From 1350 until the late 18th century, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam. It was destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese. The vast remains include former palaces and temples and now form a UNESCO World Heritage site. We visited Ayutthaya on the last day of 2015 and managed to visit some of the highlights as a day trip from Bangkok. There is no way to see it all in one day, but a good base of the major sites is doable in a one day trip to Ayutthaya. Here are the sites we visited.
Wat Phu Khao Thong
This was our first stop before crossing over to the island where most of the Ayutthaya ruins are located. According to the signs, this temple was originally built in Thai style in 1387. The chedi was redone in Mon style after the sack of the city by the Burmese and then redone again in Thai style during a later restoration. In addition to this magnificent structure, there’s a functioning temple on the grounds that was in use while we were visiting. The view from the top here is great and this is a very peaceful site, as it is not as frequented by travelers as some of the others.
Wat Maha That
Wat Maha That was originally built to hold Buddha relics. Now it stands as large collection of ruined brick structures amid a large field. It is famous for it’s many Buddha statues scattered throughout the ruins, such as the Buddha head with tree growing around it.
Wat Phra Ram
Across the water from Wat Maha That sits Wat Phra Ram. The tall, central tower is called a prang, and it is used to hold relics. Prangs are a notable feature of the Ayutthaya temples and as you ride around the area, you will see these impressive structures, calling you to the next site. In addition to the ruins, there is an elephant corral in the large Phra Ram Park so expect to see many people taking elephant rides around this large, sunny area.
Wat Thammikarat lacks an impressive prang, but this still-functioning temple was possibly my favorite stop of the day. For a small site, it has so much variety and so many fun things to look at. For starters, there’re the roosters. There are Ayutthaya rooster statues at many of the temples in Ayutthaya, but the display at Thammikarat is pretty impressive. Why roosters? I honestly don’t know, but I read an interesting story here that explains both the historic story and why the rooster is popular in Ayutthaya today.
Wat Thammikarat also features dozens of dogs circling the ruined chedi.
There are numerous Buddhas to be found here, including a large Buddha head inside a lotus flower, ruined reclining Buddha, and both standing and seated Buddhas in the sermon hall. This is one of the more interesting sites, and I wouldn’t discount it if planning a trip to Ayutthaya.
Wat Si Sanphet
This row of chedis is part of Wat Si Sanphet, set in the center of an enormous compound that also houses what remains of the royal palace. I feel the photo doesn’t do near justice to the sheer size of these chedis and the surrounding area. It is a considerable walk just from the entrance to the center. Wat Si Sanphet also hosts a large model of the Ayutthaya Kingdom.
Our last stop on the island portion of Ayutthaya was at Wat Lokayasutharam, but we didn’t come to see the wat so much as the old reclining Buddha with head on a lotus pillow.
The best preserved site we visited all day, Wat Chaiwatthanaram is built in Khmer style, featuring several chedis around a central prang. This wat is on the southwest outskirts of the city, off the island. I’m glad we saved this beautiful wat for last.
The Buddhas inside the chedis were painted black and gold at one time. Now all are chipped and decayed.
After touring these sites, we headed on to Bang Pa-In, the royal palace of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, on our way back to Bangkok. This was a great end to the year and perfect for a day trip while visiting Bangkok.
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