Ayutthaya (อยุธยา) is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km to the north of Bangkok.
Founded by King U-Thong in 1350 within a bend of the Chao Phraya river, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Thai kingdom at its mightiest.
Conquered and sacked by the Burmese in 1767, today only ruins of its splendor remain. Among Thai cities, Ayutthaya’s English name is probably the least standardized. Ayutthaya, Ayuttaya, Ayuthaya, Ayutaya, Ayothaya, Ayotaya, Ayudhya and even the Sanskrit original Ayodhya (usually referring to the Indian city) are all used.
How to Go
The cheapest and most colorful way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. All north and northeast line trains depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong station and stop in Ayutthaya, a trip of about 1.5 hours. Second class costs 35 baht (reserve seat in advance), while third class is just 20 baht (no reservations). Ayutthaya’s train station is to the east of the central island. The easiest way to get to central Naresuan Rd is to walk straight ahead from the station and take the cross-river ferry for 2 baht.
All the temples listed below are in ruins and no longer in active use, so no dress codes are enforced — although visitors are still requested to refrain from blatant stupidity like clambering up the Buddha statues. Most charge a 30 baht entrance fee, although enforcement is rather lax.
- Wat Phra Si Samphet (Sri Samphet Rd) is the largest temple in Ayutthaya, known for its row of chedis (Thai-style stupas). Housed within the grounds of the former royal palace, the wat was used only for royal religious ceremonies. It once housed a 16-meter Buddha covered with 340 kg of gold, but the Burmese set fire to the statue to melt the gold and destroyed the temple in the process.
- Wat Ratchaburana (Naresuan Rd) stands out for having a large prang recently restored to its original condition, clearly visible if you come in from the east. A major find of golden statues and other paraphernalia was made here in 1958, although much was subsequently stolen by robbers — the remnants are now in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum. You can climb inside the prang for nice views and a little exhibit. The mysterious staircase down, however, doesn’t lead anywhere.
- Wat Phra Mahathat (Naresuan Rd), across the road from Wat Ratburana, is a large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked by the Burmese. Several Leaning Prangs of Ayutthaya are still feebly defying gravity though, and the rows of headless Buddhas are atmospheric. This is also where you can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head.
There are a large number of traveller-oriented guesthouses on and around Soi 2 between Naresuan Road and Pamaphrao Road, 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.
All pictures by the author
Text is available under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0