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Ayutthaya Historical Park
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSometime referred to as the ‘Venice of The East’, Ayutthaya Historical Park is the remnants of the former capital city of Siam, located 64 kilometers north of Bangkok, sprinkled around the current Thai city of the same name, taking around 1-2 hours to reach. Its name came after the city of Ayodhya in India, birthplace of Vishnu (Rama). tIt is one of the top destinations for cultural sites in Thailand, and South East Asia. This massive complex of temples, in Thai called Wats, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was once the proud Kingdom of Ayutthaya, the second capital of Thailand, after Sukhothai. It reigned from 1350 to 1767 and had hosted 35 kings. At its peak in 1700 CE, it hosted over 1 million occupants. For centuries, it flourished as Siam's majestic capital and the world's biggest and most cosmopolitan area. This article details its massive complex of Wats which are located inside the city itself of Ayutthaya, which are the remnants of the old city after being destroyed during the Burmese War in 1767.
One can walk around the parka and take in the views of the city's temple, more than 1,500 located in this area, and 4,000 statues. You can get an idea of the splendor it once was.
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi I (King U Thong), who was escaping a small pox outbreak in his former city of Lop Buri. This city is located in the heart of three rivers, linking the city to the sea. Its location is in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, Thailand's most important river - which flows through Bangkok and into the Gulf of Thailand. Ayutthaya is one of the 10 large cities that the Gulf flows through. It was specifically placed at the head of Siam Gulf, above the tidal bore to avoid possible attacks by sea. At the time, the Arabs and Europeans were expanding their prowess to Southeast Asia. It's location not only protected it from foreign threat, but also from seasonal flooding.
More importantly, its location made it a meeting point between the East and the West, making it a center for commerce, trade and diplomacy. Coined as the “Venice of the East”, the ancient capital was frequented by merchants and diplomats from all over the world. The Royal Court was said to have held receptions for the French Court of Versailles, Mughal Court of Delhi, the Japanese Imperial Court and the Chinese Imperial Court. Foreign visitors were housed in enclaves inspired by their own nation’s architectural style. These enclaves as well as the foreign influences still remain today in the ruins of the city.
The Burmese–Siamese War lasted from 1765 to 1767 and destroyed the city of Ayutthaya, hence forth the reason behind what was left becoming the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Things to See and Do in AyutthayaSince Ayutthaya is rather large for a one-day visit, it is advisable to pick the temples you want to see beforehand. You can rely on the taxi-driver, but their picks might not always be the best.
- Ayutthaya has many temple sites, the most popular and largest being Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It was used for religious ceremonies and is open from 8 AM to 6 PM, including weekends. On Sundays, it closes at 5:30 PM. This is 1 of over 10 popular temples in Ayutthaya.
- Among all the temples, there is also 4 main museums. The most popular being Ayutthaya Historical Study Center that has a small entrance fee. On display in this museum is a large variety of cultural art, tools, and many other things relating to ancient life and modern life in Thailand.
- Wat Chai Wattanaram is a temple somewhat reminiscent of Angkor Wat. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built as a memorial for King Thong’s mother.
- Wat Mahathat Ayutthaya contains a famous Buddhist head created from a tree.
- Wat Yai Chai Mongkol boasts a large reclining Buddha.
- Wat Phanan Choeng has a large ancient Buddha sculpture.
- Wat Choeng Tha is a quiet site for one to gather their thoughts and soak in the beauty of this ancient complex.
- There are elephant rides available where tourists are allowed to tour the sites on an elephant, however the elephants may have had an abusive upbringing to beat them into submission.
Getting Around AyutthayaMany temples in the Ayutthaya Park have an entrance fee of that ranges from ฿20 ($0.62) to ฿60 ($1.86). You can buy single entry tickets at the office by the entrance. You can only pay through cash, no credit cards but they accept US dollars. It has no strict dress code, but asks you dress respectfully. Some temples ask you to take off your shoes before entering, as is normal for Buddhist temples around the world.
Many people hire Tuk Tuk drivers from outside the park for around ฿800 ($25) for the whole day but you can always haggle for a lower price. Most Tuk Tuk drivers will be very knowledgeable and give you a vocal tour of the park as they navigate through it. Negotiate your price, usually prices start at ฿1,000 ($31), but can be negotiated to half of that.
The cheapest option is to rent a bicycle since it costs about ฿40 ($1.24) per day. If you hire a car, the rate can be as low as ฿800 ($25) for 3 hours but you can haggle for a lower price.
Private taxis can range from ฿800 ($25) to ฿2,000 ($62) for a whole day's tour.
There are many mini-buses available with tour guides ranging from ฿100 ($3.10) to however much you want to pay for a private tour.
Don't worry, many guides will speak perfect English.
A bicycle will cost around ฿40 ($1.24) for 24 hours, and is an incredible way to spend the day cycling around the monuments.
Get In/Out of AyutthayaThe city of Ayutthaya can be reached in an hour from Bangkok via train station, bus, and taxi. It is approximately 75 kilometers from Bangkok.
- Train station: No.117/1 Kramang Subdistrict, Ayutthaya City, Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya Province. With more than 70 different train stops each day, from all over Thailand. It is only 1 and a half hours from Bangkok. Many people do a day trip from Bangkok to see the park. The relics of Ayutthaya Historical Park are 30 minutes from here. Many outbound trains travel over Thailand from Ayutthaya, making it an easy stopover on the way to another destination, or a day trip.
- Taxi: Just like Pattaya, even though it is a great distance from Bangkok, it can still be reached via taxi. Expect to pay ฿2,000 ($62) or more.
- Bus: the bus trip takes about 2 hours and cost ฿50 ($1.55) per person. You can take regular bus numbers 3, 77, and 99 to Ayutthaya. from Bangkok North Bus Terminal. Rides start as early as 5:30 AM until 6:00 PM with 20 to 30 minute interval per trip.
- Boat: If you are going as a group, opt to hire a private tour boat to take you to Ayutthaya. Popular choices are River Sun Cruise, Chao Phraya Express Boat, Eastern Queen and Ayutthaya Princess.
- Mini bus: One can catch mini-buses from all over Thailand, to and from any destination, but the most popular way is from a tour agency. The most popular being on Khao San Road (flexible prices) in Bangkok and running every hour from Victory Monument. These usually cost around ฿100 ($3.10) for a round trip, depending on the amount of people who have signed up. High season can bring higher prices. The more people in your group, the lower the prices. Barter accordingly!
AccommodationsWhile most people opt for a day-trip from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, accommodations are available in the city of Ayutthaya.
- A free museum is located on the second floor of the TAT tourist information center.
- Be weary of your items, just because it is a UNESCO site and a sacred place doesn't mean you won't get pick-pocketed!
- It is better to visit the temples early and beat the heat and also it is common occurrence to be annoyed from over crowding! On the other hand, sunset is a better opportunity for picture-taking.
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Author: ChaseHunter. Last updated: Jan 12, 2015