Ayutthaya,* the ancient capital of Siam, is 80km north of Thailand’s present-day capital city and makes for an excellent day trip from Bangkok. Better still if you have the time, spend a night here before heading further north to Sukhothai or Chiang Mai. Steeped in history, Ayutthaya was ravaged by the Burmese in 1767 and the city was abandoned. The impressive remains of the historic temples form a dramatic backdrop to this pleasant riverside city.
*you may also see the name written as Ayudaya, Ayutaya, Ayuddhaya and various other combinations.
What to see & do
There are numerous sights and ancient temples scattered around Ayutthaya. These can be visited as part of an organised tour or alternatively it’s easy enough to hire a bicycle for independent exploring. Tuk-tuks can also be hired to take you to the main sites and within the main Ayutthaya Historical Park there is an option for elephant rides. Three rivers (the Prasak, Chao Phraya and Lopburi) actually encircle the old temples and it’s possible to take a boat trip once you are in Ayutthaya that takes in some of the main sights.
Where to stay
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Many tourists visit Ayutthaya on a day trip from Bangkok and consequently there has been no boom in building upmarket hotels, which has helped to preserve the quiet charm of the city. Much of the accommodation near the ancient temples is of the cheap and cheerful type with anything grander tending to be slightly further away. As with many places in Thailand, the city has an issue with stray dogs. However, the problem appears to be more severe in Ayutthaya when at night they can form into aggressive looking packs. To avoid any potential problems opt for a motorbike taxi or tuk-tuk at night to or from your accommodation.
Train from Bangkok
From Hualamphong train station in Bangkok it is approximately a 90 minute train journey to Ayutthaya. A one-way ticket ranges from 15 Baht to 66 Baht depending on how much comfort you require (the cheapest seats in 3rd class are hard wooden ones). On arrival at Ayutthaya train station, head out of the main entrance and make the short trip by foot to the pier where a ferry takes passengers across the Pasak River. Most of the main sights and accommodation are located on the other side of the Pasak River.
Train timetable and fares from Bangkok to Ayutthaya (see Northern Line)
Buses for Ayutthaya depart at regular intervals throughout the day from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal at Mo Chit. Depending on traffic and number of stops, journey time can range from 1.5-2 hours with a fare of between 35-45 Baht.
Mini-vans depart from Victory Monument in Bangkok and take approximately an hour to get to Ayutthaya with an average fare of 60 Baht. This is an option if you are travelling light, but be warned that there isn’t much room on board for luggage and some of the drivers seem to be in training for a future career in Formula 1 racing.
In the absence of a public passenger boat service to Ayutthaya, a number of private companies fill the void by operating tours. A typical day tour from Bangkok involves a cruise to Ayutthaya, lunch, a tour of the main temples and a return trip by road.