We did not know a thing about the history of Thailand and even now we don’t know much more than before. But for sure we wanted to see the ruins in Ayutthaya and we do not regret going, although we were almost scammed and had to walk under the sun for 20 minutes for that reason.
Ayutthaya is a city about 80 km away from Bangkok, very important in the past because it was the capital of Siam and one of the most important cities of Asia some hundred years ago. In 1767, the Burmese arrived and destroyed Ayutthaya, with only a few ruins remaining that can be seen today all around the city.
2 HOUR TOUR IN AYUTTHAYA (By Tuk-tuk)
To tour the area, we opted for a 2h tuktuk tour (400baht). Normally, you should be able to get the rate 200 baht/h. We went in low season, so I figure it might be harder to find the price if there are a lot of tourists.
- Wat Lokayasutharam/ Phra Buddha Sai Yat (the reclining Buddha)
- Wat Phra Si Sanphet (the grandest and most beautiful temple in Ayutthaya)
- Wat Maha That (the Buddha head in the tree)
This temples is not in the focal area of Ayutthaya, so you cannot really go there by foot. However, even if you didn’t get a tuk-tuk or a bike for the day, it was one of my favorite temples and I would recommend to go there if you’re planning to visit less than 5 places. The temple is on the west side of the Chao Phraya river and it took us around 15 minutes on the tuk-tuk, but on the way we saw many palaces and buildings that were very pretty, and most of all, we were being refreshed with the wind after walking 20 minutes under the sun.
We entered the Wat after paying 50 baht each and started to explore. It was a Monday and apparently off-season, because there were not many more tourists around, maybe just 10~15 all scattered through the huge complex of Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Because of this, it felt really magical. I was very calm and felt transported to a different time. Without knowing much about their history, I could imagine life going on normally through the ruined walls and corridors; I could see the richness of their empire.
Pictures and words cannot really describe the beauty of the place. I had seen many pictures and read many blogs before and I just felt like it was another set of ruins that I had to see just for the sake of seeing it, but really, being there is a totally different story. I don’t think you will realize just by reading my blog or looking at my pictures, but if you ever are in Bangkok and have half a day to spare, I recommend you to visit the ruins (unless maybe if you’ve already been to similar places like Angkor Wat in Cambodia or Sukhothai in Thailand).
Next we drove back to the main area of Ayutthaya and went to visit the reclining Buddha. We had seen the one in Bangkok, all in gold inside a temple. This one of 42m, however, was outdoors and made in stone, but wearing an orange cloth. It is free to see (no need to enter a temple) and it is much easier to take pictures of this one than the one in Bangkok, as it is outdoors.
This temple is also one of the most important ones in Ayutthaya. It was once the grandest and most beautiful of all of them, and if you look close enough, maybe you will notice that it served as a model to the Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok (temple of the Emerald Buddha).
Here again I had that feeling that I was standing alone in front of what once was a huge and rich empire while admiring the chedis (pagodas), the Prang and the decapitated Buddhas. We could climb on one of the pagodas, although most of the times there are signs asking you not to climb anything.
There were many workers working on the maintenance of the place, specially working on the grass and cleaning the Wat. It looked pretty, but since we had already seen a bit Wat, this one wasn’t much more special. Entrance is 50 baht.
Exiting the Wat, we saw elephants. You can ride them or take pictures with them, and since we had decided not to ride elephants on this trip, we just took some pictures with them. There was a big elephant and a small one wearing a hat, which let me say is something totally unnecessary. The elephants are trained to grab you with their trunk, which is cute until you realize what they have had to go through to accept that job. Anyway, we took pictures with the elephants for some hundred baht per person and I let Victor be the one in the trunk, since I find it a bit scary.
However, after a couple pictures, the elephant knew that there was another person in the picture, and it suddenly grabbed my waist with the trunk, scaring me to death but leaving a funny picture as a memory.
Wat Maha That
Wat Maha That is famous and visited by almost all the tourist just because of the Buddha’s head that’s wrapped within a tree. To be honest, I also went there just because of that. Since we had already used up almost 2h of the tuk-tuk and were tired from the heat, we didn’t visit much of the temple after finding the head. The head in the tree is very pretty, and definitely different, something you wont find on the other temples. But I felt it was less magical than I had thought, maybe because there were a lot of more people at this place, posing in front of the head by turns, or maybe because I had imagine it hidden at the end of the temple or inside a cave, not there near the entrance. Anyway, this temple was another 50 baht like most others.
After 3h (including the misadventure at the beginning and a break at a 7 eleven at the end), we were ready to go back to Bangkok. It was still early, so there was not much traffic on the way back, but we had to wait a bit on the van until it got full. On the minivan I met 2 other Argentinian female travelers and we had a nice chat about Thailand and then about their country. They had also been scammed in a similar way, so really beware!
In all, it was a very worth trip. It took sometime to get there and back (specially since we had to walk for a good while, I calculate around 4h of BTS, minivan, waiting and walking) and we just visited for 2h, but in my opinion, staying there overnight is not worth it unless you really appreciate Thai history and want to take things very easily. I would recommend 2 to 3 hours by minivan or 4 to 5 hours by bike. Walking will tire you out and sights are quite far from each other sometimes. I hope you like Ayutthaya as much as we did 🙂
HOW TO GO TO AYUTTHAYA (From Bangkok)
To go there, the most popular ways are by private car/tour, by minivan, or by train, depending on your budget. For most of us who would opt for the cheaper ways, I suggest the minivan, as trains in Thailand seem to not be very punctual and some other travelers have talked about hours of waiting. The minivans depart from the Victory Monument, in Bangkok, and cost 60 baht ($1,70) per person per trip, which is fairly cheap. The trip takes about 1h but the road is a bit bumpy, and I got pretty dizzy on both ways.
To get to Victory Monument, the best way is to take the BTS and stop in the station Victory Monument. As you exit the train, you will see the roundabout with the monument. Walk towards it on the elevated platform (which is where the train left you) until you see the a mall called “Fashion Mall”. Get off the elevated platform and you will see a row of vans. Ask for the one that takes you to Ayutthaya and either get on the van if it’s there, or wait for it to arrive. I took a couple pictures from the place where we took the van:
When we got there, the previous van had just left, so we waited a couple minutes for the next one to arrive. We got on the best seats, paid our 60 baht each and waited for more people to come join us. It was about 11 am and the van filled up in barely 10 minutes. There will also be some locals on your van, and they will stop before arriving to the final destination. Do not get off. I want to give you a warning here, because we got scammed. I got really mad, specially since I kind of felt like it was a scam but I had no other option than getting off the van, because the driver was asking me to do so (what am I supposed to do? Just say no and stay on the van?).
BEWARE OF THE SCAMS WITH THE MINI-VANS: I had read on the Internet that several tourists had been left off the van a bit earlier than the actual final stop, so I was a bit aware of it. The last stop should be on Naresuan Road, near the Wat Maha That. I also had a SIM card, so I could check on the map where we were at the moment, and that didn’t seem any close to the Wat Maha That, which is where I had read the last stop was. So instead of getting off, I told the driver: this is not the last stop, is it? And he just nodded and looked away. With other passengers also being rushed off the van and my boyfriend already outside, I had no much alternative and got off as well. However, after I got off, I noticed 1 local was still sitting on the middle row of the van, and nobody rushed him off. At that point I had it 100% clear, they were scamming us.
Anyway, the van had left already so we talked to a tuktuk driver with excellent English to see what his price was. I had read from many sources that the right price should be 200 baht/h. These guys were asking for 200 baht/h/person, and to see the recommended route it was about 3~4h or 1,200 baht. Er…no thanks. We are not very rude people so it was hard for us to tell them: stop messing with me, I’m not paying that price. They tried lowering it to 600 baht since we asked for only 2h, but still we didn’t take it because after all, I don’t want to spend 3 hours on the tuktuk of someone who is clearly trying to scam us, and who even forced us off the van with the intention to take advantage of us.
With the map and GPS, we walked towards the Wat Maha That, which is where there should be a lot more tuk tuks. The walk would be about 20 minutes, not always with clear predestrian zone, and it was really sunny, right in the afternoon. We were furious, but still decided to do it on foot rather than take those people’s tuktuks.
On the way we stopped by a small ruin that turned out to be Wat Lang Ka, and soon a tuktuk came offering 600 baht for 2h as starting price. We still didn’t take it, as we were close to our final destination. We then reached a row of minivans. That is where our van should have stopped. Remember, do not get off unless you see clearly a lot of other minivans, there’s no local left on the van, and you already see a lot of monuments/buildings around. I have taken some pictures of how this place looked like. This is also where you will take the van back to Bangkok.
Soon after, another tuktuk approached us, this one with a paper with pictures of Ayutthaya and a price listed; 200 baht/h. Perfect, we grabbed it and told him the places we wanted to visit. He said it would take around 2h, so we hopped on the tuktuk, this time feeling at least this guy was honest. We didn’t pay a cent until the very end of the trip, and he would wait for us at each stop. He never rushed us so at the end of the day we paid him 400 baht (2h) + 60 baht of non-asked gratuity.