October 2012
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Ayutthaya is an ancient capital and modern city in Thailand – Part 1

Ayutthaya, full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is an ancient capital and modern city in the Central Plains of Thailand which is 85 km north of Bangkok.

Overview of Ayutthaya

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
• This was founded around 1350.
• Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai.
• The ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and also the world, throughout the centuries.
• Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world by 1700.
• Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France.
• Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city.
• Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces.
• There are large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world.
• All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767.
• They almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.
• Today, only a few remains are present that might give a glimpse of the impressive city.
• Its remains are characterized by the prang and big monasteries.
• Most of the remains are temples and palaces.
• Those were the only buildings made of stone at that time.
• The great cultural value of Ayutthaya’s ruins were officially recognized in 1991.
• The Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
• Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok.

Orientation of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers.
– The Chao Phraya river
– The Lopburi river
– The Pa Sak river
• As the train station is at the east side off the island, most visitors will need to cross the river by ferry boat.
• U Thong Rd is a ring road that circumvents the island completely.
• Most temple ruins can be found at the north-west of the island.
• Accommodation and nightlife is clustered around the north-east.

Ayutthaya Town Center

• Ayutthaya Historical Study Center
• Ayutthaya Rajabhat University (ARU)
• Chan Kasem Palace
• Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
• Wang Luang
• Wat Chai Watthanaram
• Wat Lokaya Sutharam
• Wat Mahathat
• Wat Na Phra Men
• Wat Phanan Choeng
• Wat Phra Ram
• Wat Phra Si Sanphet
• Wat Phutthaisawan
• Wat Phuttai Sawan
• Wat Ratchaburana
• Wat Suwan Dararam
• Wat Thammikarat
• Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
• St. Joseph’s Church

Places to see in Ayutthaya

1. Ruins
• Ayutthaya is 76 kilometres north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins.
• The ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia’s most prosperous cities in the 17th Century and beyond.
• Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park is a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city.
• It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 13, 1991.
There are three palaces in Ayutthaya:
– Grand Palace
– Chantharakasem Palace (the Front Palace)
– Wang Lang (the Rear Palace)
• There were many other palaces and buildings for royal visits located outside Ayutthaya. They include:
– The palace at Bang Pa-In
– Nakhon Luang Building at Nakhon Luang

2. Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Sri Sanphet Rd
• Open Time: 8AM-6PM, daily.
• The largest temple in Ayutthaya.
• It is known for its distinctive row of restored chedis (Thai-style stupas) found on many images of the city.
• It is housed within the grounds of the former royal palace.
• The temple was used only for royal religious ceremonies.
• It once housed a 16-meter Buddha covered with 340 kg of gold.
• The Burmese set fire to the statue to melt the gold and destroyed the temple in the process.
• The royal palace can also be accessed from the same entrance at Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
• It only has a few free standing buildings remaining.
• Price : 50 baht.

3. Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, Sri Sanphet Rd (Next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet)
• This is an impressive building that houses a large bronze cast Buddha image.
• It was originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east.
• It was later transferred to the current location and covered with a Mondop.
• During the second fall of Ayutthaya, the building and the image were badly destroyed by fire.
• The building currently seen was renovated.
• It does not have as beautiful craftsmanship as the previous ones.
• The open area east of the Sanctuary (Wihan) was formerly Sanam Luang, where the royal cremation ceremony took place.
• Entry: Free.

4. Wat Phra Mahathat, Naresuan Rd (Across the road from Wat Ratburana)
• This is a large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked by the Burmese.
• It has several Leaning Prangs of Ayutthaya that are still feebly defying gravity and the rows of headless Buddhas are atmospheric.
• This is also where you can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head.
• While taking pictures of you and the Buddha head, you sit on your knees to show respect, as it is considered holy by Thais.
• Entry: 50 baht.

5. Wat Ratchaburana, Naresuan Rd
• This temple stands out for having a large prang that was recently restored to its original condition.
• It is clearly visible if you come in from the east.
• A major find of golden statues and other paraphernalia was made here in 1958.
• Much was subsequently stolen by robbers.
• The remnants are now in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum.
• You can climb inside the prang for nice views and a little exhibit.
• The mysterious staircase down, leads to two un-restored rooms.
• Here the original paintings still visible on the walls.
• Price: 50 baht.

6. Wat Thammikarat U-Thong Rd
• It contains the ruins of a large Chedi and a huge roofless Viharn.
• The chedi has tall brick columns leaning at alarming angles.
• It also has a large tree growing picturesquely out of the side of one wall.
• It was already constructed before the establishment of Ayutthaya.
• The Wihan Luang once enshrined an enormous bronze head of the Buddha of the U Thong period.
• It is now exhibited at the Chao Sam Phraya National.
• The temple also houses a Reclining Buddha hall called Wihan Phra Phutthasaiyat.
• This hall was built by his queen consort following her wish made for her daughter’s recovery from an ailment.
• The Wihan is located to the north of Phra Chedi.
• It has a base of 52 surrounding Singha or lions.
• It houses a north-facing reclining Buddha image measuring 12 metres in length.
• It has both feet gilded and inlaid with glass mosaic.
• Entry: Free.

6. Wat Suwan Dararam, (Southeast of the island)
• This modern Wat with no ruins can be accessed by side streets off U-thong road.
• The Wat contains a few small spires, and some nicely decorated modern buildings.

Best time to visit / climate

• Thailand is largely tropical.
• It’s hot and humid all year around with temperatures in the 28-35°C range (82-95°F).
• From November to the end of February, it doesn’t rain much and temperatures are at their lowest.
• From March to June, Thailand swelters in temperatures as high as 40°C (104°F).
• From July to October, although it only really gets underway in September, tropical monsoons hit most of the country.

Location on Google Maps

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How to get there?

1. By Car
From Bangkok, one can get to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya by various routes:
First Route
• Take Highway No.1 (Phahon Yothin) via Pratu Nam Phra In.
• Turn into Highway No.32.
• Then, turn left to Highway No.309 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
Second Route
• Take Highway No.304 (Chaeng Watthana) or Highway No.302 (Ngam Wong Wan).
• Turn right into Highway No.306 (Tiwanon).
• Cross Nonthaburi or Nuanchawi Bridge to Pathum Thani.
• Continue on Highway No.3111 (Pathum Thani – Sam Khok – Sena).
• Turn right at Amphoe Sena into Highway No.3263 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.

Third Route
• Take Highway No.306 (Bangkok–Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani), at Pathum Thani Bridge Intersection.
• Turn into Highway Nos.347 and 3309 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.

Fourth Route
• Take Expressway No.9 (Si Rat Expressway) via Nonthaburi – Pathum Thani and down to Highway No.1 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Center.
• Turn left into Highway No.3469 towards Bang Pahan and turn right at Worachet Intersection to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.

2. By Train
• The cheapest and most scenic way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train.
• It regularly departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station and stops in Ayutthaya.
• The trip takes about 2 – 2.5 hrs depending on the type of service.
• Second class seats(A/C) cost 245 baht, third class is just 20 baht.
• Check time table here: http://www.railway.co.th/home/Default.asp?lenguage=Eng.
• The railway station is not on the island but across the river a short ferry ride away.
• Walk across the main road and down the small street straight ahead.
• Ferry boats run every few minutes and cost 4 baht.

3. By Bus
• Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal directly to Ayutthaya
• First class air-con buses charge 50 baht.
• This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half.
• To get to Northern Bus Terminal, take to Moh Chit BTS Station.
• Upon exiting gantry gates, cross the bridge on the right to go to bus-stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77.
• Bus ride is about 10 – 15 minutes.
• The Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the bus services,
• However, buses do not stop in the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across,
• Cross the bridge to get to the Bus Terminal.
• Bus service 3 runs also near Khao San.
• It goes by Thanon Chakrabongse Rd which is a street on the Western end of Khao San,
• Whole trip to Northern Bus Terminal from here takes in morning around 1 hour,
• Getting back in evening can take longer due to traffic.
• The buses are from 4:30AM–7.15PM.

Some Travel Books about Thailand

Lonely Planet Discover Thailand Thailand PhotoMazing Thailand

Places to stay (hotels / restaurants along with website / contact numbers)

Hotels at wikitravel.org
Hotels at tripadvisor.com
Hotels at agoda.com

Blogs / Sites about Thailand – Ayuthaya

Blogs at wikipedia.org
Blogs at wikitravel.org
Blogs at magictravelblog.com
Blogs and reviews at travbuddy.com

Images and photos of Thailand – Ayuthaya

Images at google.com
Images at tripadvisor.com
Images at molon.de
Images at trekearth.com

Videos of Thailand – Ayuthaya

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