The Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya or Ayutthaya or Ayudhya in short, is one of Thailand's historical and majestic highlights. Serving as the Thai capital for 417 years (1350 1767: Kingdom of Ayutthaya), it was once glorified as one of the biggest cities in the world a Southeast Asia center for civilizations. During the 17th century, most foreign visitors to Ayutthaya, traders or diplomats alike, claimed Ayutthaya to be the most illustrious and glittering city that they had ever visited. The map of Ayutthaya published in 1691 by Simon de la Loub?re in Du Royaume De Siam is proof of such recognition.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya reached its apex in terms of sovereignty, military might, wealth, culture, and international commerce in the 16th century when the Kingdoms territory was extended far beyond present-day Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Ayutthaya even had diplomatic relations with Louis XIV of France and was courted by Dutch, Portuguese, English, Chinese and Japanese merchants.
Visitors can explore and appreciate Thai history in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, which is situated only 86 kilometers north of Bangkok. Visitors to Ayutthaya can marvel at its grandeur reflected through numerous magnificent structures and ruins concentrated in and around the city island surrounded by Maenam Chao Phraya, Maenam Pa Sak and Maenam Lopburi.
More importantly,Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, an extensive historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO's World Heritage list since 13 December, 1991.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was built and developed in leaps and bounds. The ruins in Ayutthaya that survived the test of time embody both the glorious and ignominious stories of the Kingdom.
This ancient capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350 by King U-Thong, had thirty three kings of different dynasties and reached its peak in the middle of the18th century. A magnificent city with three palaces and over 400 magnificent temples on an island threaded by canals Ayutthaya was truly an impressive city that attracted both Europeans and Asians. After a 15-month siege the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was conquered and completely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. When King Taksin the Great finally liberated the Kingdom, a new dynasty was established and the capital was moved to Thonburi.
The seal of Ayutthaya depicts a conch on a pedestal tray placed in a small castle under a Mun tree. According to legend, King U-Thong, founder of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, discovered a beautiful conch buried in the ground being prepared for the establishment of the seat of his Kingdom. Consequently, he had a tiny castle built to house the shell. Hence, the provincial seal.
Today, there are but groups of crumbling ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where once an empire thrived. The temple compounds are still awe-inspiring even in disrepair and a visit here is memorable and a good beginning for those drawn to the relics of history.
The architecture of Ayutthaya is a fascinating mix of Khmer (ancient Cambodian style) and early Sukhothai style. Some cactus-shaped obelisks, called prangs, denote Khmer influence and look something like the famous towers of Angkor Wat. The more pointed stupas are ascribed to the Sukhothai influence. For new arrivals who had limited their visit to Bangkok, similarities may be noted with the riverside Wat Arun, an 18th-century structure that was built in the so-called Ayutthaya style, a melding of Sukhothai Buddhist influences and Hindu-inspired Khmer motifs.
Ayutthaya is administratively divided into 16 districts: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ban Phraek, Bang Ban, Bang Pahan, Bang Pa-in, Amphoe Bang Sai, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang, Maha Rat, Nakhon Luang, Phachi, Phak-Hai, Sena, Tha Rua, Uthai and Wang Noi.
What to See
Chankasem or Front Palace National Museum
Chankasem Palace was built during the reign of King Maha Thammaraja, the 17th King of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. During the reign of King Naresuan the Great the Palace became his permanent residence. Chankasem Palace, like the other palaces, was destroyed during the Burmese invasion. It has been renovated and reopened as a museum open to the public on Wednesdays through Sundays from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
This museum is perfect for history buffs who admire fine arts and handicraft of the Ayutthaya period. Housed in the museum are various original antiques, mostly made of gold and decorated with precious jewels. In addition, there are various antique bronze Buddha images and famous carved panels. Of note is a receptacle in the Thai Pavilion that contains relics of the Lord Buddha and other objects of art that are over 500 years old.
The museum which is located on Rochana Road, opposite the city wall is open daily, except Mondays, Tuesdays and national holidays, from 09.00 a.m. until 4.00 p.m. (Admission fee is 10 Bahts). For more information, call: 0 3524 1587
Chedi Phra Si Suriyothai
This pagoda is situated at the original site of the Rear Palace, in the west of the city. It is a memorial to Somdet Phra Suriyothai, who was the royal consort of Phra Mahachakkaraphat and the first heroine in Thai history. When the Burmese army intruded in 1548, Somdet Phra Suriyothai, clad in a warrior's suit, interrupted the fighting between the King and Phrachao Prae of Burma and was cut to death. Her death saved Ayutthaya from another attack from the Burmese.
Elephant Kraal Pavilion
The Pavilion, utilized as the royal seat to witness the elephant round up, is situated north of the city island. In the past wild elephants would be trained here to become war or transport animals. It is thought that in the Ayutthaya period the stockade was inside the city wall, but this one was built later and was used up until the Bangkok period. In the middle of the stockade is a shrine where the elephant guardian is supposed to reside. Posts made of whole timbers form the fence where elephants were tied up during the training. An elephant round-up was demonstrated here in 1890, during the reign of King Rama V, for the benefit of the Tsarevitch, who later became Nicholas II of Russia, during his visit to Siam.
Located on the bank of the Maenam Chao Phraya, to the west of the city island is Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother, Wat Chai Wattanaram was conceived as a replica of the Angkor temple. A Royal monastery, the temples unique feature is a huge prang which is surrounded by smaller prangs. This symbolizes Mount Meru, the abode of the heavenly gods. Now restored, the temple is also accessible by a long-tailed boat trip from Chankasem Palace Pier. This 1-hour trip to the temple costs approximately 300-400 bahts (round-trip). Entry fee to the temple itself is 20 bahts.
Wat Kasattrathirat Worawihan
Located outside the city island, opposite Chedi Phra Si Suriyothai, on the bank of the Chao Phraya River is another interesting temple worth visiting. Formerly known as Kasattra or Kasattraram, the ancient temple is of the Ayutthaya period with a main Prang (stupa) at its centre.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Overlooking the river on the opposite bank from the main city, Wat Phanan Choeng was founded shortly before the establishment of Ayutthaya as the Kingdoms capital. Its main building enshrines a huge, seated Buddha image, that is 57 feet tall an object of particular devotion to Thais of Chinese origin. This principal image called Phrachao Phananchoeng was built of stucco in the attitude of subduing evil in 1325. The temple is a popular stopover for riverboat cruises along the Maenam Chao Phraya. This temple can be reached by boat from the fortress ruins.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
In 1491, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was located inside the compound of the Grand Palace-the foundations of which are still visible-and served as the royal chapel, as Wat Phra Kaeo does in Bangkok. This Wang Lung Palace (Royal Palace) was built by King U-Thong upon the founding of the city. Used as a residential palace, it became a monastery in the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokanat commanded the construction of new living quarters, this residential palace was transformed into a temple,and the establishment of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. In Ayutthaya's heyday, this was the largest temple in the city.
The three main chedis which have been restored contain the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings. The temple is situated at the northern end of Si Sanphet Road. The royal chapel does not have any monks and novice inhabitants. Admission fee is 20bahts.
Wat Phu Khao Thong
The Phu Khao Thong chedi is situated about two kilometres northwest of the city island. It was built by King Ramesuan in 1387. Burengnong, the Burmese king, built three layers of the large superimposed base in the Burmese style after he seized Ayutthaya in 1569 and named it Phu Khao Thong. The main body of the Thai-style chedi was built later.
King Borom Kot carried out renovations during his reign in 1744 and changed its appearance into a 12- cornered chedi. Only the lowest part retains its original Mon style. According to the records, a canal was dug from Wat Phu Khao Thong by a former monk of the temple to keep the Burmese army out when Ayutthaya was under Burmese attack in 1548. The moat which connects a canal with the main river is still in evidence and is called Mahanak canal in honor of the former monk.
However, after Ayutthaya fell to the Burmese in 1767 the whole place was burned down. The Thai Government, under Premier Pibulsongkram, renovated the shrine again approximately 40 years ago.
This monastery is located to the south of the river bank opposite the city island. Constructed in the area where King U-Thong and his subjects first migrated in order to establish the new town, it was formerly known as "Wiang Lek" named after the royal palace of King U-Thong. The most distinctive feature of this temple is the great principal Buddha image cast in the early Ayutthaya style.
Wat Suwandararam Ratchaworawihan
The main attractions of this temple, which is located on U-Thong Road, southeast of the city, are the paintings. The mural paintings in the Ubosot depict the gathering deities and jataka stories, while the murals on the front wall show a picture of the Lord Buddha subduing evil. Within the Viharn, is a picture depicting the bravery of King Naresuan the Great, which is a masterpiece with several copies found in many other places.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Located to the Southeast of the island, this temples lofty chedi is visible from most of the town. The monastery was built in 1900 by King U-thong who granted the temple with the name Wat Pa Kaew. The intention was to create a center of Buddhist studies (Ceylonese Sect). As the temple used to be headed by a patriarch, local people also called it Wat Chao Phraya Thai.
The present name was given granted to the temple by King Naresuan to commemorate a battle fought against the Crown Prince of Burma in 1592. His momentous victory a single-handed combat on the elephant back brought independence to Ayutthaya after 15 years as a Burmese dependent. Within the complex is a huge image of a reclining Buddha in brick and stucco. The chedi is bell-shaped, about 60 meters high, constructed on a mound of raised ground (15 X 32.4 X 32.4 m.) with steps going up to the Buddhist image placed midway to the top. The chedi itself now has a distinct tilt, but still can be entered via the stairs.
The Ubosot or ordination hall is windowless but ventilated by pierced holes stretching down the roof on both walls. Also situated in the compound is King Naresuans statue, which is highly revered by Thais. Admission fee is 20 bahts.
Bang Pa-in Summer Palace
A few miles down the Maenam Chao Phraya from Ayutthaya is the Bang Pa-In Summer Palace. The site was first used by the royal court as a summer retreat in the 17th century. However, the Palace was destroyed with the fall of Kingdom of Ayutthaya and was restored by King Rama IV in the mid-19th century. Most of the buildings that exist today date from the reign of King Rama V, who regularly spent his summers there. The structures represent a variety of architectural styles, set in a large park around ponds and waterways. The only royal residence open to the public is the Chiness-style Wehat Chamroon Palace, constructed entirely of materials imported from China. In addition, there is an Italian-style palace, a circular pavilion with steps leading down to a pool, the graceful Thai-style Aisawan Tippaya Asna Pavilion in the middle of a lake, and, across one of the waterways, a Buddhist chapel in the neo-Gothic style with stained-glass windows. Scattered around the extensive gardens are European statues as well as monuments ordered to be built by King Rama V in memory of members of his family, one of them a much-loved Queen who drowned in a boating accident.
Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Craft Centre
The Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, which covers an area of 285 rai of land (or 14 acres), is a place where visitors can see the activities of farmers in the 4 regions of Thailand. In addition to being an important training center for craftspeople, there are interesting products on sale such as fern basketry, wickerwork basketry, artificial flowers, hand-woven silk and cotton, silk production and etc. The Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre is open daily except Mondays from 8.30 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Admission fee is 20 bahts. Call 035-366092, 02-2258265 for additional information.
The Support Arts and Craft International Centre of Thailand (SACICT)
The Support Arts and Craft International Centre of Thailand (SACICT) is located on the left bank of the Chao Phraya River at Chang Yai Sub-District, Bang Sai District, next to the Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Center, on an area of over 18 acres. It comprises 2 main buildings, Phra Ming Mongkhon Hall, a large three-storey building, as the display and exhibition center of craft products for export, with a usable area of 34,340 square meter, and the Marketing Building for Bang Sai Center Products, with an area of 7,000 square meters, which was completed in July 2004.
The Ministry of Commerce presented the Support Arts and Crafts International Centre of Thailand (public Organization) as a tribute to Her Majesty Queen Sirikit of Thailand, at the special function entitled Support Atrs and Crafts International Centre of Thailand paying tribute to the Great Queen of Siam on the Auspicious 72nd Birthday Anniversary held during August 2004.
Within SACICT, the exhibition are on the 1st floor is where prime craft products selected from 76 rovinces all over the country are put on display in the revolving exhibits changed every 3 months. Products that are of extraordinary beauty are permanently displayed in the Hall of Fame to be appraised by tourists and the general public on a wide scale. Also, craft products of the Bang Sai Folk Arts and Crafts Center which won prizes at an international level are on display.
Moreover, there is the Support shop, as the outlet of craft products made by trainees at the Bang Sai Folk Arts and Crafts Center, and from other Support Centres around the country, 22 in number. There is also the OTOP shop, where OTOP goods from all over the country are on sale.
The 3rd floor of SACICT serves as the area for trade negotiations, where craft products are marketed and distributed to the market on a wide scale.
Alternative I: Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road.) then take Highway No. 32 to Ayutthaya.
Alternative II: Take Highway No. 304 (Chaeng Watthana Road.) or take Highway No. 302 (Ngamwongwan Road.); turn righ to Highway No. 306 (Tiwanon Road.), then take Highway No. 3111 (Pathum Thani - Samkhok - Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena to Highway No. 3263
Alternative III: Take Highway No. 306 (Bangkok - Nonthaburi - Pathum Thani Road.) then take Highway No. 347
Ordinary buses run between the Bangkoks Northern Bus Terminal (Mochit 2 Bus Terminal) and Ayutthaya's main terminal on Naresuan Rd. every 20 minutes between 5 a.m. and 7 p.m. The fare is 30 bahts and the trip takes around 2hours. Air-conditioned buses operate the same route every 20 minutes from 5.40 a.m. to 7.20 p.m. (every 15 minutes between 7a.m. and 5p.m.) at the rate of 47 bahts, the trip takes 1.5 hours when traffic to north of Bangkok is light, otherwise it will take two hours.
Trains to Ayutthaya leave Bangkok's Hua Lamphong Station approximately every hour between 4.20 a.m. and 10 p.m. The 3rd class fare is 15 bahts for the 1.5 hour trip. Train schedules are available from the information booth at Hua Lamphong Station. Alternatively, call 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020, or 1690 or visit www.railway.co.th for reservations.
There are no scheduled or chartered boat services between Bangkok and Ayutthaya. However, several companies in Bangkok operate luxury cruises to Bang Pa-In with side trips by bus to Ayutthaya for approximately 1,500 bahts to 1,800 bahts per person, including a sumptuous luncheon. Longer two days trips in converted rice barges start at 4,800 baht.
Travelling around Ayutthaya and from Ayutthaya to nearby attractions
Song taew and shared tuk-tuk will go anywhere for 10 to 30 bahts/person depending on the distance/destination. A tuk-tuk from the train station going to any point in the old Ayutthaya zone is approximately 30 bahts. Note that the trip on the island (old Ayutthaya city) itself costs 20 bahts/trip maximum.
To tour the ruins, the most economical and ecological option is to rent a bicycle from one of the guesthouses (40 to 50 bahts/day). Walking is also an option, but not recommended during the hot or rainy seasons. It is possible to charter a sam lor, tuk tuk or song taew by the hour or by the day to explore the ruins but the prices are relatively high by Thai standards (150 bahts/hour, or 500 bahts for the entire day).
Another interesting activity is chartering a boat from the Tha Chan Kasem (Chan Kasem Pier, next to Hua Ro Market) for a semicircular tour of the island and seeing some of the less accessible ruins. A long tailed boat with a capacity of up to 8 people can be hired for 400 bahts for a 2 to 3 hour trip with stopovers at Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Chai Wattnaram.
Mini - bus services operating from the railway station into the city are also available. Hiring a mini - bus within Ayutthaya costs 250 - 300 bahts/day. If you wish to travel between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa - In, mini - buses regularly leave Chao Prom Market (on Chao Prom Road). Daily schedules start from 6.30 a.m. with a fare of 30 bahts. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes.
Chiang Mai Hotel - Chiang Mai Resort, Thailand Hotel Reservation Service by Allresort Thailand