Temples of Ayuthaya
Most likely if you’re going to Thailand, you’ve heard about Bangkok and Chiang Mai. They are the two largest cities in the country, but in-between them is the medieval capital of Siam. Ayuthaya.
Nearly 250 years after the end of its glory days, the former island capital and UNESCO World Heritage site is the home of several temples that are worth a visit for people who need a break from the wild side of Bangkok or a pit stop before heading to the northern part of Thailand on the train.
While I was in Ayuthaya, I visited Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Phra Mahathat. Together the two temples cost ฿100 ($3.12), but you can also purchase a day pass for most sites on the island for ฿220 ($6.87). I would recommend the later option if you plan on visiting the museums. You can also buy audio tour guides for ฿100.
As for getting around, I rented a bike from my hostel for ฿40 ($1.25) for the day. Only one of the brakes worked, and I mostly stopped with my feet; however, it is a cheaper alternative to renting a túk-túk. If you do choose to rent a bike, make sure you bring plenty of water.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This is the main temple complex of Ayuthaya. The main difference you’ll spot from the temples of Bangkok is upkeep. The temples inside Bangkok are beautiful and restored; however, I preferred seeing the ruins of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. They leave more to the imagination.
Bricks that were once a part of the chedi are now strewn about the temple site. I saw laborers assembling them into walls. Once I walked behind the three towers, I saw that there was still a lot more work for them to complete.
Also on site is Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. The temple is home to a large bronze seated Buddha. Walk inside while you’re there, but I didn’t see anything drastically different from the other Buddhist temples in Southeast Asia.
Wat Phra Ram
This is a temple I passed as I rode my bike to Wat Phra Mahatthat. The gates appeared to be closed, and I didn’t see any tourists inside the grounds. Therefore, I stayed outside.
Nearby is a lagoon where I saw people sitting on the grass eating lunch. Elephant keepers are also riding around this area and, according to travel blogs, will let you ride the animals for between ฿500 ($15.60) to ฿800 ($24.96) per person for a half hour. If you plan on traveling north to Chiang Mai, I would do elephant rides there. For ฿1600 ($49.68), I was able to go on a two-day hike through the jungle, rafting and elephant riding. But there’s nothing that says you can’t take pictures of the elephants in Ayuthaya. Elephants do look great against the backdrop of the temples.
Wat Phra Mahathat
This is the other big temple complex to see in Ayuthaya. Head to your right from the entrance, and you’ll eventually find Buddha’s head tangled in tree roots.
The ruins here seem to be just as large as Wat Phra Si Sanphet, and I found myself getting lost in their beauty. Statues of Buddha still stand, but many are missing their heads.
Other temples are off the island, which hostel owners recommended I see. However, I didn’t have time due to Songkran. If you aren’t rushed, check out Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Chai Watthanaram. Otherwise, get back on the train and continue north to Chiang Mai.
Have you been to Ayuthaya? What did you enjoy?