City Guide: Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand and located in the Chao Phraya River valley. It is about a one-hour drive away from Bangkok, but can also be reached by boat. Ayutthaya was founded in 1351 when it was proclaimed the capital of U Thong’s kingdom. It was the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai.
In 1767, however, the city was destroyed by the Burmese. The former capital’s ruins are now a major historic site and preserved in the Ayutthaya historical park.
Bang Pa-In Palace
Before visiting Ayutthaya’s ruins, we made our way to Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, which nowadays serves as the Summer Palace of the Thai king. The palace is situated right next to the Chao Phraya River.
The palace was originally constructed in 1632 and later restored in the mid-19th century. Most of today’s buildings stem from Chulalongkorn’s reign. The different buildings of Bang Pa-In Palace are situated amid vast greenery, some overlooking the pond or the river.
Most parts of the palace remain open for visitors, but strict dress codes are enforced. Shoulders and legs need to be covered at all times during a visit of the premises. This is even stricter than in most temples, were men are at least allowed to wear shorts. But in case you aren’t prepared, you can easily buy one of the popular ‘elephant trousers’.
There is also a sort of historic cable-car you can use to get to the other side of the river.
On the other side of the river you find a church with Buddhist elements, which is quite a surprising building to find within Thailand as the church looks somewhat surreal among the Buddhist, golden temples.
Market in Ayutthaya
On a trip to Ayutthaya you should also not miss the traditional market, where you can find lots of local Thai crafts and food.
As we were visiting Ayutthaya with a Thai friend of mine, we instead opted for a small restaurant by the river where we tried several dishes.
Wat Maha That
After our lunch break, we made our way to the Wat Maha That, which is among the most popular sites to visit in the Ayutthaya Historic Parc. The temple grounds are huge.
Near the entrance, we found the iconic Buddha head in the tree roots, which is probably among the most photographed elements of the historic parc.
The other buddha statues that you can find in Wat Maha That do not have heads anymore, because they were cut off by Burmese during their attack.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Next on our sightseeing tour was the Phra Si Sanphet temple. Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the biggest and most beautiful temple in ancient Ayutthaya before it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767.
It is among the most well-preserved and intact temples in Ayutthaya offering beautiful views of its three stupas.
Wat Lokaya Sutha
The What Lokaya Sutha is located on the western side of the Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and is mainly known for its gigantic lying buddha.
It is 40 metre long and 8 metres high. While way smaller than the other temples, I’d recommend checking this special one out, too!
Our overall impression of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is definitely a very special historic place and I have never seen anything alike. It is a particularly fascinating contrast to the splendid, golden temples you can find in the rest of Thailand. We visited many sites during our day trip and were totally exhausted in the evening, but a trip to Ayutthaya is definitely worthwhile!
Have you been to Ayutthaya? What do you like most about the city?