Around the year 1700, Ayutthaya wasn’t only the biggest city in Thailand, but the biggest in the world! Perfectly placed between India and China, it was such an important trading post Western rulers sent ship after ship seeking a taste of its riches. Then, in 1767, along came those party-pooping, population-popping Burmese to destroy the city.
Fast forward three hundred and something years and Ayutthaya, situated on the confluence of three rivers, the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak, has become a Mecca for history-hungry visitors. The ruins of the once-mighty medieval metropolis now make up the World Heritage-listed Ayutthaya Historical Park. The modern city lies a few kilometres away, but in Ayutthaya the past is ever-present.
Ayutthaya’s Top 10
10. Baan Hollanda The newest tourist attraction shows the close historic relationship between the Dutch and the locals.
5. Wat Thammikarat Home to a reclining Buddha that measures 12 metres (40 feet) from head to toe.
9. Chantharakasem National Museum The former home of one of the ancient kings.
4. Wat Phra Mahathat It’s a tree, but a very famous one because it is growing around a Buddha head.
8. Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre A good place to start, as it places the ruins and ancient society in context, making what you will later see more impressive.
3. Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit Another Buddha statue (this one struck from bronze) in a suitably striking building.
7. Phra Chedi Suriyothai This gold-topped memorial for a previous queen shows the respect woman enjoyed in the good ol’ days.
2. Wat Phra Si Sanphet You’ll recognise parts of the largest temple in Ayutthaya from various images around the city.
6. Phet Fortress Once the city’s most important defensive structure, a baby could probably breach it today.
1. Ayutthaya Historical Park Full of wats, or temples, this World Heritage site was once a mighty capital.
- Ayutthaya Historic Park –This major attraction features many ancient temples and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Ancient Watertank – This brick-and-mortar structure features a famous statue of Buddha and was once part of an ancient irrigation system.
- Ancient Well – This attraction is all that remains of three ancient monasteries, which were destroyed by Burmese invaders.
- Ancient Kiln – Broken ceramic pieces still litter the site of this ancient kiln.
- Water Gauge – This ancient structure was erected in the early 19th century as a way to measure the flood waters in Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya Art & Culture
- Viharn Phra Thi Nang Yen – This old building was once a pavilion for observing games.
- Klong Sra Bua Kilns – These kilns were built during the Ayutthaya period and still contain many important artifacts.
- Wat Kuti Daeng – This temple was once a Burmese stronghold during the wars between Burma and Thailand.
- Burmese Mounds – These mounds are actually cemeteries that commemorate those who died in the many Burmese wars.
- Pom Phet Fortress – Not much remains of this fortress, which was once used to defend Ayutthaya from the Burmese.
- Ayutthaya Night Market – All kinds of shoes, clothing, electronics and food can be found at this popular market.
- Chao Phrom Market – This local market features a variety of handicrafts and traditional food.
- Talad Souvenir Shop – One of the best places to buy local handmade items and crafts.
- Bang Sai Folk Arts and Crafts Center – The best of the thriving local arts and crafts scene can be found at this centre.
- Talad Hua Ror – This local food market is one of the best places in Ayutthaya to find unique fruits, vegetables and other local snacks.
Gay & Lesbian Ayutthaya
- Chang House – Featuring a mixed crowd, this bar is a great place to grab a cold beer.
- Steve’s Place – This bar features a swimming pool and is popular among the older gay crowd.
- Moon Café – Although not exclusively gay and lesbian, this café has a friendly staff and great drinks.
- AY Disco – This features Ayutthaya’s liveliest dance floor, which makes it a favourite among the young gay demographic.
- Tony’s Place – The friendly staff at this bar makes it a favourite of all types of people.
- Ayutthaya Elephant Camp – Get up close and personal with the sacred animal of Thailand.
- Chao Phraya River – Take a boat ride and see the historic sites on this significant local river.
- Temple of the Royal Restoration – The ruins of this temple are great places to take a scenic stroll while in Ayutthaya.
- Thai Boat Museum – Spend a day learning about ancient Thai boats while walking on the beautiful grounds of this site.
- ElephantStay – This elephant camp features retired elephants that visitors can ride and wash.
- Play a round at the Ayutthaya Golf Club.
- Catch local football games at the Ayutthaya Sports Stadium.
- Jog on the tracks of the Ayutthaya Leisure Club.
- Learn to fly at the Thai Flying Club.
- Stretch and exercise at Sunrise Yoga.
The Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Fair in January provides a fascinating insight into traditional lifestyles.
Attracting international competitors and locals alike, the Muay Thai Festival showcases the brutal but balletic beauty of mixed martial arts.
In April during the New Year-welcoming Songkran Festival, it is traditional to spray complete strangers with water. If you’re lucky, you may even get sprayed by an elephant (hopefully from its trunk!).
With floating lights dotting the river, the Festival of Lights in November is a magical time to visit the city.
Be taken back in time every December for the Ayutthaya World Heritage Site Celebrations. Historical exhibitions and traditional cultural performances make it a great way to learn.
When To Go
Ayutthaya enjoys a tropical climate.
The city gets plenty of sun and constant temperatures of around 30ºC (86ºF).
The wet season lasts from May to October.
Renting a bicycle and riding around is a great way to discover all the old ruins.
If you are not feeling energetic, jump on a tuk-tuk and let someone else do the work!
Take a boat down one of the rivers and soak up the scenery.
While the Kingdom of Thailand, with over 60 million people, has few inscriptions on the UNESCO World Heritage list, the capital Bangkok is on the doorstep of a gem. The Historic City of Ayutthaya became the first UNESCO site in the country – together with the Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns – in 1991.
While both former capitals of Siam in the glory, halcyon era of the Empire, the remarkable ruins of Ayutthaya are a mere 85 km from Bangkok. From the mid-14th century until the late 18th century, when the Burmese army razed it to the ground, the city was the center of Siamese culture. Today, Ayutthaya Historical Park is the tourism focal point in the modern city of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, home to some 55,000 people. With the superb Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, Chan Kasem Palace and Japanese Village however, the city is not without other, non-UNESCO notable points of interest.
Attractions & Activities
- Ayutthaya Historical Park
- Wat Borom Phuttharam
- Chan Kasem Palace
- Japanese Village
- Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
- Arts and Crafts Village
- Wang Pla Aquarium
- Suan Nok Bird Park
- Ayutthaya Market Place
- Ayutthaya Elephant Camp
Restaurant & Nightlife
- 29 Steak
- Hua Raw Night Market
- Tony’s Place
- Baan Khun Phra
- Ban U-Thong Restaurant
- Moon Café and Restaurant
- Chiang Restauant
- Bannkunpra Restaurant
- Ban Mai Rim Nam
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