I had read about Ayutthaya only earlier this year. Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of the empire of Siam in the 14th century (before it was sacked and sadly ruined like so many other historic places). Here’s a look at a day trip to Ayutthaya.
After hearing it was only about 90 minutes north of Bangkok, I knew it was a place we needed to explore when we went to Bangkok.
Getting to Ayutthaya
We got up early and took the BTS and metro to the Hua Lamphong train station and got two tickets to Ayutthaya for 20 baht each. That’s about 62 cents USD for a 90 minute train ride.
I had read about people going to the Mo Chit bus station, which is different than the Mo Chit BTS station, and taking a minibus then transferring to a blah, blah blah. Why? The train was so easy and cheap.
While walking on the train platform, I noticed it was easy to see Darlene because we were the tallest people there. Keep that in mind for later in this story.
The train arrived. We approached the car right in front of us. People scrambled to the doors of other cars, but not the car we were entering. Odd. Oh well. We boarded our air conditioned car and had our pick of empty seats. Something didn’t seem right. I pulled out our tickets and noticed that it said “third class”. I bet this isn’t the third class car. We quickly grabbed our stuff, and hurried to another car, scared we weren’t going to get a seat in the third class car. How did I originally miss the big 3 on the side of the train (the car we originally got on had a big “1/2” on the side)?
Oh well, lesson learned. At least we get to experience what it is like to travel like a local in the third class car.
Fortunately we did get seats. Darlene sat by the window. I sat next to her on the aisle. A lady sat across from me, and we were fortunate enough that the seat across from Darlene was vacant.
A couple of stops later a lady boarded and wanted to sit in the vacant seat. The lady across from me politely got up to let the new lady get the window seat. The new lady put some of her bags on the floor right where Darlene’s feet had been before she moved them to let the lady get by. The lady then put another one of her bags on the seat across from me and sat down next to it. The original lady tried to sit back down, but only had enough room left for one cheek on the seat.
This seemed so wrong! I said something out loud to Darlene. I figured they could not understand English, but that the new lady might get the point. But, nothing happened. The new lady took up a seat and a half while the original lady sat with her head hanging down trying to sit on half a seat.
After about an hour, I got up to go to the bathroom. As I was returning, I noticed the ticket taker come and punch Darlene’s ticket. Then a Thai lady came up and started talking to him. He then made Darlene get up out of her seat (no explanation given). The new lady sat down in Darlene’s seat and put her bag in the seat where I had been sitting . Darlene and I now had to stand the rest of the way.
Arrival in Ayutthaya
Thirty minutes later we arrived in Ayutthaya. We had no idea where to go so just went down the street directly across from the train station. We were soon accosted by people trying to sell us tours. We saw a lot of people accepting tours, as we heard the temples were far apart. You can hire a tuk-tuk for about 200 baht (about $6) per hour.
We passed on taking a tour and kept walking straight and eventually came to a river, a river with no bridge across. The ancient city of Ayutthaya is actually an island in the river.
We saw a boat on the other side and realized that this was the ferry across the river. The boat crashed (I carefully chose that word) nose first, into the dock and hovered there while we precariously tried to climb over the bow into the boat without falling into the river. A couple minutes, and 5 baht (16 cents), later we crashed into the other dock and again climbed over the bow of the rocking boat safely onto the dock.
We were hoping to immediately see some sign of ancient temples, but this was just a run-down area of town. We went right and took the first left down a big street and walked in the direction of the temples.
It was a lot farther than we thought, and about 30 minutes later we got our first clear glimpse of the ancient city.
It was our lucky day. It was some sort of national holiday so most of the temples were free, so we went into as many as we could.
The first temple we came to was Wat Mahathat. There was a sign outside saying 1374 A.D. so I was excited to see a 600+ year old temple.
Probably the most famous thing in Ayutthaya is the Buddha head in the tree at Wat Mahathat. It was smaller than I expected but still pretty cool.
Wat Phra Ram
And my favorite, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet.
Near Wat Phra Sri Sanphet was a modern temple, Wat Mongkhon Bophit
with a giant Buddha inside.
We saw so many temples I forgot the names of which were which. Here are a few pictures, but I can’t remember which temples they were from.
On the way to one temple, something caught my attention out of the corner of my eye, in the water to my right. An alligator had grabbed a bird and swam off with it. We were now much more cautious of where we were walking. Still, a few minutes later, I saw an alligator run into the water culvert not too far from the path on which we walked.
If you want, you can even take a ride on an elephant. We passed; it didn’t seem right.
A Twist to Picture Taking
We next went to (I think) Wat Na Phramen (which was the only temple we had to pay to go in during the holiday). While I was taking a few pictures, a lady emerged from a group of locals and came up to Darlene holding her phone. Having been to many touristy places, we knew the drill – people come up to you asking to take a picture of their group. Darlene reached for the phone. The lady pulled it away. She then grabbed Darlene’s arm, handed her phone to her friend and smiled while the new lady took their picture. Then another lady wanted her picture with Darlene. Guys then came up to me trying to get their picture with me. We had no idea what they were saying, but we can guess it was something like, Let’s get our picture taken with the giants.
Though we were enjoying the sites, it was time to head back to the train station to catch a train back to Bangkok. When we arrived, we saw our train pulling away. I went to the window to get tickets for a later train. We could leave in an hour and half for 345 baht or in two hours for 15 baht . Easy decision. Now that we had two hours to kill, we decided to find someplace to eat. This time, instead of street food, we decided to eat at a real restaurant. We found what looked to be the nicest looking place, a minute or two from the train station.
I ordered Thai curry with chicken. It was a strange mix of spicy, sweet and tangy that was a taste sensation like nothing I had ever had before. It’s one of my favorite meals ever – well worth the experience for only 60 baht ($1.86) each.
To end our day, we boarded our train back to Bangkok, and even got to sit the entire 90 minutes for our 43 cents.
Summary: Trip to Ayutthaya
In my opinion Ayutthaya is a must see if you are in Bangkok, especially if you like ancient sites. There are so many temples spread around the Ayutthaya Archaeological complex, you could spend a whole day here.
The one temple that we regret missing was Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. It supposedly has a lot of Buddha statues. It’s a little out of the way so you may need that tuk-tuk driver.
Take the train as it is super cheap and easy. Ayutthaya can be done in a day from Bangkok.
Ayutthaya is walkable if you don’t mind walking a lot, but if you would rather not, you can hire a tuk-tuk for about 200 baht ($6) per hour.
Our trip to Ayutthaya was our favorite part of our trip to Bangkok.