Somehow it took 5 Bangkok visits before we managed to squeeze in a day trip to Ayutthaya. Dazzled by pictures of the ruins of the glorious old city, Buddhas draped in orange sashes and its UNESCO World Heritage status, we were determined to make it 5th time lucky and so we set off from our hotel in Bangkok to the old capital of Thailand ready to explore Ayutthaya and its treasures. We were in for an amazing day!
It’s possible to pre-book a tour to Ayutthaya before arriving in Bangkok – click here for book your day trip.
Where to stay in Bangkok
We’ve spent over two months in Bangkok and have had the opportunity to sample some amazing hotels across the city. Our favourites include:
- Renaissance Bangkok Ratchaprasong Hotel: Our personal favourite hotel in Bangkok and is a real treat. It’s close to some amazing rooftop bars and shopping centres – Check prices here
- Riva Surya: great value and the river views are superb – Check prices here
- Cubic Hostel: is an awesome choice and the perfect option for travelers who love the social side of travel – Check prices here
- Aldephi forty nine: is fab value and perfectly located to hop on off the BTS Skytrain – Check prices here
Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon
Our first stop was the incredible Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon with its towering stupa, golden statues and rows of Buddhas in saffron robes. The giant reclining Buddha draped in cloth is spectacular and monks from the onsite monastery were milling around among the tourists.
The enormous stupa is visible across Ayutthaya and was constructed after King Naresuan defeated a Burmese crown prince during a battle on elephants at the end of the 16th Century.
The seated Buddhas surrounding the temple:
Golden Buddhas and worshippers:
Climbing the stupa to the gold leaf Buddha:
The Reclining Buddha:
Wat Phra Mahathat
It was the image of the Buddha head nestled in the tree roots that first drew us to Ayutthaya and Wat Phra Mahathat was everything it had promised in the photographs. The story goes that when Ayutthaya was defeated by the Burmese army the site was destroyed and the head of the Buddha fell to the ground where tree roots grew around it in the deserted temple.
Although the Buddha head is the most famous relic at Wat Phra Mahathat, we loved the entire complex and spent over an hour wandering around the ruins. The towering stupas and prangs sit alongside the headless Buddhas and give the site an almost eerie quality.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya and is situated in the former royal palace. The 3 distinctive stupas are the postcard image of Ayutthaya and are one of its most beautiful ruins. The size of the complex really opened our eyes to the scale of the old city and how magnificent it must have been in the past.
Phra Mongkhon Bophit
The chapel is situated next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet and is an active temple with a huge gold Buddha statue inside. The chapel is filled with many other smaller Buddha statues and boxes to make offerings and pledges.
We knew we had to visit Wat Lokkayasutharam as soon as we saw the image of the giant reclining Buddha. It’s a little off the tourist trail but the faded white Buddha is totally worth the short detour. Wat Lokkayasuetharam is a little more low key that the other Ayutthaya sites and the local women had set up stalls to sell flowers and incense which could be offered for good luck.
We finished our day with a visit to one of our favourite ruins, Wat Chaiwattanarm on the West Bank of the River. The complex, whose name means ‘The Temple of long reign and glorious era’, is incredible with towering prangs surrounded by stupa shaped chapels which are accessed by steep steps. The inside of the buildings are adorned in the remnants of wall paintings and ceiling decorations.
Templed out (as we like to describe our heads after a day checking out historical sights!) and having had an amazing day, it was time to return to the present day and the crazy city life of Bangkok!
Ayutthaya, once an ancient Thailand capital and the trading capital of Asia, was founded in 1350. In its day, Ayuthaya was filled with enormous monasteries, exquisite temples and gold filled palaces in a city considered one of the finest in the world. In 1767 the Burmese army invaded Ayutthaya and the city was destroyed. All that remains are the ruins of the old city which are preserved in its historical park and give a glimpse into the history of magnificent city that once stood in its ruins.
Given our love of UNESCO sites it was a bonus that part of Ayutthaya Historical Park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Locations in Ayuthaya
After arriving in Ayuthaya our first stop was Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon with its towering stupas and reclining Buddha. From there we went to Wat Phra Mahathat to see the Buddha head in the tree roots. We continued on to Wat Phra Si Sanphet and the Phra Mongkhon Bophit chapel and finished up at Wat Chaiwattanarm.
Getting to Ayutthaya
For more info on how we got to Ayutthaya by public transport check out this post.