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 trainThe 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 & EatAs 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.
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!
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.
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.
SeeWat 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 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.
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.