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20 In Archaeology + History/ Religion + Spirituality/ Thailand/ Travel

Exploring the Temple Remains of Ayutthaya, Thailand

Any visit to Bangkok should include a day trip to Ayutthaya. This UNESCO world heritage site is a popular one for a very good reason. Think Angkor Wat, but dispersed all throughout a town and significantly less regulation (which has its pros and cons.) Before I dive into more about the sites, let me give you some basic information about visiting Ayutthaya.

Getting to Ayutthaya from Bangkok:

There are a few different options for traveling to Ayutthaya. You can go on a day trip that can be easily organized by a hostel or guesthouse. However, you’r’e going to pay significantly more than you need to by doing this. You can also take a taxi which can be negotiated. I guarantee it will be significantly higher than the train ticket that takes you from the Hua Lamphong Station in Bangkok to Ayutthaya. For this train ride you pay 20 baht for one person or 30 baht for two. That’s right, for 2 train tickets we paid less than a dollar. It’s just under a two hour train ride, which takes smidge longer than a drive, but it’s so worth the savings as the ride was very pretty. You pass many fields and several small towns with gorgeous temples.

Getting Around Ayutthaya:

 

It’s great to be able to bike all around town and pop in at any site we want. 

Many people will rent a tuk tuk for the day, and this is a huge mistake if you’re on a budget. Yes, it has the advantage that they know where the hotspots are and you can sit back and enjoy. However, that will cost you significantly more money than its worth, in my opinion. You can rent a motorbike, of course, but I really loved renting bicycles. It’s insanely affordable for only 40 baht each – just about $1.25 we rented bikes for 24 hours from our guesthouse. Most guesthouses offer this. I loved biking because of the budget, it’s wonderful exercise and you can easily bike all around the ruins and weave in and out of the public park areas.

When To Explore Ayutthaya:

Matt and I really love getting up before sunrise to get a super early start on the day. As a blogger/photographer duo, it’s perfect for a couple of reasons: the lighting is perfect and there are fewer tourists around.

 

As a traveler, it’s great because it’s cooler and it’s also when the local people are our and about for the day, giving you a more local experience. If we had waited until 10 or 11, we would’ve missed out on watching these locals fish in the river.

 

Although that’s my preferred time of day to visit, anytime is still great for exploring these temples as long as you can tolerate the heat.

Exploring the Temple Ruins of Ayutthaya:

I think the most interesting thing about this archaeological sit is that it’s truly just all around the town. Ayutthaya was a large kingdom (once one of the largest in the east) that existed from 1351 to 1767. This was the first site we explored and that’s because it was just past our guesthouse. It seemed like we couldn’t pedal very far without seeing an old brick wall or a small (or sometimes massive) chedi, which is the Thai version of a stupa.

While there are literally dozens of sites all around the city, there are some that require an entrance fee. You can either pay per entry or you can buy a multi-entry ticket. We only paid to enter three sites, so it was better for us to pay as we go (50 baht each per entry). Even though we only paid for two sites, we still covered so much ground. It was so beautiful to explore this area. There are three experiences that I wouldn’t leave without experiencing: Wat Ratcha Burana, Wat Maha That and simply biking all around these stunning remains.

Biking Around the Remains:

Matt and I had an incredible time exploring the public parks, crossing gorgeous bridges and checking out newer temples or smaller ruins. Here are some examples of the beauty we saw while biking. It was a lot of fun to just get some exercise while seeing some incredible sites. Here are a few of my favorite photos from exploring these public areas on two wheels.

 

Wat Racha Burana:

The reason Wat Racha Burana is in my Ayutthaya top 3 is because it made the anthropologist in me totally melt. This is one of the sites that you have to pay the 50 baht entrance fee to explore, but it’s so worth it.

 

First of all, you walk up these steps and it frames the main chedi so perfectly. I was instantly in love with this site from the beauty alone, but it gets even better.

    

I loved seeing the chedis all around the site. Some, like the one pictured on the far right, seemed to defy gravity.

 

I seriously loved getting to explore such an awesome site with my husband, and this is where the adventure really began… 

There are signs before you enter telling you not to climb up on chedis or on statues of the Buddha, but there’s one major exception as far as chedis go. You’ll notice that the main chedi [pictured right] has a banister; that’s because you get to climb up to the top of it.

   

When you get to the top, you have a beautiful view of the entrance to the site and the remains of what was once a decently large Buddha statue. Then, you get to also go INSIDE this chedi! It was actually a royal burial chamber, and if you go down a second set of stairs you’ll actually end up in the burial room that’s decorated with murals.

Here’s a quick little video that shows the inner-chedi adventure that Matt + I went on. So-freakin’-cool! 

 

Left: The chedi we explored // Right: One of the many pieces of Buddha figures you can find all over these sites.

As you can see, this was my Indiana Jones moment that made my heart race. It was one of the best places I’ve ever been and I truly just got so much joy from visiting this site.

Wat Maha That

The main desire I had for visiting this gorgeous site is the famous Buddha head in the bodhi tree. However, this site has so much more than just that. There are dozens of partial and mostly whole Buddha statues, a gorgeous setting and more gravity-defying chedis and structures.

Getting a photo with the famous Buddha head was a bit of a madhouse. There is a massive crowd and I was amazed at the number of people who were blatantly disrespectful. There are signs saying to kneel as this is a very holy site to Thais, and people were instead doing crazy yoga poses, standing, etc. I patiently waited for my turn and although I got a photo with no one else in it, know that there are many, many people around me waiting for their turn or cropped out.

This bodhi tree just happened to grow around this fallen statue of the Buddha’s head. I feel like the photos don’t show just how big this head is. It’s probably 1.5 – 2 times the size of my head and it just happened to be in the right place at the right time for this tree to frame it so perfectly.

   

These Buddha figures are just past the Buddha head and they’re absolutely beautiful.

         

Ayutthaya was a highlight of my trip to Thailand, for sure. I loved the archaeology, the history, the Buddhism… This site just encapsulated so many of my interests (and all of the things I studied in college). I would highly recommend a stop here if you’re traveling through Bangkok. Do research some of the sites. I didn’t quite research enough because there were a few things that I really feel like I missed out on, but I’ll just check them out next time. My final piece of advice is to remember that these are temples and that the Buddha is a spiritual + religious figure. I was so disgusted by the actions of many tourists who were climbing, yes, climbing, up on Buddha figures, putting their arms around Buddha figures like they’re best bros, and just being all around disrespectful. So don’t be that person. Be respectful, be kind and be reflective.

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20 Comments

  • Reply
    AuthenticTravels
    September 26, 2017 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve never been to this part of the world but I keep seeing post about such authentic places as Ayutthaya. I’ve recently read also an article about a similar place (I don’t remember the name, it was too complicated) and they said there that it was important to have a guide in order to stay safe of scorpions, spider monkeys, and snakes. Have you experienced any of these dangers in Ayutthaya?

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:09 am

      I luckily didn’t experience any of these dangers in Ayutthaya. I did see a small water monitor lizard and I’ve seen scorpions in Thailand before, but I feel like you can fairly easily avoid these dangers in this area since there aren’t many low-hanging branches or anything like that for snakes to be hiding on. Just keep your eyes open, I suppose!

  • Reply
    Katie McIntosh (@katieshowblog)
    September 27, 2017 at 8:26 am

    Wow, this had so much good information in it and so many good insider tips. I’d love to go visit these sites and see the Buddha head in the tree – how cool that nature grew around it to create such a unique site. Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:11 am

      Thank you so much, Katie. I love that nature was such an awesome collaborator here as well! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

  • Reply
    Laura
    September 27, 2017 at 10:18 am

    Glad to see you both are off to a great start!! This is an awesome guide filled with so many great tips! I actually didn’t make it to Ayutthaya last time I was in Thailand, but hoping to get there on the next trip. Great post!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:12 am

      Thank you so much, Laura. I missed my first go around too. There’s just so much to see and only so much time!

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    September 27, 2017 at 11:34 am

    Love your photos! I really liked Ayutthaya, I’m glad I went. We went by bus which was slightly more expensive than the train but not by much. Wish we had thought to hire a bike though!! We just walked as we refused to give in to the pushy tuk tuk drivers lol. I was also annoyed by the disrespectful people at the buddha head. 🙁

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:13 am

      Thank you. Walking is always nice too, but the bike just let us toodle around quicker than my feet can carry me. Ha. I’m glad I’m not alone in being annoyed. It just blew my mind.

  • Reply
    Candy & Crystal
    September 27, 2017 at 9:58 pm

    I love your photos! I couldn’t stop staring at the Buddha head in the bodhi tree. I’ve read a ton of posts on temples in Thailand, but haven’t seen that one. Good tip that it’s way cheaper to rent a bike instead of riding a tuk tuk 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:15 am

      Thank you so much! It is definitely mesmerizing. I wonder who the first person to discover the tree had grown that way was. I would’ve been started and amazed! Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    abcdefghizzy
    September 27, 2017 at 10:13 pm

    Girl, please tell me you are going to Sukhothai too! You would LOVE it if you loved Ayutthaya! Personally, I think that because Sukhothai is a little less frequented, it feels all the more personal. Ayutthaya is one of the last remaining strongholds of my favorite dessert in the whole world, roti sai mai. Did you try it? It’s a crepe with cotton candy floss in it that has a peculiar, but addicting crunch to it! Try to find it!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:17 am

      Ah! Izzy, I missed it! I love the idea of having a more personal experience with the ruins. I think we’re coming back to Thailand in January, so if we do, I’ll try to make a pitstop there. I MISSED THE DESSERT! When will I learn I need to ask you tips on every destination I visit because I know you’ll have the best ones! Ugh. Next time… Next time.

  • Reply
    Sandy N Vyjay
    September 28, 2017 at 12:11 am

    You have captured the spiritual essence and the beauty of the temples of Ayutthaya so wonderfully. We missed visiting this place on our last visit to Thailand and MUST go back. My greatest fascination is for the tree with the Buddha head. It is so sad that people do not maintain the right propriety in these places and are more focused on getting their priceless selfies.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 5, 2017 at 3:18 am

      Thank you so much, I really appreciate that. I agree about people being too obsessed for their selfies. Granted, I had my photo taken there, but I tried to be as respectful as possible. You’ll love this stop on your next visit to Thailand – I missed it my first time too.

  • Reply
    Ozzy
    September 28, 2017 at 12:45 am

    Ayutthaya is a wonderful and tranquil place to just in touch with one’s inner self (my POV). The temples here are really well kept thanks to UNESCO. Reaching the temple quarters was a little cumbersome as I remember but it was totally worth it.
    I hope the Buddha head can be secured and out of reach of tourists as that is a tad distasteful.

    Love the pictures! Cheers

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      October 6, 2017 at 4:26 am

      It definitely is a wonderful place. I’m grateful for UNESCO as well. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  • Reply
    bmalzard
    September 30, 2017 at 1:12 am

    Really enjoyed this piece on this special place. And you’re so right about disrespectful tourists- what’s wrong with them? Twenty years ago I was there on assignment to write a magazine article and my photographer and I were wandering sound and get hat blew off. The place was practically deserted and out of nowhere s young monk appeared and scaled the buildings to save the hat from up high. He brought it down to us and then disappeared as silently as he appeared.

  • Reply
    Thelittlelai: Beyond limits
    September 30, 2017 at 10:01 am

    wow, I heard about this temple and have read blog about this as well, but I truly love your post cause you brought it to a new level. It is very interesting and the way you convey your thoughts are very detailed. I also love how you have captured all your photos cause you’re showcasing the innate beauty of the place. I hope I can visit here soon If I get the chance. Thank you so much for sharing this with us.

  • Reply
    Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats
    October 1, 2017 at 4:20 am

    Looove all the photos and tips as well. We are visiting Thailand later this year, and we’re going to hire a rental car so we can do a little loop of both Ayutthaya and Khao Yai National Park, so we’ll have the car to get around between the various locations. Great to see your photos, we are definitely going to visit Wat Racha Burana after seeing your photos!

  • Reply
    Sreekar Harinatha
    October 8, 2017 at 12:08 am

    I regret not seeing Ayuthaya after staying in Bangkok for a week. Kicking myself more so after seeing this post! Should plan better I guess!

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