2 Days in Ayuttaya
We spent 2 days in Ayutthaya as part of our tour of Northern Thailand so I’m going to share our Ayutthaya Itinerary. A lot of people come from Bangkok to Ayuttaya directly and you’ll find it an easy trip by train. Alternatively, you can also take a minibus from Bangkok to Ayuttaya. We arrived in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Ayuttaya from Kanchanaburi since I wanted to visit the River Kwai bridge area first. If you also want to make this detour then check out my post on making the trip from Kanchanaburi to Ayutthaya by public bus.
The main attraction for our Ayutthaya itinerary was, of course, the Ayutthaya Historical Park. So we chose a hotel that was within walkable distance of the central sights. Baan Luang Harn is a small collection of bungalows right in the historical centre. We enjoyed our stay there and it’s ideal if, like us, you like to walk as much as possible when sightseeing. You can check out my detailed review of this accommodation here.
Ayutthaya Itinerary Day 1: Central Historical Park Sights
We began our tour of Ayutthaya on foot and then headed for the central Historical Park. If you look at a map of Ayutthaya you will see that it can be roughly divided into those sights within the waterway. Then another set of sights which are across the canal which circles the city. Even the inner area is quite extensive but we did walk around it all without too much trouble.
Our hotel hired bikes and so if you prefer cycling that’s an option. You can always grab one of the local taxis if you get tired although most of the walking is within the historical park so you have to walk then anyway. Trust me when I say that it is well worth it. In fact, Ayutthaya Historical Park was one of the highlights of our tour of Northern Thailand.
Fortunately, it is pretty flat so easy to walk around although of course, the heat makes a difference. We visited in late February and so it wasn’t too bad but still very hot in the middle of the day. Take plenty of water with you and also wear comfortable shoes. Your feet will thank you for it.
You also need to be careful about what you wear if you want to go inside the temple areas within the historical park. You’ll see signs at the ticket office indicating what is acceptable clothing and what is not. Basically, no swimwear or very skimpy clothing. Ideally, you need to cover your shoulders although I saw people without let in but they do ask you to do this. As a minimum no spaghetti straps. Of course, it’s hot and people wear shorts and this is fine as long as they’re not really short. We found that they’re not fanatical about your clothing in Ayutthaya but they just ask you to dress respectfully.
I bought a lovely light scarf from one of the stalls at the entrance to the park for just a few pounds and used that to drape over my shoulders when inside. It was also handy as a head covering when the sun got really hot later on. I always cover my head when I go inside an active religious building such as the Buddha Temple so it was easy to just pull up over my head and still cover my shoulders.
Plot your route
Before you go it is a good idea to read up on the sights in the Ayutthaya Historical Park and plot out a route on the map. I find it good to get my bearings before we arrive in a place like this which has so much to see. Since we wanted to walk I plotted a route that started near our hotel and took us across the historical park area. Then the plan was to wander back through the park or get a taxi back if necessary. In fact, we walked all of it as it was such a lovely place to walk around.
So these are the places we visited on our walking central Ayutthaya itinerary. The sights below are in order of our walking tour so if you want to take the same route just follow them one by one. Just a quick note on entrance fees. Most of the larger sights charge around 50 Bhat (£1.20) although some of the smaller ones are free. I’m sure you’ll agree it’s very affordable and of course, helps upkeep these marvellous historical buildings.
Firstly, we headed for Wat Ratchaburana which was just a few minutes walk from our accommodation. It was built in 1424 for King Boromaraja II (King Sam Praya) and his two brothers were cremated here. Two pagodas were also built to commemorate the two princes.
During the Ayutthaya period, Wat Ratchaburana was a royal temple. Inside are the main pagoda (Prang), cloisters, Sermon Hall (Vihara), Ordination Hall (Ubosot) and then the surrounding pagodas.
Wat Ratchaburana Sermon Hall
The Sermon Hall or Royal Vihara is situated to the east of the Main Pagoda and is connected to the cloisters. You can see three entrances at the far end of the photo. The central doorway is larger and also decorated in stucco which is characteristic of the Ayutthaya period. When you enter the site of Wat Ratchaburana this is the way you come in. It’s a stunning entrance way and you get an incredible view of the main pagoda through the ornate doorway.
Wat Ratchaburana Ordination Hall
The Ordination Hall (Ubosot) is situated on the west side of the main pagoda, directly opposite the Sermon Hall.
Wat Ratchaburana Main Pagoda
As you enter through the Sermon Hall you get your first glimpse of the Main Pagoda (Prang). I was struck by how well preserved the pagoda is and you can actually climb up inside it. I confess that I stayed at the bottom but Paul climbed all the way up for views across the historical park.
Take some time to wander around the cloisters and view the pagoda from all sides. You can also view the smaller pagodas which commemorate the king’s two brothers. They sit opposite each other on either side of the main pagoda.
Wat Maya That
Afterwards, it is just a short walk across the road to Wat Maha That. Situated to the east of the Royal Palace, Wat Maha That was built by King Borommaracha I in the late 14th century. However, King Ramaesuan placed the Phra MahaThat here to mark the Buddhist relics he saw. In fact, excavations have revealed many relics at the site together with precious stones and golden Buddha images.
We came across Wat Nok just outside the entrance to Wat Maha That. It’s a restored monastery and although it wasn’t on my original list of places to see it’s worth a look. You can enter Wat Nok for free but despite this, it was very quiet when we visited.
Here you can see the remains of the ubosot or preaching hall with a large chedi at the far end. Part of the altar also remains with some headless Buddha statues
From Wat Nok, we walked through Rama Park towards the far side of the historical park. This is a public park so there is no charge to enter and it’s quite a nice place to walk with bridges and various small pagodas to look at.
We enjoyed just wandering around the park as it was very uncrowded and the trees give some shade from the hot sun.
It’s fun to discover the small temples and pagodas as you explore Rama Park. We also saw this golden Buddha statue on the far side of the park. It’s on a small island but be warned that it’s a dead end so you need to retrace your steps to get back on track.
We found this small temple within Rama Park. I think it’s quite cool to just be wandering around a public park and discover a historical temple like this. So it’s not just the larger temples which are worth seeing here. There’s so many small delights to encounter.
Statue of King Rama 1
At the far side of the park, the historical park continues with this imposing monument to King Rama I who founded Ayutthaya in 1350. The statue stands just outside the site of the Royal Palace, one of the main historical sites in Ayutthaya.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
The temple of Wat Phra Si Sanphet was originally established by King Rama I. Then later, King Baroma Tri Loka Nat dedicated the temple here. Famous for its three stupas, this is definitely one of the highlights of a visit to Ayutthaya.
Surrounding the main stupas are a number of other historical ruins such as the ordination hall and other smaller stupas. This must have been a very grand sight when it was first built. Although it was considered a very holy temple, it was never home to any monks. In fact, the temple at the Royal Palace was exclusively used by the Royal Family.
Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Right next to the Royal palace you will see this attractive white building with its red and gold roof. This is Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit. Inside you’ll find one of the largest bronze Buddha statues in Thailand. It’s a pretty impressive sight and as you can see in the photo you can get quite close. There is no charge to enter the temple but you need to remove your shoes and cover your shoulders before entering.
It’s also worth noting that there are clean toilets near the temple and also a small restaurant selling water and other soft drinks to take away.
So that’s it for the first day of our 2 day Ayutthaya itinerary. We packed so much in and all on foot which is how I like to explore. It’s also a very cheap day out with entrance fees very reasonable and no travel costs. So, on to day two.
Ayutthaya Itinerary Day 2: Outer Historical Park Sights
As I said, there are more sights to see outside the inner circle and so we hired a local taxi for the day to take us on a tour. Our hotel manager organised this for us at a very reasonably priced. Expect to pay around 200 Bhat (£4) an hour for the use of the driver and songthaew taxi. These are the open-back truck style taxis that you see everywhere in Thailand. Our songthaew in Ayuttahaw was like a mini version but it was ideal for our tour and the very helpful lady driver made sure we saw all the best places.
Remember that you are not getting a tour guide at these prices. Your driver will drop you off at each site and also show you where the entrance is. Then they will wait for you to return. When we met our driver I showed her on the map where we wanted to go. She also made a few suggestions as to good places to visit and we agreed on an itinerary that fitted our timescale. I think we ended up paying around £20 (plus tip of course) for our tour of Ayutthaya which is great value. You can probably fit up to 4 people in the small songthaews as there was plenty of space for the two of us.
Wat Yai Chaimongkhon
Our first stop was at the Buddhist temple of Wat Yai Chaimongkhon. In fact, it’s a monastery which was constructed by King U-Thong in 1357. The monks who lived here were ordained by the Phra Wanratena Mahethera Burea in Sri Lanka. It was originally called Wat Pakaew but after the large central Chedi or Stupa was built the name was changed to Wat Yai Chaimongkhon.
The central stupa is surrounded by a number of smaller structures and many statues of Buddha. This white statue looks over the rear garden so make sure you walk all the way around.
Surrounding the central stupa you can see rows of seated Buddhas. They all look in very good condition and I believe they are reconstructed to replace the earlier versions which were destroyed.
Views from the Top
You can climb to the top of the main Stupa for views right across the grounds. I confess, I didn’t make the climb but Paul did and took these fabulous photos of Wat Yai Chaimongkhon.
In the photo below you can see the white Buddha from behind as he gazes over the small formal garden at the rear. I sat in this garden to wait while Paul was climbing the stupa. It’s a lovely quiet place to sit and soak up the atmosphere at the temple. There is also some much-appreciated shade under the trees here.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Our next stop on our Ayutthaya Itinerary was another Buddhist temple, Wat Phanan Choeng. The highlight here is the massive Golden Buddha statue which dominates the central area. Wat Phanan Choeng is of particular historical significance because it was built in 1324, more than 20 years before the city of Ayutthaya was founded. So it actually predates the city.
The elephant is an important symbol in Buddhism because they are said to embody the earthly qualities of Buddha. So I wasn’t surprised to find this impressive elephant statue inside the temple.
Afterwards, we took a short walk down to the riverside. Ayutthaya is surrounded by three rivers, the Chao Phraya River, the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River. Yesterday, we stayed inside the island they create but today’s Ayutthaya itinerary took us across the water. So here we are looking across to the central island of Ayuthaya. Watching the activity on the river is always fascinating. Although it was quiet when we visited there was still plenty of things going on.
Wat Phanan Choeng is very popular with visitors and it was probably the busiest temple we visited. If you want souvenirs then there are plenty of shops here to browse.
As you drive into the parking area for Wat Phutthaisawan you see the beautiful white Stupa rising behind the lowrise buildings. This is Phra Mahathat (President Prang) and the architecture is based on a Cambodian style and Mount Phra Meru (Mountain of the Great God).
Surrounding the prang you’ll find this gallery, Phra Por Por with its rows of golden Buddha statues.
This rather scary Cobra sculpture is just one of many which adorn the courtyard area, guarding the main prang. They’re startlingly realistic.
Wat Phutthaisawan means Monastery of Buddhist Kingship and just outside the main temple area, you will find this striking monument to Thailand’s kings. It’s called the Three Kings Monument and commemorates Phra Pathom King of Ayutthaya (The creator of Wat Phutthaisawan King Uthong), the King who saved the nation (Somdej Naresuan the Great) and Phra Anucha (Somdet Ekkatharot).
Our Ayutthaya Itinerary continued with a visit to Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River Wat Chaiwatthanaram is an impressive sight. Constructed during the reign of Prasart Thong this was a Royal Temple complex during the Ayutthaya period.
It’s a lovely setting alongside the Chao Phraya River and you can walk down to the river as you explore the temple complex.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram consists of five pagodas surrounded by cloisters. The main pagoda or Prang is surrounded by four spired roof halls at each corner.
This is another Thai temple with a Cambodian influence and Wat Chaiwatthanaram is based on the temples at Angkor Wat. Below you can see the model of the temple complex as it would have been when complete. I found this really useful to look from model to runs and visualise how it would have been.
When we visited there was quite a lot of renovation work taking place at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Although this part of Ayutthaya is technically outside the UNESCO historical park these are still important buildings. So it’s great to see the careful work being done to preserve them.
Wat Phukhao Thong
The last stop on our tour of the outer highlights of our Ayutthaya itinerary was Wat Phukhao Thong. This striking white temple was originally built in a Burmese style which is reflected by the base. The upper building is, however, from a later period and is in the Ayutthaya style.
It is several kilometres out of Ayutthaya but a nice trip in the songthaew to round off our day out. The name means Golden Mountain. In comparison to some of the other sites in Ayuttaya, it was very quiet and fewer tourists seem to make the trip out here. Which is quite nice as we had the place to ourselves.
As well as the main stupa, there are ruins of the ordination hall in the grounds. The area is well looked after with paved walkways so it’s a very pleasant place to wander around.
This tree in the grounds looks pretty ancient too and it offered some welcome shade after wandering around in the hot sun.
So that was it for our 2 days in Ayutthaya Itinerary. Our driver took us back to the hotel after Wat Phukhao Thong where we relaxed before heading to the train station to catch an overnight train to Chiang Mai. But more of that later.