in our westernized countries, you will see that the doors remain open (if there are any) and you can at your leisure place yourself there to admire the scenery in front of you. You can also eat, smoke and walk around. In addition to that, small sellers offer you to drink and eat. In short, we loved it.
Although slower than the bus, it is also cheaper! It takes between 2 and a half to 3 hours to go from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.
Practical information :
The ticket price : 0,50 € (20 bath) per person in 3rd class (we have in any case left the seats to go to the openings of the doors.)
Where to get the train in Bangkok : At the Hua Lamphong station, once there it is very easy to buy your ticket at the ticket counter and wait for your train.
Booking or not ? : We didn't book, but we looked at the schedules on the internet on this site www.thailandee.com to have an idea. It is better to get there earlier, because the timetables are not always accurate (and don't believe the duration of the trip displayed, it will be more!)
So, hoping that this article convinced you to take a cultural break in Ayutthaya, don't hesitate to share your experience with us !
So, want to be "dépayser" in Ayutthaya ?
The prices shown are the ones we had, you may encounter a difference (good or bad!) but at least it gives you an idea.