A former mighty capital city of Siam, Ayutthaya was once amongst the biggest and most powerful cities in the world. With an abundance of spectacular temples and other ruins scattered all around the town, it is easy to imagine the grandeur from times gone by. The heart of the town is home to many fantastic historical sites, with the historical park having been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Whilst the evocative ruins are the main reason that most tourists visit Ayutthaya, there are several other interesting things to do around the town. Have fun discovering Ayutthaya with these brilliant activities and attractions:
1. Visit Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
A large and atmospheric temple, rows of Buddha statues clad in saffron and golden wraps line the walls of the courtyard. At the centre of the courtyard is a tall and impressive pagoda, also wrapped in gleaming golden cloth. Two big seated Buddha statues are elevated either side of the pagoda, their serene faces watching the bustling crowds below. The complex also contains a beautiful reclining Buddha, many other statues, and a number of small shrines. One shrine is particularly interesting with its colourful offerings of toys and children’s games. Wat Yai Chai Mongkol is often shortened to simply Wat Yai.
2. Explore Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat boasts crumbling ruins and many headless Buddha statues. They lost their heads during Burmese invasions of the ancient city, when looters lopped off the gold-covered heads to melt down the precious metal. There are chedis in various states of preservation, a large Buddha statue, complete with its head, swaddled in an orange cloth, and precariously leaning columns that look as though they are on the verge of collapsing. A photogenic and picturesque place, it is famous for a stone Buddha head encased in a tree trunk. It costs just 50 THB (approximately 1.50 USD) for non-Thai citizens to enter.
3. Take a boat trip along the rivers
Drift along the rivers that surround the main “island” of Ayutthaya and enjoy a different perspective of the town. As well as seeing many temples and ruins close to the river banks, you will also see traditional Thai homes raised up on stilts close to the water’s edge. It’s not uncommon to receive a few cheery waves from locals as you pass by. People fish in the waters and you might even spot majestic elephants grazing in the fields and drinking from the river. There are several companies located around the town that arrange boat trips.
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4. Tour the town at night
Several of the main temples are lit up at night, the lights casting an ethereal glow over the spectacular remains. Even if you have visited the sites by day, it is still well-worth seeing them by night … the views are completely different. Whilst it is possible to hop on a bicycle or scooter for your own D-I-Y night tour, an easy way to appreciate the glowing beauties is to strike a deal with a tuk tuk. The price will largely depend on your bargaining skills, but you should expect to pay around 300 THB (approximately 8.50 USD) for the vehicle. A trip will take around an hour to an hour and a half.
The driver will stop outside the temples, giving you plenty of time to take photos from the outer walls. (You cannot enter the grounds during the dark.) Night time highlights include Wat Ratchaburana, with its soaring pagoda, Wat Lokayasutha, with its striking reclining Buddha, and the four marvelous chedis of Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
5. Shop at Ayutthaya Floating Market
Ayutthaya Floating Market offers an array of tempting goods, with clothes, souvenirs, carvings, pictures, and more. It is also a great place to taste a delicious assortment of Thai food, with snack carts cooking up fresh treats in front of your eyes and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the views and ambience. Although most vendors are housed within wooden buildings alongside the wooden walkway, a boat trip on the water is a good way to get a feel for this once-popular method of selling and buying. Don’t be alarmed if you hear booming cannon fire and loud shots being fired … there are regular reenactments of the ancient city’s past battles. Performers in period costumes can be seen in small wooden boats and in the theatre. It may not be worth actually paying to attend the indoor show, however, as performances are only conducted in Thai.
6. Watch a water show at Klong Sa Bua
Enter a magical waterside world where graceful and elegant performers seemingly glide on the surface of the shimmering water as they act out scenes from popular Thai folklore and the country’s fascinating past. Stunning costumes and enchanting music are standard! Wooden boards just below the water’s surface support the performers as you watch in awe. Relax at one of the wooden tables and dine on a wide selection of Thai dishes as you enjoy the captivating show.
Even more Ayutthaya fun
Take a trip to Bang Pa In Palace, within the wider Ayutthaya province, and marvel at the eclectic selection of architecture and beautifully groomed grounds. Combining traditional Thai elements with European and Chinese influences, the pagodas, pavilions, halls, and statues are sure to enchant.
See the remains of Phom Phet, a once-important defensive and protective fortress alongside the river. Take time to see the numerous exhibits and displays in museums such as the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, the Thai Boat Museum, and Chandrakasem National Museum. See how the city previously attracted people from all over the world at old foreign settlements like the Portuguese, Dutch, and Japanese Settlements. Experience the smells, sights, sounds, and hustle and bustle of the busy night market – a perfect place for dinner!
Within easy reach of Bangkok by bus, minivan, taxi, or train, take a few days to enjoy a journey back into the past at captivating and attractive Ayutthaya.
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