Ayutthaya Travel Guide

Ayutthaya Overview

Ayutthaya Thailand was once the royal capital of Siam and the center of an international trade route between India and China. Nearly every foreign traveler who visited remarked that it was the most illustrious city they had ever seen, a place of gold buildings and giant fleets of merchant vessels loaded down with treasure. A vast complex of temples, palaces, homes and places of business, Ayutthaya did brisk business between the years 1350 to 1769, when it was sacked and burned almost to the ground by the Burmese. For centuries looters had their way with the ruins, but in recent decades new efforts have been expended to restore this important cultural and national site. Ayutthaya is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Eighty-five kilometers (1.5-2.5 hours) north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya can be an alternate home base away from the madness of Bangkok, a day trip from the city, or the first stop on further explorations north. Ayutthaya is an island surrounded by three rivers; this is why it was such an excellent trade location back in the day. It gets very hot in this area of Thailand, so plan your visits to the ruins away from the mid-day sun. A road rings the island and you will find most of the ruins on the northwestern end while the hotels and nightlife are on the northeastern part.

 

Things to do in Ayutthaya

The main attraction in Ayutthaya is of course the extensive ruins of the ancient capital, symbols of the former glory and power of the nation. Bike rental is a fun way to explore the many prangs (reliquary towers) and wats (temples) of the island or you can always jump on a tuk-tuk (three-wheeled taxi vehicle). If you are touring the ruins on your own instead of with a guide, be sure to grab a map so you can find your way around.

 
A guide however is highly recommended, because when you know the stories behind the stones, the ruins cease to be crumbling rocks and instead come to life, rich in historical meaning and architectural heritage. Mostly temples and palaces remain, as these were only buildings made of stone that could withstand the destruction wrecked in 1769. Wat Pra Si Sanphet is the largest, and Wat Phra Maha That features rows of headless Buddhas and leaning prangs, creating a mystical vibe to the silent stones.
 
Off the island you will find traces of the foreign nations that once traded with the rich city; foreigners were not allowed to camp on the island and therefore all the remains are on the banks of the other side of the river. Nightlife options are limited but do exist at Ayutthaya, although if this is your focus you will be much happier sleeping in Bangkok and just doing a day trip to this ancient city of ruins.

Hotels in Ayutthaya

Ayothaya Riverside Hotel: contemporary hotel on river, spacious rooms w/AC & views

Ludia on the River Hotel: peaceful and cozy, on the river, nice pool, outdoor bathrooms
River View Place Hotel: slightly dated but very comfortable, huge rooms, right on river
Krungsri River Hotel: large hotel on river, can walk from train station, some good views
Lima Place Hotel: further out but great value, big hotel, quiet & comfortable, bike rentals
Kantary Hotel & Apartments: 4* hotel w/ rooftop pool, nice gym and excellent rooms

Ayutthaya Weather

Ayutthaya Travel Resources

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This page was last modified on 18 Mar 2011 by Matt