A Thailand Day Trip to the Ruins of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was once the biggest city in the world before it was taken over and mostly destroyed suddenly in the 1700s. What remains from this magnificent old city is scattered around the new Ayyuthaya, which has been built up around the old temples and structures. This is a fantastic day trip from Bangkok and doesn't have to cost much at all, in fact a day up in Ayyuthaya is probably going to be less than you'd spend in Bangkok, all the while being a nice change of pace allowing you to see some of the Thai countryside and take in some fascinating history. There are a handful of blogs that I gathered information from before embarking on our journey to Ayyuthaya, below is my take on the best and easiest way to see these ruins.

First off, you've just got to find a way there. You can take a variety of different modes of transport to Ayyuthaya, but I'm only covering what I did and what I believe is the best way to go for backpackers. If you like trains, you're in luck because that is the best way to travel to Ayyuthaya and can be as cheap as 15 baht, which is about .50  each way. That's right, a dollar can get you a round trip. Some of the 'quicker' trains might cost 35-50 baht, but they'll save you a half hour at most probably. From Bangkok, you need to get to the Hualomphong train station. We took a Grab (the Uber of southeast Asia) but a local taxi would work as well or, if you're really feeling ambitious, try to find a local bus but I'd rather take this the quickest and easiest way with cabs and Grabs being so cheap in the capital. Once you're in the train station just go up to any of the counters and tell them Ayyuthaya (pronounced like EYE-YOU-TIE-UH more or less!) Trains leave basically hourly throughout the day, so you should not have to wait long once you get your tickets. There aren't a ton of platforms so you will have no issue finding you train. Get a seat, slide the window down and relax. These trains make lots of random stops and being late is common so don't worry if you randomly stop for 10 minutes somewhere.

Once you arrive in Ayyuthaya and exit the train station, you'll probably find some people offering maps and tourist info. The maps should be free so pick one up if you don't already have one, otherwise you can most likely get one from your bicycle shop. Ignore all the tuk tuk drivers and head straight out from the station towards the river. There's a long road, more like an alley, that goes all the way to the water. There are some shops here where you can rent a bike if you desire, otherwise wait until you cross the river and get one over there. At the end of this alley, you can get tickets for the ferry. It's like 5 baht/person and takes you across to the island part of Ayyuthaya where most all of the ruins are. Once you're on the island, use your phone's GPS and search for Tour with Thai, they've got decent bikes to rent for the day for 2 dollars. Nothing fancy, but you don't need anything extravagant here either. The lady working there spoke good English and helped us plot a solid route on the map and we were on our way. The traffic here is pretty crazy, but felt kind of like Bangkok light. You'll be fine as long as you pay attention and just try to stick to the side of the roads. Drivers were pretty courteous and I never once felt in any danger on the roads. To the contrary, biking around a foreign country halfway around the world is an exhilarating experience and truly adds a layer to the memories of what will surely be a great day on your trip.

Now to the reason you're in Ayyuthaya - the ruins. Most of the sights worth seeing cost to get into. They are about 50 baht/person/site. They also have an option to get a 6 ruin pass for something like 200 baht (about 6 USD) which is the best deal and will save you money if you follow the typical biker's route as it covers all of the main stops. It also will save you time, so you can just get it stamped and walk right on in rather than buying an entrance pass at each place.

Just to be thorough, these are the temples that I consider to be must sees within biking distance on a one day trip (there are other further out of the city that either require more time or a tuk tuk):

  • Wat Chai Wattanaram (river side peaceful setting, impressive ruins)
  • Wat Mahathat (buddha head in tree)
  • Wat Ratchaburana
  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet
  • Wat Lokayasutharam (the huge reclining Buddha here is pretty cool)
  • Wat Phra Ram 

We spent about 5-6 hours total with our bikes exploring these sites. That includes the 30ish minute cool down break we took at a cafe about halfway through and a picnic supper. You could allow yourself more time if you want to go slower, but you could probably also save time if you take a few less pictures than we did (mainly just me)! We were there in mid June and the weather was fine other than the intense heat and ridiculous humidity which you just have to accept and deal with in this part of the world. Once you get further away from the city center, it becomes harder to find food or snacks so you may want to load up before venturing too far so you can refuel your body midway through the afternoon.

The crowds were not bad at all, in fact some of the sites we had entirely to ourselves which was great for photo taking. We ran into a lot of people at Wat Mahathat around the buddha head in the tree(which, for the record, is one of the most photographed spots in all of Thailand...they still don't know exactly how the head got into the tree like this!) but everyone got their turns posing in the famous spot. Rumor has it that in the high season there are more crowds and it can be better to arrive early in Ayyuthaya to avoid some of the tour buses, but I can't speak to that as we didn't deal with that at all!

We visited Wat Chai Wattanaram (pictured above) last in the day and it was perhaps the most spectacular of all. On the way in, we stopped at a 7/11 (they are everywhere in Thailand!) and grabbed some food to make our own little picnic at the ruins. It was a great experience and was nice to slow down and absorb the awesome, tranquil riverside setting. From here, it was a 20-30 minute ride back to the store to drop our bikes off and catch the ferry back off the island to the train station. Note that this time you pay when getting off the ferry rather than before you board. Once you depart on your train, just relax and enjoy the sun setting over the Thai countryside while reflecting on the unforgettable experiences you just had. You can be back in Bangkok in time to grab a snack, drink or a massage for your worn out body or maybe all of the above!

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