Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Thailand and an absolute paradise for tourists that love their history. Founded in 1350 it was the capital city of the Siamese Kingdom for over four hundred years. During this time is was one of the world’s leading urban areas and a center of commerce.
In 1767 the city came under heavy attack from the Burmese, an attack that the city was powerless to prevent and one that ended with the city being burned to the ground. Today there are many ruins from this bygone era to explore, with so much to keep you entertained as you join the other tourists on an intriguing journey. Below is a list of the top things to do in Ayutthaya.
1. Visit The Heart Of The Old Capital – Wat Phra Si Sanphet
King Borommatrailokanat decided in 1448 that he wanted a temple to be built that would become the centerpiece of his palace home. The temple was built and a few years later a sixteen metre tall image of Buddha was cast and covered in gold. The temple was classed as royal so there were no monks living there and it was rarely used except for royal engagements. The roof of the temple has five tiers and each was covered in gold. In 1767 as part of the Burmese invasion the temple was mostly destroyed and the gold melted down and taken, now the ruins of this once incredible place are all that remain.
2. Amuse Yourself With The History That Beholds Wat Ratchaburana
When King Intharacharthirat died in the fourteen hundreds, it was decided among two of his sons that they would have an elephant duel to see who would take over the throne. Both sons died in the dual which left the throne to Chao Sa Phraya, the third son, he ordered the building of this wat as a mark of remembrance to his father and two brothers. In 1957 the crypt was robbed and much loot was stolen, luckily most was recovered and you can see what is left as your descend deep inside the crypt, also inside the crypt are many frescoes telling the story of Buddha’s life.
3. Survey The Ruins Of Wat Mahathat
This large temple complex started being constructed in approximately 1370, just a little while after the city of Ayutthaya was founded. Originally Wat Wahathat was the most important temple in the city, royal events would always be performed here and the supreme patriarch monk called this place his home. During the Burmese attacks a lot of the temple was ransacked and destroyed leaving the ruins of the temple that we see today. This is not the most beautiful of places to see and not the most photogenic, but its place in the history of the city and country makes it worth a visit.
4. See The Remaining Treasure At Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum is a good place to visit to see various artifacts and pieces of jewellery that were not ransacked by the Burmese. In fairly recent years there have been some quite interesting discoveries such as some gold items that were uncovered in the excavations at Wat Mahathat. There are various stone Buddha heads and other less high profile discoveries on display in the museum as well.
5. Witness A Pilgrimage At Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
One of the most popular temples in the city is Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, the history of the temple is also of equal interest. King Naresuan added a chedi to the Wat to commemorate a historic victory over the Burmese in the 17th century, it was at this battle that the king was said to have killed a Burmese crown prince with his spear. Around the outside of the temple sit many stone Buddha’s in the seated position, all of which are in excellent condition. The central chedi is climbable and from the top you can look out over the city for some fantastic views. Many Thai Buddhists come to this temple for their pilgrimage and there are constantly Buddhists burning incense and circling the chedi for good fortune.
6. Observe Traditional Culture At Wat Na Phra Men
Unlike so many of the temples that were destroyed by the Burmese this one managed to escape being damaged, the Burmese instead used it as the base from where they would attack the others. The focal point of the temple is a large statue of Buddha made entirely of gold. The temple is still very active in the community and when you visit you will see there are many locals here observing their traditional customs. At the weekend the temple is exceptionally busy as people come to make offerings to Buddha throughout the day.
7. Enjoy The Battle Scenes At Wat Suwan Dararam
Sitting close to where the Pasak River and the Chao Phraya River meet is Wat Suwan Dararam. This temple is famous for its paintings, the most famous painting is of a battle that involved King Naresuan, in the painting he is sat on top of an elephant as he battles with the Burmese. The main Buddha image in this temple is a stone copy of the Emerald Buddha (the most famous Buddha icon there is) that currently sits in Bangkok.
8. Take In The Sites At Bang Pa-in Palace
King Rama V used to like spending his holidays at this palace, until one day he found it was in need of some renovation and had the entire site rebuilt so that it became what we see today. The buildings here are incredibly beautiful with intricate designs and well looked after gardens. As you enter the palace you can stop to read about the history of the Royal Family. Along the outer wall of the palace you may notice a row of small houses, these were the abodes where the Kings ‘lady friends’ would live.
9. Take A Pit Stop At The Foreign Quarters
At its height Ayutthaya would have seen visitors from all over the globe, many of which chose to live in the city and never leave. A trip to the foreign quarters will see you take in the British, Dutch, French and Portuguese quarters. There are several Catholic Churches in the area and in particular St Joseph’s Church is worth a visit. Along with all the European settlers there were several Japanese visitors as well, a trip across the Suan Phlu Canal will lead you to their properties.
10. Don’t ride an elephant
When you think of Thailand at some point you begin to think of elephants. While there are still a lot of tours offered that allow you to ride one, it is being criticized more and more as it is becoming clear how these elephants are beaten and tortured until their spirits are broken and they are willing to follow their trainers instructions.
Learn more on peta.com.
11. Go On A Boat Tour
Lots of travel agents in Ayutthaya will offer you a boat tour package to sail around the island, it is a great way to see some of the sites that are on offer. The boats are normally quite large and carry a group of tourists down the river, making stops at Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Putthaisawan and Wat Phanan Choeng. There is always something calming about taking a boat trip and with all the history that this city has on offer this is no exception. If you feel like taking a boat trip without any other tourists you can usually pick up a private driver from the pier and negotiate your own package.
12. Visit The Portuguese Settlement
Even back in the 1500s people were traveling from abroad to Thailand to discover new things and the first Europeans were the Portuguese. When they arrived in Ayutthaya they brought with them firearms and introduced the land to the delights of bread and eggs. The Portuguese were very popular with the Thai people as they would fight alongside the Thai’s in many battles with their neighbors. Much of the settlements no longer exist but you can visit one of their old buildings here and learn more about their way of life.
13. Enjoy The Muslim Quarters
Despite Thailand being predominantly Buddhist there are still some Muslim communities that live in harmony with the Buddhists. There are a few small mosques that are spread across the city in various locations, but there is also a small village next to the river that has housed Muslims for many centuries. It is a great place to explore and see a different community going about their daily lives. There are some fantastic food outlets here that are worth checking out as well.
14. Eat Roti Sai Mai
When the Portuguese came to Ayutthaya one of the things they introduced was eggs, over the years roti sai mai was developed and is now one of the most loved deserts in the city. The roti is lots of thin strands of sugar that are made in all different colors. The strands are then put inside a very thin crepe and wrapped up. The crepe is usually green in color and the coloring comes from the pandan leaf. There are many street stall across the city where you can try out this local favorite.
15. Eat Kuay teow Reua
Most commonly known as boat noodles and eaten across Thailand is Kuay teow Reua , Traditionally sampans would row up and down the river selling this product to the locals for their evening dinner, nowadays you can purchase this meal from many stands that sell their food on the sides of the road. The recipe is still the same as it was all those years ago, a broth that is tempered with pig’s blood and filled with whichever noodles you wish. In the broth is a selection of pork liver, pork balls, deep fried pork skin and greens. There are so many places to try this local speciality but it is said the best is served at Jaymoui restaurant on U-Thong Soi 12.
16. Chao Phrom Market
The Chai Phrom Market is different to many other markets you find across Ayutthaya as this one never closes and is a constant scene of action as the stall holders try and tempt you into buying their wares. You can get a lot of fresh produce here including fruits, vegetables, fish and meats. There are stalls selling electrical goods, household goods as well as cooked foods and cool drinks. Most of the stands open during the daylight hours but some remain open non-stop and others just open in the evening. It is a locals market so the prices are quite low as there are not too many tourists around.
17. Time For Some Cheap Drinks At Chang Restaurant
The nightlife in Ayutthaya is not the same as you get in some of the other major cities in Thailand, things here are more relaxed and chilled out. A popular drinking spot is the Chang Restaurant where locals and foreigners hang out together. The bar is mainly set outside where people sit on the road side and watch live sports on a big projection screen. There is a selection of Thai and Indian food available and all at prices less than you would pay in the bigger cities.
18. Drink With The Locals At Por Gun Ti Bar
An alternative to Chang Restaurant is Por Gun Ti Bar, there are a lot more Thai’s at this bar and you might be the only foreigners there when you arrive, this should not stop you from having a good time. The Bar is covered in fairy lights and being that the clientele are generally local a lot of people will be sitting around tables with a large bottle of spirit and some bottles of soda water to mix it. This is an excellent way to have a good time whilst keeping the costs down. If you are more into your cocktails there is an extensive list of available options, loud music is played throughout the evening creating an atmosphere of fun, certainly a place to check out before leaving the city.
19. Visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram
In 1630 King Prasat Thong returned from Cambodia after being victorious at battle and ordered that this temple be built to honor the victory. The temple is huge and one of the most impressive in the city, the large central prang stretches up into the sky and four smaller chedis surround it. There are 120 seated Buddha’s in the complex making this one of the biggest in the city as well. Situated by the Chao Phraya River it is best to visit either early morning or late in the afternoon when the positioning of the sun allows for the best photos to be taken.
20. Remember Your Childhood At The Million Toy Museum
In this historic city full of ruins and ancient artifacts you might not expect to find a place such as this, however it has been here for a long time and is very popular. The name suggests there may be a million toys in this museum which might be a slight exaggeration but there are certainly many thousands. Split over two floors in this large building are so many toys not just from Thailand but the world over. There are cars, space ships, McDonald’s toys, dolls, plush toys and every other type of toy you can think of. The museum was founded by Professor Krirk Yoonpun, a famous Thai author who still comes to the museum most weekends to read stories to the many children that visit.
21. Stay At Sala Ayutthaya
With all of the exploring there is to do when you are in the city you may get pretty tired, Sala Ayutthaya is a beautiful place to stay and somewhere that you can relax and be pampered. The luxury boutique accommodation has some fabulous rooms and non-better than the duplex’s that offer a private deck that opens onto the river and uninterrupted views of Wat Phutthaisawan. You can dine in style at the fabulous hotel restaurant that offers both local and international cuisine as well as an extensive wine list. Why not treat yourself when you next come to the city?
22. Play Golf at Ayutthaya Golf Club
When you feel like doing something different to wandering around ancient ruins of beautiful temples maybe you could stop for a round of golf at the Ayutthaya Golf Club. A golf course in pristine condition that has a full eighteen holes to play. You do not need to be a member and the prices are on a par with other courses in Thailand. For those that feel they have walked enough already you can hire an electric cart to take you around the course or a caddy of your own. After you have finished your round you can relax in the clubhouse or sauna before heading to the onsite restaurant for some dinner and drinks.
23. Come To The Floating Market
The Ayutthaya floating market is quite an experience and should be visited by everyone that comes to this great city, there are a selection of boats moving up and down the river as well as some that are moored to the sides, finally you get the stalls that are set up on the wooden walk ways at the side. In the centre of the river there are several boats that sell a selection of hot food that is cooked as their boats bob up and down. There are often unusual sights to be seen at this market such as people feeding the fish with a baby’s bottle or people paying to feed grass to a water buffalo. Everything is done here in a light hearted relaxed way so make sure you come for a visit.
24. Learn Some Dutch History At Baan Hollanda
Baan Hollanda is an informative museum that goes into detail about how the Dutch came to Holland and their time spent here in the 17th Century. One of the biggest pulls of this property is the small café that sells authentic Dutch coffee and other authentic Dutch foods such as Frikendal (sausages) and Bitterballen. Set down by the river this is a calming place and one to relax at.
25. Spend Time At Thai Boat Museum
The Thai Boat Museum is a real treasure trove of old Siamese boats. The museum is split over three areas. The ground floor in building one exhibits various traditional Siamese boats, many of which are more than a hundred years old and made from either Teak or Malabar wood. In building two the ground floor has a workshop to look around as well as a collection of boating miniatures showing of various royal barges. The final area is in the garden where you can view the bigger boats, these include rice barges, a scorpion tailed boat as well as the owner’s boat. If you are a boat lover this is an excellent place to visit.