Aside from secluded white sand beaches, I am also a freak of ruins of old cities and historical places. Blame it on my background in anthropology (and amateur archaeology) I guess. And since all these years I have failed to practice my degree and I’m missing the field school a lot, I try to visit historical places, immerse in indigenous culture or simply practice the charm of the social scientist on my journeys.
The ruin of the old city of Ayutthaya was hailed a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991, the Siamese kingdom that existed from 1351 to 1767 until it was invaded by the Burmese. This was once known to be one of the richest cities in Asia if not in the world.There are several travel agencies in Khaon San Road that offers package tours to Ayutthaya including Bang Pa-in, price starts at 300B, but you could save a few baht and explore more of the city if you commute. To get to Ayyuthaya from Bangkok on your own, there’s 2 options: bus or train. I took the 1st option.
I asked the metro cleaners on how to go to Northern Bus Terminal or Moh Chit and they only understood me when I mentioned Moh Chit. In Thailand,it is better to mention the Thai name of the place when you ask a local so they can understand you better. Luckily this time, I was not lost and reached the terminal around 30 minutes after.
I bought a ticket from one of the windows inside the building and the employee pointed me towards the waiting area fronting the buses. I had to wait for the next trip which was around 10am. I sat with some locals, and I was looking for some tourists, but found none. The bus finally arrived. I paid 60B for the ride, the bus was almost empty when we left but it is picking up passengers along the road so it is already full before we reached Ayutthaya.
On the window of the bus I saw a peak of one the stupa, but the bus didn’t stopped there and still moved farther. I was too shy to ask the locals on the bus that time. So I walked from the bus station to what seemed like a highway. I have no map with me so I have no idea where the temples are, all I know is it’s best to get around here with a bike.
I was looking for a tuktuk but surprisingly, there’s none around. I couldn’t decide whether I need to go left or right, as I’m not seeing any signs of old ruins. I then saw a store and ask the Thai owner. She could barely understand me because she doesn’t speak English that well she said so I showed her a picture of the old ruins on my Bangkok map. She directed me towards the right side and when her husband came out driving an expensive car, she verified the information she gave me. They both agreed I head towards the right side.
It was a short walk but it’s so hot as it’s already 12noon, and while approaching the major road –> U Thong Road, an old temple which seems to belong to Angkor Period was unveiled to me! I hurriedly crossed the street to get a closer look, searched for the entrance and paid 50B. I learned later on upon reading the signage that it is Wat Rachabunara. It was surreal.
I climbed the top of the major temple and the view below is equally amazing!There’s an exhibit inside the temple. A large amount of the golden artifacts and treasures found at Wat Ratchaburana are said to be displayed in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Walking around, I noticed that the site is full of headless Buddha images except for one that’s dressed and sitting proudly in the midst of the ruins.
I spent like an hour on that place alone, that’s how hooked I was! I’ll let the pictures here speak for you…
When the sun’s heat started to take its toll on me, I decided to cross the street and grab a cold drink and ice cream at a small cafe fronting Wat Rachabunara. Bikes for rent caught my eye and I suddenly remembered that there’s no better way to explore this charming ancient city than to bike around. I left my I.D and paid 50B.
I biked to the next temple which is pretty close–> Wat Mahathat. I had to leave my bike, and I don’t know how to. I forgot to lock it and good thing it wasn’t lost! I paid another 50B for entrance to Wat Mahathat (Temple of the Great Relics) which is the symbolic center where the Buddha’s relics were enshrined. It was also the residence of the Supreme Patriarch or leader of the Thai Buddhist monks. The temple is believed to be built during the 14th century A.D. (the early Ayutthaya period).
This site is also home to the famous Buddha head enclosed in the roots of a Bodhi tree.
There’s not much to see inside, they’re almost the same, headless Buddha images and stupas everywhere. I cycled around Wat Nok which is within the same block and has no entrance fee.
I passed by a little Thai spirit house under a tree by the river. These little houses are often charming miniature replica of a Thai-style house or temple. According to traditional Thai belief, the spirit house provides a home for the resident spirits of the compound. Wielding considerable power, resident spirits can play a major role in the fortune and destiny of the inhabitants of the compound. If the spirits are offended by inappropriate acts, neglect or disrespect, bad luck and misfortune befalls the owner and residents of the house. To appease and pacify the spirits, a daily offering of incense sticks, fresh flowers and food is presented.
Biking around an ancient park with rivers and trees everywhere is certainly, one of my most memorable post-birthday trips! Unfortunately, I had to leave, I didn’t get to see other equally important temples nor the King’s Summer Garden but one day I shall return. I wish I could’ve given justice to Ayutthaya, I should’ve spent more time or even stayed there overnight, I could’ve seen the light show of the temples at night.
I am thankful to my sister for suggesting that I visit Ayutthaya and there’s no cheaper way to get around the city than to go biking. Too bad I only get to explore it half day (and knowing me, I really take time to tour and savor each place I visit so I didn’t get to explore the whole city) and I had to get back to Bangkok to get my stuff at my guesthouse in Khao San Road and catch my flight at the Bangkok later that night. Had I known that I would miss my flight due to the heavy traffic because of the King’s birthday celebration at the Royal Avenue. I would’ve have stayed for the night at this charming old city.
How to get to Ayyuthaya:
The temples with entry charges are usually in ruins, so there is no dress code, although visitors are still requested to refrain from blatant stupidity like clambering up the Buddha statues. Working temples tend to charge no fees and there are often no officials to check that a dress is appropriate (though it is advised to follow these customs to show respect for sacred places).
How to get to Ayutthaya:
The cheapest and most scenic way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. It regularly departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station and stops in Ayutthaya. The trip takes about 2 – 2.5 hours depending on the type of service. Second class seats(A/C) cost 245 baht, third class is just 20 baht (!) (Reservations and seats are not guaranteed). (Fares in April 2010) Check time table here: (Please note that fares listed on the Thai railways site are out of date and incorrect) Also note that railway employees prefer not to sell 3rd class tickets to foreigners so if you’re on a budget; do insist with a smile.) And that some train stations (for instance Bang Khen) does not appear on the sites map, and that tickets may even be cheaper (12 baht from Bang Khen). If you have local friends, they may have some good advice.
The railway station is not on the island but across the river a short ferry ride away. Walk across the main road and down the small street straight ahead. Ferry boats run every few minutes and cost 4 baht.
Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit*) directly to Ayutthaya. First class air-con buses charge 50 baht. This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of/into Bangkok.
- To get to Northern Bus Terminal, take to Moh Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting gantry gates, cross the bridge on the right to go to bus-stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77. (Air-con buses charge 12 baht, non-air-con buses charge 7 baht.) Bus ride is about 10 – 15 minutes and the Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the bus services. However, buses do not stop in the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across. Cross the bridge to get to the Bus Terminal.
Also you can take a minivan from the Victory Monument direct to Ayutthaya. Takes ~1 hour and costs 60baht. Buses depart every 20 minutes or so
The buses are from 4:30AM–7.15PM. For more details, please call Tel. 0 2936 2852-66 or see the website  and Ayutthaya Bus Terminal, Tel. 0 3533 5304.
In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Thanon Naresuan next to the Chao Phrom Market. Songthaews to Bang Pa-In also leave from here. Some 1st-class buses to Bangkok, however, leave from the north side of the road some 500m to the west, on the other side of the khlong (canal); the queue for air-con buses is easy to spot.
From Kanchanaburi, take a local bus from the main bus station to Suphanburi for 45 baht (2 hours), then another local bus to Ayutthaya for 40 baht (1.5 hours). A taxi from Kanchanaburi costs 2000-2500 baht (2 hours).
There is also a central bus station east of town serving northern destinations. It can be reached by songthaew – ask around to find the appropriate stop.
By minibus (van)
Convenient minibus service (can get stuck in traffic, but makes no stops like regular buses) operates from the Victory Monument square in Bangkok. Take BTS Sky train to the Victory Monument station, and go right on the elevated walkway – keep on it until you cross a large road, then descend – the buses are parked at the side of the main traffic circle). The cost is usually ~70 baht, takes around 1 hour or 1 hour 20 min. It’s quite convenient since you don’t have to go to bus terminals (nearby Mochit) but the only problem is that the minibuses don’t have much space to put big bags and have to wait until the car is fully filled.
Minibuses (van) from Kanchanaburi can be arranged by guesthouses or any tour operators for around 350 baht.
Biking around the ruins is the most enjoyable and fun way to spend the day. The archaeological park is easily reachable and manageable on bike even if you aren’t very fit. The paths are paved and the distances between temples are small. You can rent a bicycle for around 50 baht per day. (As of Dec 2009) The bicycles are not necessarily well maintained, so be sure that they work properly (Wheels are firm, seats adjusted to your height and well attached, handlebars don’t slip. Good shops will give you a free bike lock as well) Free map of the city is widely available in all hotels. The park opens at 7.30 AM. It is recommended that you begin your tour early, before the tour groups arrive from Bangkok. Take a big bottle of water with you.
Bicycle rentals: Soi 2 (where the majority of tourist hotels and restaurants are located) have numerous bike rental facilities. They are all next to each other so it will be easy to shop around and find the one with the best bike for you.
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