One very famous destination near Bangkok is Ayutthaya which can be easily reached by train, so that’s what I did. From Bangkok to Ayutthaya by train takes about 2 hours and costs 15bh (40 cents). Yes, I don’t think you will find a cheaper way to get there.
There are several trains running daily. Mine departed from Hua Lampong train station at 9:25 am, reaching Ayutthaya at 11:27 am.
Probably I could have gone earlier because I didn’t see all the temples, but I have seen enough, and it also depends on how do you chose to explore the place.
I rented a bicycle that cost 50bh for the day. Might be the slowest option but the cheapest one, and the one I enjoy the most. Once you leave the train station, there are several tuk-tuk drivers with these funny 3-wheel tuk-tuks. They can spend the day with you and take you where you want, but I don’t know how much would that cost. If you are traveling in a group, this might be a good idea.
Not far from the bus station, across the street, there is a bicycle rental place. It is not hard to find. The bicycle must be returned at 6 pm.
The train journey from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is pleasant. It is made on a low-class train with soft seats, windows wide open, and the wind on my face. That’s what I love about train rides in Southeast Asia. The views along the journey are nothing special, but you still can appreciate different landscapes on the way to Ayutthaya.
Once in Ayutthaya with my rented bicycle ready, they gave me a map of the city with the temples, etc… It doesn’t take such a long ride to reach the city center and be in the temple area. I probably visited it on the worst day- a Sunday, when Thais don’t work so the place was filled with people and the traffic made this biking trip not so pleasant. I thought that I would be cycling in a quiet chilled place, but it was not the case. The temples are spread across the city and it is a busy city. They are in between big streets, not like Bagan where you can peacefully discover hundreds of temples. I thought it would be like Bagan but I was wrong.
The biggest temples or at least all I have visited have paid entrances, something that I also didn’t know. 50bh for one, 50bh for another plus 50 for another and you end up spending a lot, so I think that there is an available ticket that includes all the temples for a certain price that might be worth buying in case you are planning to visit all of them.
50bh was what I paid to enter each temple enclosure and I visited 3. There were way more to visit I guess… 50bh is the amount paid for the most important ones, but you can be asked for 20bh in smaller temples. There is a total of 6 famous temples, so you can make your counting. The pass that allows you to enter the 6 of them costs 220bh. So, if you plan on visiting them all, buying the pass should be the best thing to do.
I was not expecting that each temple complex would be so big. You can spend a lot of time visiting all these temples. I acknowledge that my trip was too short, or slow… I am a slow traveler and I like to stop and enjoy the places, but here if I wanted to see the most of Ayutthaya I couldn’t do that. For that reason, I think that 2 days spent here wouldn’t have been such a bad idea. Or, simply start exploring sooner and on a faster means of transport. Plus, I had to be back at the bicycle rental place at 6 pm which lead me to leave the temple area at about 5.30 pm.
I was not sure about which temples are the best ones, I didn’t do much research, so I simply stopped at some I found while cycling. I had just one in mind that I really wanted to see, and that was the furthest one.
So, once you reach the temple area, they are nearby each other, and you don’t have to face high distances between each temple complex. They are divided into several complexes that are sealed. Some are huge and some are not so much.
My first stop was:
It was the first temple I saw, therefore I stopped. It didn’t look very impressive but I still had to pay to visit. The complex is not that big. There is one tower that still looks very well preserved, the rest are ruins, red bricks on top of red bricks, so destroyed that it is not possible to even imagine what was there once. One thing you will see in all of the complexes is headless Buddhas. Most of the Buddha statues are headless, but there are still a few that survived the Burmese army. Ayutthaya was basically destroyed by the Burmese army that cut off all those Buddha heads. This city must have been something really impressive in the past. In fact, Ayutthaya was the capital of ancient Thailand- when it was known as the Siam kingdom. The Burmese destroyed all those beautiful temples and nowadays what you see is mostly ruins.
This temple was not very impressive but I liked the fact that I could climb to the central tower and have a nice view of the surroundings and therefore feel how wonderful that place must have been.
Just next to Wat Ratchaburana is Wat Mahathat which stands inside a huge complex holding other temples like Wat Langkha Dam or the famous Buddha head wrapped in tree roots. I dare to say that this is the biggest temple complex and you could actually spend a lot of time here as it covers a great area with lakes and green gardens to chill and enjoy a peaceful day. I could have spent so much more time here than I did. But I had to move on. This one is definitely worth your time.
So next, I headed to this one, the furthest one I have visited, and the one I couldn’t miss as it looked awesome. I’m glad I visited even tho I had to cycle a bit far from the rest of the temples.
This temple doesn’t look just like bricks on bricks! It has beautiful towers and some big Buddha statues that are still preserved inside. And they have heads!! This temple stands just next to the river and it was the most beautiful one I have visited. The complex is not that big.
On my way to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, I came across this place filled with people riding elephants. Not my thing at all. There was this enclosure where all the elephants were and people could go and feed them and even go for a ride on them. There were some elephants strolling around that area with people on top. Even tho I don’t support any kind of animal use to attract tourism, I wonder if the elephants are better carrying off people or logging… Of course, the ideal would be rooming freely, but sometimes that is not even a possibility. I find it kinda degradant to see them walking people around… But anyway, it is just my point of view.
Wat Phra Ram
Not far from the elephant place is Wat Phra Ram, which I only saw from the outside. I was not willing to pay to go in as the tower was very similar to the 1st one I saw, so I thought maybe it was not worth it.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
And just nearby, is Wat Phra Si Sanphet which also requires an entry fee. I only didn’t visit because it was already late and I wouldn’t have time to visit it and go back to the bicycle place at 6 pm. From what I have seen from the outside, I think this complex might be very worthy of a visit. But, from the outside, I enjoyed it a lot. I could see clearly some very well-preserved pagodas that were looking stunning under the golden light. I pity I didn’t visit inside. It looks like a big complex and those pagodas seemed to be the best-preserved ones I have seen so far in Ayutthaya. To have this privileged view I was standing just next to a brand new temple: Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit which allows you to have a sneak peek of what’s inside Wat Phra Si Sanphet complex. Beautiful!
And that was it! I didn’t have more time to visit other temples. Maybe I spent too much time on the ones I visited. Also, I had no idea which ones were the best.
At 18:48 pm I head back from Ayutthaya to Bangkok by train. There were a lot of people waiting for it and the train was full. It reached Bangkok at about 20:35 pm. It was a well-spent day.
I took water and food with me to avoid having to search for a place to eat and therefore waste more of my time. Ayutthaya is definitely worth a visit!