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Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, often abbreviated to just Ayutthaya, was once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The name of the province translates to “a city that cannot be fought over and won in a war.” The location was chosen because it’s an island surrounded by three rivers that all connect the city to the Gulf of Thailand. This location also helps prevent it from seasonal flooding, as much of Thailand is prone to.
It is an official UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its proximity to Bangkok makes it an extremely popular stop as a day trip. The main industries here are rice, tourism, and river activities such as fishing.
Ayutthaya has a well known and well developed system of rigid city planning, consisting of roads, canals and moats all around the main structures of the city. The plan took full advantage of the city’s position in the midst of three rivers, and developed a hydraulic system for water management which even today, is extremely advanced and unique.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 when it became the second capital of Thailand, after Sukhothai. By 1700, Ayutthaya’s ideal location between China, India, and the Malaysian Archipelago made it a trading capital of Asia. It became an international trading hub for many in the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal as well as the Netherlands.
Much of this came to a crashing halt in 1767 when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya and tried, somewhat successfully, to burn it to the ground. After this occurred, the city was never quite rebuilt in the same location, and was left to be an archaeological site instead.
Ayutthaya’s ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the historical city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another province filled with historical relics, Saraburi is famous for its holy footprint of the Buddha. Also incredibly close to Bangkok, Saraburi is often on the path that people take to understand more about the history of Thailand. Stunning scenery, lush mountains and cultural diversity make this a worthy stop.
Famous for its scenic beauty as well as its waterfalls, Nakhon Nayok lays to the east of Ayutthaya. Khao Yai lays on the edges of this province, which makes it a great home base for activities such as hiking, trekking, rafting, kayaking, as well as exploring Khao Yai. Not a particularly popular tourist destination but well known by Thais, a visit to this province will provide you a different aspect of Thai life than you’d experience in the bigger cities.
The ultimate international metropolis, Bangkok is often many tourists’ first impression of Thailand. In Bangkok, you’ll want for absolutely nothing, as the city truly has it all. From giant shopping malls to basically every kind of international cuisine there ever was to smaller villages on the outskirts as well as endless street shopping and varieties of Thai food, Bangkok is one of the biggest and most visited cities in Southeast Asia.
Situated on the Chao Phraya River, this province is known for its orange plantations and endless maze of canals. Boat noodles are a famous dish that is commonly served here. Boat noodles are small bowls of noodles that are quite simple but delectable and varied. It’s a common activity for friends to go and try endless bowls of boat noodles, as the different varieties are fun, and since the portions are so small, most people are able to eat at least 5-10 bowls and still be able to have space for dessert.
Ayutthaya’s popularity on the tourist’s beaten trail makes it have accommodations for all kinds of travelers.
Perched in a convenient part of town right next to the Ayutthaya Historical Park, these serviced apartments feel just like home. With amenities that most business travelers would highly appreciate, such as a photocopy machine, cable TV, WiFi, room service, and airport transfers are available. This could definitely be a home away from home, or at the very least a great place to call home base as you explore the ruins of Ayutthaya.
The atmosphere lives up to the name in this homestay. The accommodations are simple, but the staff are known to be incredibly friendly and want to help you enjoy your stay to the max. You get basic toiletries daily, plus two bottles of water. The location is convenient to exploring the town, and it’s easy to get a tuk tuk for places that are too far to walk. You can also rent a bicycle or a motorbike from town.
A boutique hotel only 2.5km from the train station, this boutique hotel is a little on the outskirts so you can enjoy a bit of peace and quiet after a long day of exploring the town. The main attractions of the town are only about a 10 minute drive away. There’s a banquet room, conference rooms, and a restaurant on premise. This is a great place to hold a meeting or have a large number of people in, as their amenities are spacious and the staff gracious and friendly when you have requests or questions. A breakfast buffet is almost always included in their bookings, and the breakfast is quite extensive and for a variety of different tastes.
Located in a convenient place for travelers since it’s only a 5 minute ride from the Ayutthaya Train station, this homestay feels truly like home! The WiFi is good, and there is staff on site that can help guests with sightseeing tours. The Chaoprom Market is just a 2 minute walk away, as is the Ayutthaya Floating Market. There are both shared bathroom accommodations or ones with en suite bathrooms. There’s also a restaurant that serves up tasty traditional Thai dishes in case you don’t feel like leaving the hotel.
The closest airport to this province is in Bangkok. However, it is incredibly easy to use the train system once landing at Suvarnabhumi to access Ayutthaya. For more information on how to access via train, see below.
Train is the best way to reach Ayutthaya from Bangkok, as well as any other town connected by the railway. The trip from Bangkok takes between 1-2.5 hours depending on the type of train you take. Prices range from 20-250THB depending whether you’re in air conditioning or not. If you’re traveling during the day, the 3rd class train can be a bit rough, as it can be very hot and humid. However, for only 20 THB, it’s a unique experience and at worst, only lasts 2.5 hours.
Due to Ayutthaya’s history, it has a fantastic network of canals off the Chao Phraya River. This could be a unique way to get to this town, although by no means is it the most efficient way. Prices are high, and only available by private charter.
Buses depart every 30 minutes or so from the northern Mo Chit bus station in Bangkok. First class buses charge 60 THB. There are also buses that depart from Khao Sarn Road.
Minivans are also a good way to travel, especially if you’re in the Victory Monument area. They don’t particularly run on a schedule, they usually just leave when they’re full. The ride takes about 1-2 hours depending on traffic, and costs 60 THB.
The most popular attraction in Ayutthaya, as this historical park contains four temples - Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana – the Royal Palace and Wiharn Phra Mongkol Bophit. While there is no shortage of temples and ancient ruins in this part of town, this historical park does a good job maintaining the grounds and is a centered place to get your history lesson. Although not all of the temples still remain active, it is respectful to dress appropriately, meaning shoulders and knees are covered, and shoes are removed prior to entering temples. A good way to do this while not overheating is to bring a sarong and scarf so you can take them off when not in an active temple.
Opening hours: sunrise to sunset, daily.
Entrance fee: none to enter the park, although some of the active temples do charge 50 baht for entry into the temple.
A restored ruin of a Buddhist temple built during the Ayutthaya period. The Wat’s previous name was Wat Salak. Once Bangkok was established as the new capital of Siam, the temple suddenly became a strategic point between the Grand Palace and Front Palace. Therefore, the temple was used for royal ceremonies as well as funerals due to its strategic location. One of the most photographed places in Ayutthaya due to the Buddha head in the tree roots which has become popular with Western tourists. This is part of Ayutthaya Historical Park mentioned below but is highlighted due to its popularity.
Opening hours: 07:00 to 17:00, daily
Entrance fee: none
A great place to start learning about Dutch history in Thailand. The Dutch East India Company was founded in 1602 and arrived in Thailand to establish their first trading post in the Kingdom of Siam in 1608 in modern day Ayutthaya. There are many interesting artifacts and factual information presented in visually stimulating ways in the exhibits here. An easy way to spend a few hours learning history as well as hiding from the rain during rainy season.
Opening hours: Wednesday - Sunday, 09:00 to 17:00.
Entrance fee: The ground floor is free of admission. The second floor, which houses most of the exhibits, is 50 THB.
Founded in 1994 by professor Paitoon Khawmala, this museum shows the spiritual bond that many Thais have with rivers and boats. As time has passed, fewer and fewer people are interested in boats and the professor feared that soon the knowledge of boats and the traditional vessel wisdom would fade. Therefore, he created this museum to help conservation of boat materials as well as to help others learn more easily about his passion. A true glimpse into one of the oldest and most traditional trade crafts in Thailand.
Opening hours: 09:00 to 12:00, 13:00 to 17:00, daily
Entrance fee: donation based
A meal enjoyed while overlooking the river is a must do when in Ayutthaya due to its influence on the city’s rich history. The river was and still is a main aspect of livelihood in Ayutthaya. Historically, it made the location strategic for military purposes. Today, livelihoods depend on tourism, fishing, and other resources that the river provides. There are plenty of restaurants and shops along the river, make sure you bring plenty of cash to fully enjoy this attraction.
Opening hours: most restaurants are open 9am til 10pm.
Entrance fee: none
Homestays - this is a great place to learn more about the traditional Thai lifestyle and stay in a homestay with a family. They offer not only comfortable but also authentic living arrangements. Get a little out of your comfort zone and interact with friendly locals.
Arts and crafts - much of the arts and crafts that you find in incredibly touristy places such as Bangkok and Chiangmai tend to come from this region, so it’s a great idea to get some crafts from the source! Some farmers and craftsmen even come here specifically to learn their crafts. There’s an arts and crafts annual fair at the end of every January which is worth checking out if you’re around during that time.
Sarongs and scarves - since there are so many temples in this area, it’s a good idea to buy a sarong (large scarf) and carry it around with you as you make your way through Thailand. Sarongs have a multitude of uses; not only are they useful for covering shoulders and knees at temples, they’re also great for long trips in overly air conditioned vehicles such as buses and trains, and make a great small beach towel.