Before it was ransacked by the invading Burmese army in 1767, Ayutthaya’s position between the trading routes of India, China and Malaysia proved helpful to the nation’s prosperity. It sits at the join of three separate rivers, which also means it technically occupies an island – but don’t expect beaches and surf!
What you can count on is to be pulled in by the ruins of the former city still standing on many sites, collectively declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Ayutthaya’s largest temple, is the most prominent and was housed within the royal palace. Many of the stupas (chedi) have been restored. At Wat Phra Mahathat you’ll find rows of headless Buddha statues and can even see one of the statue’s faces protruding from the lower roots of a tree.
The Ayutthaya Historical Park is covered with similar sites in various states of decay. If you plan to visit many, you’ll need more than one day or a driver or guide to recommend attractions and take you from one place to another. There is a good chance you will be approached by someone offering such services before you start looking. Don’t be afraid to bargain.
It isn’t all serious history and quiet sightseeing in Ayutthaya, however. You can keep getting your fix of simple but delicious Thai food, whether it’s boat noodles or vegetarian dishes, or take in a bit of the nightlife, which is subdued but has an intimate atmosphere that can’t be found in big cities.
Some national festivals take on an extra aura here, especially if you happen to be in Ayutthaya for November’s Loi Krathong – Thailand’s festival of lights. The Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre is spectacularly lit as beautiful floral arrangements float down the Chao Phraya River, often with royal patronage. One event Ayutthaya has all to itself is its World Heritage Site Celebrations, when exhibitions, traditional performances, and presentations add extra beauty to ruins around the city.
So wot are you waiting for? You haven’t really travelled to Thailand until you’ve visited its past, and there is no better way than with an Ayutthaya hotel and flight to Bangkok for our selection!
Hotels in Ayutthaya start at AU$19 per night. Prices and availability subject to change. Additional terms may apply.