25 July 2014

Ayutthaya

Me and Kirsty both wanted to wait and 'do' Bangkok when my friend and her boyfriend arrived, so we planned to do a little overnight trip somewhere, settling on Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya by train

The journey from Bangkok only takes a few hours and trains are 3rd class. We actually found it to be relatively comfortable, especially with the breeze from the open window. There is no need to book the train ahead and our fare was less than £1! What a bahtgain (poor joke, sorry).

Sleep & Eat

As we only decided to book last minute, a lot of the recommended budget guesthouses were booked up, so we decided to treat ourselves to Baan Tye Wang Hotel, which was truly outstanding. The price included free bike hire and breakfast. Ayutthaya is very small, so you won't find hostels. Look for budget guesthouses, some of which are recommended in the lonely planet guide.

 

Casual restaurants are the main affair here, but the real star of the show was the brilliant food at our guesthouse. We had a great meal along the next road on the left, travelling North along the main road from Baan Tye Wang.

Why Ayutthaya?

Truthfully we chose it due to it's proximity to Bangkok, though it is a Unesco World Heritage site, so that's one easy excuse to visit!

Ayuthaya is full of temples and history, though it doesn't attract the same volume or concentration of people as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Many people come as a day trip from Bangkok, so get up early and some of the temples will be deserted, ready for you to explore. Even in the height of the day many temples only host a few guests as there are so many temples in this small town.

The town is actually an island, surrounded by rivers with the train station on the mainland to the East and the two bus stations (one for minivans) on the island itself. The bus offers an alternative way to get to and from Ayutthaya.

The best way to get around Ayuthaya is on a bike. Start early to beat the heat and you may want to pick your route before you head out, although aimless wandering is encouraged. Some of the sites are across the river and although there are bridges, night boat tours are a popular way to see these temples.

You can ride an elephant around Ayuthaya, but I would strongly urge you not to - the elephants are chained, in a cramped enclosure, made to walk on the road and Tarmac and are mounted with chairs, none of which is considered ethical.

See

Wat Phra Mahathat is one of the most iconic images of Ayuthaya - the Budda's head which has been swallowed by tree roots - just the face peeps out. Amazingly the head seems vertical, though it was a lot smaller than I was expecting.


A huge bonus of visiting this temple first is the excellent audio guide will give you a context to the town's history (a hint - it was very important) as you learn about Ayuthaya's kingdom and its eventual demise. A second bonus is that you're more likely to beat the day trippers.

Wat Chai Wattanaram temple was damaged by flooding in 2001 and you can still see the water line in places, though don't let this put you off though - it was perhaps my favourite and I felt more awestruck here than any of the tourist-infested temples of Angkor Wat! Bold claim I know...

This temple is located across the river in the West, though it's accessible by bicycle. Make sure you stay hydrated along the way!



Wat Mongkhon Bophit was the first temple we went to and as we approached from the side, as the adjacent market was setting up, it wasn't as impressive as if you approached from the front. It's a nice little temple but not necessarily a 'must see'. It's an active temple though, so be respectful of those who come to pray to the large Buddha. It was for this reason I took no photos of the interior.

 

We also found this little bridge, which leads to a traditional house. Completely deserted. I can't find any information on the name at all, but it's behind the elephants... If you find it just think of it as a little bonus.


Wat Phra Si Sanphet is located right next door to Wat Mongkhon Bophit (see above) making them easypeasy to see at the same time. This temple was deserted, despite its central location.

There were bike racks to lock up. There wasn't much shade at this temple, so as always stay hydrated in the heat.




Wat Lokayasutharam is worth cycling past, just to see the giant Buddha, though there isn't really much else to it. It's very near Wat Mongkhon Bophit so easy to tie in and it's something different to see en route.

Entrance to some of the temples was 50 baht, everything else seemed to be free of charge for you to explore. The audioguide is around 150 baht for Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Chai Watthanaram, and Wat Mahathat though we didn't find out about this until too late and consequently only got it for the one temple. I really recommend getting this for at least one temple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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