Thailand is a country I stop talking about, especially when it comes to this particular set of ruins.
Thailand is home to an impressive history, and boasts some gorgeous ruins for you to explore. One ruin in particular that you're going to have to put on your bucket list is the Ayutthaya Ruins. If you're a tourist visiting for a week or so, you're likely not spending time exploring many of Thailand's hidden gems, which is why I wanted to spend more time in this country. I lived in Thailand for an entire semester and had plenty of time to see everything on my list, included the Ayutthaya Ruins.
Traveling around Thailand?
How about the chance to live there as a volunteer?
Because I was living here for a few months, I figured out how to get around — and what my favorite parts of the country were — and these ruins definitely top my list. I've got all the tips and tricks to make your visit happen, below:
- First, A Little History
What You'll Be Seeing
How To Explore The Ruins
Details (Entry Cost, Hours, Etc)
- How To Get Here
A Nearby Spot To See
First, A Little History
Sukhothai (we also love the Sukhothai Ruins BTW) was the first Siamese capital of Thailand, founded in 1238. Because Ayutthaya was a thriving city, it took over as capital and remained that way for 400 years. It acted as an extensive trading port with Europe and became a major piece of Thai's history.
In 1767 the Burmese attacked and left the city in ruins, devastated by fire. Many of those that were not killed in the attack were taken and forced into slavery. Most of the city was destroyed unfortunately, but what was left is still standing today.
What You'll Be Seeing
There is a lot to see in this temple complex, that lends to just wandering around and seeing what you can find. However, if you want to see the highlights, here are a few to make sure you see:
Wat Ratburana: Another one of the more popular temples, built way back in 1424 — while visiting, see if you can spot the three-headed serpent named Naga, or the secret set of stairs that lead down to a very secret crypt.
Wat Mahathat: This famous temple is a popular visit, thanks to a unique tree that's found nearby — the tree roots have grown around a stone statue of a Buddha head, creating quite the photo opportunity. It's not known how the statue head got here, but one theory is that a statue was destroyed during the invasion, and the head fell only to be cradled by the tree roots.
If you want to get pictures, make sure you keep your distance, and crouch or kneel (out of respect).
Wat Phra Si Sanphet: Also known as the Grand Palace of the Ayutthaya temple ruins, look forward to rows of brick steps toped with thin pointed towers (called chedis). If you climb the steep stairs, you can get a good view of the other temples dotting the complex. In its peak, only kings were allowed to visit certain areas of the temple and one wat used to house a 52-foot statue of Buddha, covered in gold. In the invation, the statue (with a bronze base) was melted and destroyed.
Wat Lokayasutharam: See one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Thailand, typically draped in a saffron-colored cloth. The statue is over 135+ feet and is a highlight of the complex.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram: This temple's highlight are the four giant "prang" towers, built in the 1600's — you'll find dozens (over a hundred, actually) of Buddha statues spread throughout this section of the complex, along with a few staircases that lead to seemingly secret rooms.
How To Explore The Ruins
You'll have a few options of how to explore the ruins: by foot, by bike or by tuk-tuk. But before we dive in, understand that this area is sort of an "island" completely surrounded by a curving river. You'll notice that most of the attractions are "on island" with a few other temples found "off island — if you're here for longer, it's worth checking out the attractions on the river bank off island by boat tour.
But for seeing the temples "on island', here are the best ways to get around:
By Foot: The majority of the big temples/ruins that you will want to make sure you catch are all within a small area. If you don't want to spend any extra money, you can do the ruins by foot. Each of the main ones are within a few minutes walking of each other.
By Bike: My personal favorite and one I think everyone should do is rent a bike to explore the ruins. You will be able to explore more than just the main ones and you'll be able to just ride around and enjoy the views of ruins.
You can easily rent a bike for the full day on site (there's lot of bike rental places around the entrance) for only 40-100 baht (about $1.50-$4) depending on the rental place.
By Tuk-Tuk. If you want to feel like celebrity and get driven around the ruins, you can get a tuk-tuk at the entrance. The tuk-tuk driver will drive you to each of the ruins/temples and wait for you as you explore them.
I don't personally recommend this just because half of the magic of the ruins are being able to explore them on your own and getting lost in the views. It's also quite a bit more expensive — depending on your bartering skills, you should pay around 250 Baht per person or 1,000 Baht per day.
Luckily for you and me, there is no entry fee to get into the actual park.
However, if you want to enter the major temples around the park, you will be required to pay an entrance fee. All of the temples will be either 50 baht or less to enter (so just be prepared with a little cash).
When you arrive, you will be able to select the temples you want to explore and pay for. I would recommend doing a few as it'll only cost you a couple of bucks.
Hours + How Long You Need At The Ruins
The historical park is open every day (Sunday - Saturday) from 8:30 AM - 5:00 PM.
I would recommend getting there right when they open (because it is a lot cooler weather-wise at 8:30 AM than in the afternoon) and exploring until lunch time! There are some great places right by the ruins you can grab some lunch. Then you can head back for as long as you want.
Some Helpful Things To Bring
The ruins are a day trip and food is available, so you don't need to bring too much with you. Here's what I'd recommend (keeping in mind you're out walking in the heat and humidity for your trip here):
- A good water bottle
- Bug spray
- A cover for your shoulders/legs if entering temples
- A hat
- Good walking shoes
- Backpack (especially if you're planning on walking/riding a bike)
- Camera (with lots of storage space for lots of pictures)
One last thing to remember is that these ruins are a sacred place to Buddhists. You will need to keep this in mind and be respectful while you are visiting.
Be respectful of all images and statues of Buddha and do not climb on any of them, follow all dress codes for entering a temple (cover your shoulders, wear long pants/skirts or have a cover for both) and remove shoes before entering any building/temple. Be quiet when you're near sacred spots.
How To Get There
The Auytthaya ruins are about 50 miles north of Bangkok in the city of Ayutthaya. It's located on an island surrounded by three rivers where the old capital use to be. It's the perfect day trip to add to your weekend itinerary in Bangkok.
You will have a few different options on getting to the Ayutthaya Historical Park. First and foremost, you will need to make your way to the city of Ayutthaya from Bangkok. Your options are either by bus, minivan or train.
If you opt in to travel by bus, you will need to go to the Mo Chit Northern Bus Terminal in Bangkok. At this terminal, you will be able to board buses heading to Auytthaya from 5:00 am - 7:00 pm. The buses come every 30 minutes to an hour and there is a daily schedule posted at the bus terminal.
The trip will be around 60 Baht (about $2ish) and the trip on a bus will be anywhere from an hour and a half to two hours depending on how many stops the bus has to take along the way.
You will need to get off on the Naresuan Road stop.
If you've been to Thailand, you've seen these little public minivans around. It's a typical minivan that you can purchase a seat in (most have up to nine seats in them) and they don't stop as much as buses do, so you'll get there quicker, and it's a little more comfortable than the buses.
You can get a minivan at the same bus terminal in Bangkok (Mo Chit Northern Terminal) and they leave every hour between 7:00 am and 5:00 pm.
NOTE: While it's not usually an issue, the minivans will not depart until the van is full, so you could sit there awhile before heading out. This is why many people prefer the bus over the vans.
The ride will take about an hour to an an hour and a half and will be about 90-120 Baht ($3-4).
Get off on the Naresuan Road stop!
**Keep in mind that schedules and prices are always changing for these buses/minivans, so double check beforehand so you're prepared**
The most popular and cheapest way to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is by train (this is the way I would go)! Just keep in mind that this is the longest route however. There are two different trains you can chose from: Normal and Express.
The normal train is going to be the cheapest option at only 15 Baht for a third class seat (that's like 50 cents) and people love it because it's the most scenic route. However, the train will take about two hours to get there. The trains leave on a very regular basis (about every hour), but delays are common.
The express train will only take about an hour and fifteen minutes and are air conditioned, but these trains do not leave as often and cost a little more (20 Baht for third class seats).
To go by train, you will need to go to Bangkok’s Hua Lamphong Station and you will need to get off at the Ayutthaya Station.
NOTE: Make sure you purchase tickets from the counter! People will stand outside claiming to sell tickets, but do not buy them! Sometimes they're real (but more expensive) and others are just fake. Go directly to the counter to be safe.
Also, there will be two different counters to buy tickets from. One is for same day travel and the other is for future days.
Getting to the Ayutthaya Historical Park
Once you arrive in Ayutthaya, you will need to make your way to the park where the ruins are. To do this will depend on where you are in Ayutthaya.
If you arrive by bus or minivan, grab a tuktuk, taxi or Uber to the park. It's really close and won't cost much.
If you arrive by train, you will be a short walk away from the park and can easily get there by foot.
A Nearby Spot To See
Khao Yai National Park
This sprawling National Park is full of dozens of waterfalls, lush mountains, and animals like elephants, monkeys, maybe an elusive tiger or two, and more. It just may be the off-the-beaten-path kind of adventure you need.
Khao Yai is not an adventure for everyone, but if you're looking for the chance to take a night safari, hike through a dense jungle, trek through with some very fashionable socks to prevent leeches, and maybe even spot wild elephants, we have all the info you need to plan your trip. According to one ILP volunteer, "we still had an absolute blast". We've pulled their tips and recommendations to help you plan your own trip to Khao Yai here.
Getting To Khao Yai from Ayutthaya is rather straightforward, too — by train, you can hop onboard at Ayutthaya's train station and hang out for two-ish hours, before arriving in Pak Chong (the little settlement outside of the National Park. The blog post above has info all about how to get from Pak Chong into the park itself). Head here to book tickets and look at the schedule. There are regular trains throughout the day.
Come see places like this while you spend a semester abroad in Thailand
ILP volunteers come live together in Thailand for a few months, teaching local kids English. But they've still got plenty of time to explore Asia while they're there. Come learn all about how our program works!