Ayutthaya historical park is around 80km or so from Bangkok. I highly recommend an Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok, although try to do an overnight stay with one and a half to two days in Ayutthaya if possible. Ayutthaya is famous for its Buddhist temples, monasteries and statues. Ayutthaya was the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai Historical Park. It is located on a picturesque island in the middle of three rivers, one being the Chao Praya river which leads to Bangkok.
How to go to Ayutthaya from Bangkok
It is possible to see the best temples in a well planned Ayutthaya day trip itinerary. An Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok is completely doable as long as you don’t mind a fast paced itinerary and you pay for a tuk-tuk.
It is around an hours drive or roughly two hours on the train from Hua Lamphong station. The trains are regular and there is no need to book in advance. There are also mini-bus options from most hotels. A river trip is not recommended – you spend too much time on the boat and there is not enough time to see the temples. I took the train the night before and got a cheap hostel for around £5 so that I could get up early for the first temple, Wat Chai Wattanaram.
As I mentioned, I recommend if possible that you arrive for an overnight stay the day before. It’s a good idea to get to your first temple early, for some great photos before the bulk of the tourists. There are also many other things to do in Ayutthaya including a fabulous night market, which is the only place so far in Thailand where I have seen insect kebabs!
Ayutthaya Day Trip Itinerary
The Ayutthaya day trip itinerary is what I managed to do in a whole day at Ayutthaya, by booking my own private tuk-tuk. We headed to the first temple at 8.30am and I was back at the train station for the train to Bangkok by 4.30pm. The key temples that I saw on my Ayutthaya Day Trip Itinerary (with plenty of time to spare) were:
- Wat Chai Wattanaram (A good one to start with early as it’s across the river and one of the most famous temples).
- Wat Phuttaisawan (A mixture of modern and ancient stupas).
- Phra Buddha Sai Yat (Reclining Buddha).
- Wat Mongkhon Bophit (modern temple known for its massive, gilded statue of the sitting Buddha).
- Wat Sri Sanphet (famous for three bell-shaped Chedi’s).
- Wat Mahatat (Buddha head in the Bodhi tree).
- Wat Rachaburana (Paintings inside the Crypt).
- Wat Chai Mongkhon (Or Mongkol) – 14th Century temple with massive Buddha statues and a towering Chedi. This is close to the station so you can get dropped off ready to travel back to Bangkok from Ayutthaya.
If you would like the ease of doing your Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok day trip as part of a guided tour, I recommend the UNESCO Sites full-day guided tour with Get Your Guide. You can book online from just $47.85 per person.
Ayutthaya Historical Park
Ayutthaya Historical Park was the capital of Siam from 1350 until 1767, when it was overturned by the Burmese. The capital was then transferred to Bangkok.
Some temples are free to visit in the park, but donation boxes are available. For some of the larger temples including Wat Chai Wattanaram and Wat Mahatat, you pay an entrance fee, which is usually 50baht.
Wat Chai Wattanaram
Wat Chai Wattanaram is possible the most impressive temple of Ayutthaya Historical Park. I suggest that you head there first, as it starts to get busy from around 9am.
Wat Chai Wattanaram consists of a large central prang (Chedi) surrounded by four smaller prangs on a raised platform. It was built in 1629 by King Prasat Tong, possibly on the site of his mother’s cremation.
Wat Phutthaisawan is known as the Monastery of Buddhist Kingship, and this was my next temple due to it’s location, on the south bank of the Chao Phraya River. The temple and monastery have great historical significance as the complex was built in 1353 AD by King Ramathibodi I at the site where he first settled before establishing Ayutthaya as the capital city in 1350.
The central prang, represents the cosmic Mount Meru and has staircases on both the East and West sides.
The inner wall of the cloister houses rows of golden Buddha images mounted on decorative platforms.
What I really loved about this temple complex was the statues of Kings surrounded by mini statues or offerings. People would bring ‘gifts’ or offerings to the Kings, which reflected their favourite thing or animal during their lifetime.
For example, King Naresuam has an abundance of cockerels at his memorial. The legend is that Thai Prince Naresuan wagered a bet with a
a Burmese prince that Ayutthaya would be freed from Burmese rule if Naresuan’s rooster emerged victorious in the cock fight. Prince Naresuan’s rooster won the bet and came out triumphant! (See: http://thesowardsinthailand.blogspot.com/2013/11/the-ayutthaya-rooster.html)
Phra Buddha Sai Yat (Reclining Buddha)
The reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha underwent major restoration in 1954. The Buddha is aligned on a North-South axis, with its head pointing North. From head to toe, the Phra Buddha Sai Yat is 42 metres long. There are lotus flowers supporting the Buddha’s head. The Buddha’s one foot is positioned on top of the other foot at a perfect right angle. All of the Buddha’s toes are of equal lengths.
In front of the Buddha image, 25 octagonal stumps can be found, suggesting that the Buddha was once encased by a vihara (prayer hall).
Wat Sri Sanphet
Wat Sri Sanphet is famous for its three striking bell shaped Chedi’s. Wat Sri Sanphet was the holiest and most beautiful of temples in it’s time, and the structure of it inspired Wat Phra Kaew, one of the holiest Bangkok temples.
Wat Mahatat is positioned centrally in Ayutthaya historical park and is one of the most important Ayutthaya temples. Wat Mahatat is an extensive monastery ruin with a large main Viharn (prayer hall) plus several smaller chedi’s and viharns.
The ordination building (Ubosot) is a brick and mortar building located on the West on the same axis line as the main Pagoda (Prang). The end of the hall is connected with the cloisters encircling the Pagoda. Only traces of the fountains and octagonal pillars now remain.
Wat Mahatat is most famous for the Buddha head engulfed in the roots of a Bodhi tree. The heads of most Buddhas were chopped off by the invading Burmese in 1767. Many were stolen, but few survived including this one which is now natural preserved…
Wat Rachaburana is located next to Wat Mahatat and is famous for its Paintings inside the Crypt. The mural paintings inside of the crypt of the main prang were found on the interior walls of both the upper and lower sections. Sukhothai art displaying gathering Devas are shown on the Northern and Southern walls of the upper section. Chinese Kings, Warriors and their possessions are depicted on the Eastern and Western walls. The lower section of the crypt is divided into a top and bottom section. Twenty four previous Buddhas were portrayed clockwise in the top section going from East to West. The life of the Buddha is shown on the bottom part, beginning with his reincarnation as a Bodhisattva and ending with his death.
The murals date from the early Ayutthaya period, during the reign of King Borom Racha Thirat II, who constructed the temple in 1424.
Wat Chai Mongkhon (Or Wat Chai Mongkol)
Wat Chai Mongkhon, often referred to as Wat Chai Mongkol is a 14th Century temple with massive Buddha statues and a towering Chedi. This is close to the station so you can get dropped off ready to travel back to Bangkok from Ayutthaya.
Initially, Wat Chai Mongkhon was a monastery constructed by King U-Thong in 1900 B.E. to accommodate the monks that were once ordained from Phra Wanratana Mahathera Bureau in Ceylon. This denomination is called the Pakaew group, and so the monastery was then names ‘Wat Pa Kaew’. This group became popular and prosperous at the time.
Phra Rachathibodi was then appointed as leader of this denomination as one of the two patriarchs. The ubusot (prayer hall) was the place where King Tianracha had prayed for the throne before he could beat Khun Warowongsathiraj, his rival candidate. In 2135 B.E. under the reign of King Narasuan (The Rooster King!), the Burmese army marched into Ayutthaya to take control of the Thai kingdom. King Naresuan marched in to combat his invader, but could not defeat the whole army. Phra Wanratana of Wat Pa Kaew suggested to King Naresuan the Great to build a Chedi (pagoda). He decided to construct a large Chedi in this monastery in 1592 A.D. This monastery became known as Wat Yai Chiamongkhon.
Wat Chai Mongkhon was one of my favourite temples to visit, because the young Buddhist monks wanted to talk to me. They asked where I was from, and when I mentioned Liverpool, they started talking about football!
At Wat Chai Mongkhon, you will find a reclining Buddha, smaller Buddhist shrines, a towering chedi and rows of smaller Buddhist statues around the cloisters. Many Buddhist statues at Chai Mongkhon are adorned in yellow and orange robes – significant in Therevada Buddhism (mainly to do with the colour of dye available at the time) and representing the denouncement or unattachment to material things.
The Ayutthaya day trip from Bangkok was one of the highlights of my Thailand trip. As you can see, this day trip should not be missed!