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Introducing Ayutthaya
This once-prosperous Siamese trade and political capital goes down as the most glorious as well as the most devastated city in Thai history. Still, tourism is healthy, as the city is bursting with stories to tell. Wandering through endless ancient ruin sites, you can’t help but feel humbled by the ingenuity of the Ayodha craftsmen and their powerful spiritual beliefs.
At the centre of Ayutthaya City is Ayutthaya Historical Park – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – the most visited site in the area. Here, the four spectacular temples of the early Ayutthaya period (1350 – 1529) stand amongst a dense canopy of ancient trees. West of it is the site of the Royal Palace and Royal Chapel (WatPhra Si Sanphet) – the political and spiritual heart of the lost kingdom.

Apart from touring Ayutthaya’s history and temples, your visit can be filled with something more recent in terms of the cultural contexts such as the Ayodha Floating Market, KrirkYoonpan’s Million Toys Museum, Ayutthaya Boat Museum or the Bang Sai Royal Folk Art and Crafts Center. Ayutthaya also has its own backpacker strip, on NaresuanSoi 1 and Soi 2, where you can find a whole host of affordable western food outlets and bike rental businesses.

Things to do and see in Ayutthaya

Bang Pa-In Summer Palace
Constructed during the reign of King Prasat Thong (1629-1656), this riverside palace complex (20km south of Ayutthaya) is set in a lovely landscaped lake garden that was once an island itself. The royal chronicle recorded only one building – AisawanThiphaya-art Royal Residence – during King Prasat Thong’s time. Abandoned after Ayutthaya fell, it was revived by King Rama IV (r. 1851-1868) who commissioned additional buildings to be constructed in an eclectic style that blends European neoclassical and Victorian architecture with Early Ayutthaya and Chinese palace styles.

Opening Hours: 08:30 – 17:00 (last entry 15:30)
Location: Bang Pa-In District, about 20km south of Ayutthaya City
How to get there: Hire a tuk-tuk from the train station or take the train
Chan Kasem Palace
This enclosed palace complex at the confluence of the Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers was the royal residence of King Naresuan the Great in 1577 and several subsequent crown princes. But the buildings you see are a reconstruction of the old palace, as it was accidentally burned down during King Boromakot’s reign (1733- 1758). Today, the palace is a museum with permanent exhibits on the history of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and personal artifacts of King Rama IV, who commissioned the construction of the new palace buildings.

Opening Hours: 09:00 – 16:00
Location: U-Thong Road, opposite Hua Ro Market
How to get there: From Naresuan Bridge (Highway 309), turn right into U-Thong Road and continue about 1km.
KhlongSraBua Floating Market
More of a cultural theatre than a functional market, KhlongSraBua Floating Market is a replica of the ancient KhlongSraBua village, a community of clay potters and home to an important river trade route north of town. Today the replica village brings a slice of the ancient village to life, with an addition of fascinating performances on its water stage – the main highlight of the floating market. The performances depict various scenes from traditional Thai folk tales, boat songs and stage dramas, which can rarely be seen today. Admission fee includes a buffet lunch and five shows.

Opening Hours: 10:00 – 17:30 (Sat, Sun and public holidays)
Location: KhlongSraBua, north of Ayutthaya Historical Park, opposite King Naresuan the Great Monument .
How to get there: From Pa Thon Road, turn right into KhlongTho Road and continue across the bridge into Highway 309. When you see King Naresuan Monument on your left, the floating market will be on your right.
Thai Boat Museum
Thai Boat Museum
Ayutthaya is home to Thailand’s most skilled boat builders. In the past, the city had more klongs (canals) than roads, and boats used to be the main mode of transport. This private museum belongs to PhaithunKhaomala, a renowned boat modeler and former boat builder. His extensive collection, mostly constructed with teakwood and iron Malabar wood, ranges from Thai and Chinese trade junks, rice barges and market boats to miniature Royal Barges. Some of them are more than 100 years old.

Opening Hours: 08:00 – 17:00 (by appointment only)
Location: Bang Ian Road, just off Chikun Road, opposite WatMahathat
Tel:+66 (035) 241 195
How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Chikun Road and, before you reach WatMahathat, make another right into Bang Lan Road
WatMahathat
Believed to be the spiritual centre of Early Ayutthaya Period, WatMahathat was the royal ceremonial ground for both religious and non-religious affairs before King Trailoknat replaced it with WatPhra Si Sanphet. Built before Ayutthaya became the Siamese capital, the temple features a Khmer-style prang (now collapsed) which used to enshrine a miniature casket containing the Buddha’s relics (now on display at Chao Sam Phraya Museum).
Apart from the principal prang, WatMahathat is the site of the lone Buddha's head entrapped by the roots of an overgrown banyan tree – today a popular icon of Ayutthaya. The head is closely guarded around the clock, and even the slightest gesture of disrespect (e.g. taking photographs while standing over the Buddha’s head) will not be tolerated.

Location: Ayutthaya Historical Park, corner of Chikun and Naresuan Roads
How to get there: From Rojana Road, turn right into Chikun Road and continue straight until you reach Naresuan Road
Wat Na Phramen
This was the only temple left intact at the time Ayutthaya fell, as it was used as a military headquarters by the Burmese army. It houses a beautiful Buddha image inside, fully decorated in regal attire, which is the signature style of the Late Ayutthaya Period. The main chapel boasts an ornate hand-carved wooden gable and baluster windows which is a unique architectural feature of the Middle Ayutthaya Period (1488 – 1629).

Location: North of the Royal Palace, across the river to the outer city area
How to get there: From the Royal Palace, head north on Naresuan Road and cross the bridge, then continue about 20 metres and the temple is on your left.
WatPhanunchoeng
Existing well before King U-Thong founded the Ayutthaya Kingdom, the temple houses a revered Buddha image dating back to 1324 and an ornate Chinese shrine dedicated to an Ayodhya Queen. This area used to be occupied by Chinese merchants, who transformed it into a lively commercial area with goods from China, including gold, porcelain and Chinese silk.
The temple contains a large bronze Buddha image – the oldest in Ayutthaya – built in 1325. Walk around the main chapel to the riverside and pay respect to the Queen at the Chinese shrine. It is widely believed that the queen will fulfill a wish of those in search of a soul-mate.

Location: Southeastern bank of the Chao Phraya River, off Highway 3477, outer city
How to get there: From Highway 309, turn left at the chedi roundabout into Highway 3477
Boat Trips
Faster and more flexible than river cruises in terms of sightseeing routes, a long-tail boat trip offers a fun alternative to exploring Ayutthaya’s scenic riverside. These narrow boats can navigate through the narrow khlongs (canals), reaching temples and attractions located further inland. If this sounds like a good plan, head over to PomPhet Pier, WatPhanunchoeng Pier or the pier in front of ChantaraKasem National Museum to charter a long-tail for the day. The fare depends on the route and duration of your journey.
Cycling and Night Cycling
Besides elephant rides, cycling is a great way to explore the areas around Ayutthaya Historical Park. With the ruin sites relatively close to each other, peddling on two wheels doesn’t feel like a physical challenge but rather a pleasant and enjoyable experience. Outside the park, it could be quite a challenge to ride around due to the narrow roads and busy traffic but it’s still manageable. For something completely different and memorable, try riding around the park at night. After sunset, Ayutthaya turns into a magical place, with a splendid backdrop of the ruin sites at twilight painting the skyline. You can only experience this kind of magic here.
Elephant Rides and Mahout Training
Another activity that’s worth considering if you are thrilled by the thoughts of exploring Ayutthaya’s temple ruins on elephant back. Opposite KhumKhunPhaen in the Ayutthaya Historical Park, Ayutthaya Elephant Camp offers elephant rides as well as daily shows and feeding from 9:00 to 17:00. Ayodhaya Elephant Village (next to Ayodhaya Floating Market) has overnight mahout training programmes, in addition to elephant riding trips to nearby temples, for those interested to get real close up and personal with a pachyderm.
Horse-drawn Carriage Tour
Ideal for families with children as well as couples, the horse-drawn carriage tour of temples and historical monuments is a fun alternative to elephant rides. You might want to shop around for the right price and carriage design that appeals to you (some are covered, others not). Each carriage can carry two to three persons, and the areas to look for them are around WatPhra Ram in Ayutthaya Historical Park and behind King U-Thong Monument (near WatPhra Si Sanphet).

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