Ayutthaya is a very popular destination for tourists and Thais alike, located just one hour’s drive (80km) from Bangkok, hence making it a perfect day trip from the capital.
After taking over from Sukhothai as the pre-eminent kingdom, Ayutthaya was the second capital of Siam, for about 400 years, from about 1350. After nearly 200 years of tension and several failed attempts by the Burmese army to invade the kingdom, the Ayutthaya dynasty eventually came to an end in 1767, defeated in an invasion led by King Hsinbyushin of Burma.
It is said that the gold of Burma’s famous Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon is originally from Ayutthaya. King Hsinbyushin was also responsible for raising Shwedagon to its current height.
In 1956, the Department of Fine Arts officially started with restoration work, covering an area of 2.8 km2, known as the ‘Historic City of Ayutthaya’. The Historic City became eventually a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
The word Ayutthaya derives from the Sanskrit word ‘Ayodhya’, literally meaning “The city that cannot be fought and won over war”.
The different sites of Ayutthaya can be visited daily from 08:30 to 16:30. Please note that each site charges a separate admission. Bicycles can be rented from around the Historic City for as low as 40 Baht, a good option to get around and explore.
Don’t miss the highlights below:
Wat Mahathat houses one of Thailand’s most photographed objects: a sandstone Buddha head tangled in a bundle of tree roots. There are different theories of how a Buddha head ended up in a tree; some say that a thief stole it from the main temple and looked for a place to hide; others say that during the Burmese invasion in 1767 many Buddha images got destroyed and the tree grew around the Buddha head when the city was abandoned. Entrance fee: 50 Baht per person.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng has been built in 1324, 26 years prior to the founding of Ayutthaya. It is famous for its massive 19m high Buddha statue, which is said to have shed tears when the Burmese conquered Ayutthaya.
The legend says that a “Thai king named Phra Chao Sai Namphung requesting the emperor of China’s daughter to be his wife. When she arrived, the king was not there and she was heart-broken. She waited for a long time but the king still did not come. She eventually killed herself by holding her breath”[1 ]. Being very sad, the king built the temple in memory of her.
A section of Chinese statues can be also found there. Entrance fee: 20 Baht per person.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the temple of the royal family; hence there was no designated living area for monks. The temple was considered as the largest one in Ayutthaya, with several stupas and Buddha statues covered in gold. The gold was eventually melted down by the Burmese during their invasion in 1767.
Entrance fee: 50 Baht per person.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
A spectacular white reclining Buddha and a huge chedi (Thai for stupa) depicting the pride and glory days of Ayutthaya. Further, a line of beautifully clad Buddha statues can be found next to the stupa. The monastery was built by King U-Thong, the first king of Ayutthaya.
Entrance fee: 20 baht per person.