The once glorious capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom during its reign from 1351 to 1767 is now a collection of ancient temples and ruins.
Its prosperity is gone, its majesty extinguished by the test of time, but the stories it is willing to tell won’t be denied. Within the walls of its magnificent ruins lies lessons of history and a glimpse of how the Thai monarchs came to pass. For tourists who are seeking an immersive historical adventure about Thailand, – Ayutthaya – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – would be the best place to start.
It is without a doubt that most, if not all, of the attractions in Ayutthaya are linked to its cultural and historical significance. But, it is mesmerising to know that even if you visit a spree of temples, you won’t get bored marveling and learning how and why it was constructed. The picturesque locations of the temples also help in its mysterious beauty. The Wat Chaiwatthanaram and the Bang Pa-In Palace are examples of these. On the other hand, stories can always be heard from tour guides as you visit these places – especially Wat Phra Mahthat where a large stone Buddha head is locked in the trunk of a colossal fig tree. After taking your time in these historical sites, you can then explore and shop in their floating market and purchase some arts and crafts at their many crafts shops. You can also enjoy other activities such as river kayaking or an elephant ride. Lastly, tourism has made Ayutthaya inculcate in their society the concept of a nightlife – numerous bars and cafes open and serve well into the night and even feature their own entertainment.
Ayutthaya has no international airport of its own and the nearest one is in Bangkok. Therefore, the fastest way to reach Ayutthaya is to get a flight that lands in Bangkok’s Don Mueang International Airport. From Bangkok, you have 4 options to reach Ayutthaya. The most affordable is via a 2-hour train ride from Hualamphong Station. You can also take a 90-minute bus ride bus from Mo Chit Station. Mini-vans also hang around the Victory Monument waiting for passengers to Ayutthaya, travel time takes about an hour with this option. Lastly, you can opt for taxis for a convenient ride, rates can be negotiated with the driver. Also note that trains can be considered as the most affordable, while taxis can be the most expensive.
You can find a number of ATMs and banks in the city centre that caters to every tourists’ need. Money changers are also prevalent such locations, so you can negotiate for a better rate. Just remember that you might not have ready access to these the moment you embark on tours to the various historical sites. Establishments that are willing to accept and honour card transactions are also rare, so it’s best to bring enough cash.
November to February are be the best months to visit Ayutthaya as the temperatures are manageable and the probability of rain is extremely low, as November is also the start of the dry season. March and May are still part of the dry season, but temperatures can shoot up. And since visiting sacred sites require reverent clothing, this might prove difficult. On the other hand, the rainy season starts in June, climaxes in September, and concludes in October, so visiting during these months might prove to be challenging.
Ayutthaya’s transportation sector is quite simpler than different tourist spots. Yet, this simplicity is part of the city’s charm. Tuk-tuks are the most common means to enjoy temple jumping – they’re the most affordable too. Taxis are also present in the area and while they are willing to negotiate the price for a day of quick temple-jumping, they might still prove to be the most expensive. Bicycle rentals are also becoming a thing in the area when the weather is fine, especially from November to February. Lastly, nothing beats good old exercise: walking is still the most economical means of transport especially when the weather’s good and manageable.
Located in central Thailand, Ayutthaya’s cuisine is defined by the best of the different tastes of Eastern, Western, Northern and Southern Thais. Seafood, especially giant river prawns are the bestsellers in the area – so much so, when steamed and flavoured with salt and sugar. Locals also don’t shy away from using a lot of meat in their soup dishes. Delicious steamed or deep-fried noodles are waiting for you in restaurants after a long day of exploring. Trendy and statement cafes are also on the rise – offering their own special treats and coffees with a touch of Thai tastes. Still, even on this wide spectrum of flavours, you can still see or taste the Thai’s love in everything creamy and spicy. The richness of coconut milk is evident in most curried, broth, or sauced dishes; while the hot, peppery sensation of chilli and spices scorch tourists’ tongues as they enjoy seafood, meat, even vegetarian meals.
Ayutthaya’s heydays may have long gone, but you can’t deny that it is slowly building up a new type of glory in our modern age. And, what honour it would be to witness and experience such rewriting of history. So, make sure to include Ayutthaya in your travel goals.