Exploring Heart of Siam – Ayutthaya Travel Blog

The entire world knows Bangkok as Thailand’s capital. It is more enticing when you travel to the second capital of ancient Siam – Ayutthaya. Often treated as a place for a day trip from Bangkok, Ayutthaya is a town you must experience on foot.

This post is all about what made me explore this historical city for two days instead of a day trip.


How do you travel to Ayutthaya?

ayutthaya railway station
  • The nearest airport to Ayuttaya is Bangkok – 80km.
  • Nearest railway station – Ayutthaya’s train station is close to the main town. Plenty of trains leave from Bangkok to here. The most common route tourists take is Ayutthaya- Phitsanulok to get to Sukhothai. Choose the express train with an AC coach to save time and energy.
  • Public buses –We didn’t spot any public buses, but there are public vans. Use 12goAasia to book these, Or you can check for local travel agencies that run regular public taxi services, such as Khao San Tara travels in Bangkok.
  • Boats and Ferries – Chao Praya river flows between Bangkok & Ayuttaya. But the cruises and ferry to Ayuttaya on this river are scams I read everywhere. Beware of it before you choose ferries.

Which hotels in Ayutthaya are good for families?

Ayuttaya is a small town. So choosing the right neighbourhood isn’t a headache. The only place you may want to avoid is closer to Chao Phrom market and the railway station. Choose hotels closer to any of the ruins. In general, Ayuttaya accommodations are cheaper than the rest of the cities in Thailand. For example, you can get decent accommodation with an attached toilet for 800 baht/per night downtown. Guesthouses near Wat Mahatat (Buddha’s head in a tree) and Wat Ratchaburana are always in demand and are the best for the ones in Ayuttaya for 2 days.

When we took a boat ride to Wat Chaiwatthanaram, we saw plenty of other guesthouses and hostels by the riverside. However, I feel it is better not to choose riverside guesthouses, as the water stinks. The river was ill-maintained, filled with algae, and other unwanted plants had grown everywhere. 


The most famous (Probably the most expensive hotel in Ayuttaya) Sala Ayutthaya near Wat Phutthai Sawan, costs around 6000 baht/night.

Which hotels in Ayutthaya are good for families?

We stayed at Binlar guest house. There was nothing fancy or exceptional about the hotel, but it was worth the money. It is located on the main road, hardly 150m from Wat Mahatat and Wat Ratchaburana. The vast empty main roads by the hotel were serene for our early morning walks.


Why visit Ayuttaya?


This UNESCO World Heritage site is home to hundreds of ancient brick temples. You may be seeing the Wats in Bangkok and Phuket, but jogging in the early morning beside 200+-year-old ruins is surreal. Bangkok represents Thailand, while Ayuttaya tells stories of Siam. The small-town food is always tastier. Somehow this town has managed not to get infested with mass tourism, even with all the amenities any small town in a developing nation should have. Suppose you want to see something unique to Ayuttaya that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world – you got Buddha’s head embedded in a banyan tree at Wat Mahatat.

How many days to spend here?

Does this Ayutthaya temple remind you of Cambodia?

First and foremost – Don’t make a day trip! You end up seeing the Buddha head of Wat Mahatat and Wat Ratchaburana. No doubt, they are stunning. The joy of Ayuttaya lies in walking and exploring. You don’t usually get to take early morning walks around century-old chedis and Wats with birds chirping when the first set of sun rays touches your skin.

After that, it gets too hot to walk around; sitting back and sipping a tender coconut on your guest house verandah under the tree is better. So you will have to spend at least one night and two days in Ayuttaya like we did to cover the basics. The UNESCO Heritage site is a treasure of mysteries for archaeologists. As laymen, we may savour the Siam for at least two days.

Ayuttaya-Sukothai- Lopburi: What is the difference?

The most common question from part-time travellers on the Thailand travel platform is –

  • Is Ayuttaya worth the visit?
  • Which is better – Ayuttaya or Sukothai?
  • How is Lopburi different from Sukhothai?

Here is the answer

Sukhothai was the first capital of Siam after freeing themselves from the Khmer of Cambodia. After the collapse of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya became the capital. During the Ayutthaya era, Lopburi was the second most important city with much influence from the Indian subcontinent. So the size of the Historical park goes in descending order like this – Sukothai, Ayutthaya and Lopburi. The weather remains the same in all three towns throughout the year. However, Sukothai feels a bit cooler because of the village’s woods.


  1. Sukothai archaeological ruins hide in the woods and remote villages.
  2. Besides the ruins, Sukothai massage and Sukothai food are the best I had in all of Thailand!
  3. The usual next destination from here is Chiang Mai in the North or Ayuttaya towards Central Thailand.


  1. Most of Ayutthaya’s ruins are in the town, just 5km from the city. A few temples are located on the river banks also.
  2. The modern city is developed around Ayuttaya, leaving no space around it. This makes the sleepy town of Ayuttaya excellent for morning jogging.
  3. The usual next destination is Bangkok towards the South, Maeklong or Kanchanaburi in the west, and Sukhothai towards the west.


  1. Lopburi’s ruins are similar to that of Ayuttaya, with more influence from Indian architecture. More than the ruins, it is famous for the monkeys! Many travellers refer to it as the” Monkey town of Thailand.”
  2. There are a few hiking trails to get the village view from the top. Villagers are proud of the monkey’s presence throughout the town because they believe it is a sign of good luck.
  3. The usual next destination from here is Sukothai or Chiang Mai in the North.

Guide to exploring the ruins 


The boundaries of the World Heritage Historical Park cover 90+ sites. 65+ temples are brick temple ruins, and the other temples are either brick mounds or with the slightest traces of brick foundation. Due to urbanisation, many monasteries and temples have vanished. So you never know – the guest house you are staying in may be built on top of a century-old building.

You don’t need a guide unless you want to know more about each ruin’s religious importance and history. Most often, there is a signboard at each Wat explaining who built it and when. It is super easy to go by yourself in all of Thailand.

In this small town, tuk-tuk drivers, boat rowers and cafe owners understand English decently. So you can wander with locals’ help and no official tour organiser.

Whenever you want to click a photo in front of a Buddha statue, the person who clicks and the one who poses have to sit! Thais find it disrespectful if you take photos in any other way.

Dress appropriately – Covering shoulders and knees. Many ruins are still active, and monks come to worship at the ruins.

THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE THE HISTORICAL PARK IS EITHER BY WALKING OR CYCLING. You can opt for boat rides to visit a few sites, especially in the evening.

10 AM to 4 PM is when the crowd is more. Tourists making a day trip arrive at 10 AM.

Start walking early in the morning, return to your room, or relax in a cafe from 12 to 3. The heat is pricky and sure to give you a headache. I have a migraine headache problem. The heat was so bad by 12 that my head was about to explode. We almost lost half a day until I felt better. No tablet could help me until the boat rower gave me some random white pill while going to Wat Chaiwatthanaram.


ENTRANCE TICKETS – The ancient complex had 22 gates. Now the historical park is fenced and gets opened near the main buildings. Most sites are free of cost, and some of them charge you less than 50 Baht. You can buy individual tickets or a combo ticket to enter all the temples that need a paid entry ticket.

Don’t go for the combo ticket unless you are sure of visiting all those sites on the same day ( which is very likely impossible because of the sun and heat)

Though this is a historic city with many holy sites, many bars & clubs play loud music in the evening. Lunch and dinner are not a problem even for vegans and Vegetarians. However, the town wakes up a bit late in the morning! Especially for early morning people like my Mom, it was hard to find a cart selling hot coffee at 7. Most restaurants open by 11 AM! Read our post “Vegetarians guide to authentic Thai food.” to learn more about our favourite cafes in Ayuttaya.

Walking in the isolated historical sites at any time during the day is safe.

If you are in Ayuttaya for more than three days, you have all the luxury of time to explore. Anything less than that, research a bit on what you want to see. It gets boring to visit similar wats and Chedis. Following the map to some Wat may lead you to a brick mound. You need not know everything, but at least ensure the ruin is in a decent condition or just a pile of bricks and mud.


List of Ayuttaya Sites

My idea of an Ayuutaya temple was just one structure. It turned out that it isn’t so. Wat Mahatat itself had so many chedis, so many temples and hundreds of Buddha statues and elephant structures that you can keep walking for a whole day at Wat Mahatat. What we planned and ended up doing is a lot different. The sun won over us, and we had to head back after I got a splitting migraine headache. We often sat where there was shade. It was to take it slow and easy instead of rushing to visit everything we had planned.

The list of temples we visited

  1. Wat Phra Mahathat The most famous Budhha embedded in the tree
  2. Wat Ratchaburana – A ruin that reminds you of Angkor wat temple
  3. Wat Chaiwatthanaram – Riverside temple with towering pinpointed chedis surrounding the main temple.
  4. Wat Phromniwas Worawihan – a modern typical Thai temple by the riverside.
  5. Wat Phutthaisawan  The combination of Pagoda and tower temple by the riverside. 
  6. Wat suwannavas Three brick chedis by the roadside

Other temples we had planned to visit

  1. Wat Phra Si Sanphet – Ground of Chedis 
  2. Wat Yai Chaimongkol – Active temple with multiple Buddha statues
  3. Wat Phu Khao Thong – Unique of all, wider at base resembling Wat Arun
  4.  Wat Lokayasutharam – Giant sleeping Buddha
  5. Wat Thammikarat – Monastery with lion statues at the bottom. 

Best three sites in Ayuttaya

Wat Ratchaburana

This temple is a fine example of the Cambodian style in Ayuttaya. The 14th-century structure is still under restoration (and will be for a few more years). You enter through a hallway with ornated entrance and then a podium surrounded by tall brick walls. Here you get a glimpse of the Wat behind the hall. Once you exit the hall and take the side walkways, you see a magnificent temple tower sitting on a high podium surrounded by Chedis.

The best part is visitors can climb about halfway up the prang(podium) and onto the praying area. The chambers below the prangs should contain a heap of treasure! We wondered if we could get a tiny piece of treasure with every step we took! Well, we could not get the treasure, but the view from the prayer hall was all worth the climb. Bird’s eye view of The Chedis, ordination hall with modern Ayuttaya town in the background was equally worth the treasure.

Wat Mahatat

The photograph of a Buddha head nestled in a tree’s roots is one of the most recognisable images from Thailand. This is the main reason I wanted to go to Ayuttaya like many other tourists. I was too curious to know how and why is Buddha’s head sits in the Banyan tree’s entangled roots. The archaeology and restoration department says – 

In the 1760S, the Burmese attacked Wat Mahatat and lit the entire complex. They vandalised as much as possible, leaving this Buddha’s head on the ground. Over time, the tree overgrew, encircling the head. In the 1950s, when the government began excavating, along with pots full of gold and precious items, they found Buddha’s head nestled in the roots. They decided to leave it the same way.

There is even another story; our boat rower at Ayuttaya narrated a different story. A thief broke the head after the Burmese vandalised the statue to take it with him. He hid it under the soil and never came back to take it.

Whatever is the reason, this is unique to Thailand. It is one of the most astonishing things I have ever seen in my life. 

Though Buddha’s head embedded in the roots is the most famous spot in Wat Mahatat, many more structures exist. The ordination hall, viharas, and series of Buddha statues sitting in meditation postures- are a massive collection of Cambodian-style structures. The shaded trees here benefit tourists who love to walk and take a break under the tree sitting. The heat was intense, and this place was so blissful that we did not want to move for almost an hour sitting under a tree beside a brick ruin.

Heads Up – The entry ticket was 50 baht to Wat Mahata complex in 2019. Most tourists who come to Ayuttaya visit this site. Expect a crowd, and a line will be waiting to get clicked in front of Buddha’s head embedded in the roots.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

The riverside temple complex, where ancient royals worship privately, is another excellent example of Cambodian architecture. With the main temple in the centre, multiple chedis surround it. Unfortunately, unlike Ratchaburana, we couldn’t climb the podium as it was under restoration.

Most tourists add Wat Chaiwatthanaram to their day’s plan because of the Chao Praya river’s locality. You will never forget the first sight of this Wat from far while on the boat. However, if you want to capture the temple’s reflection in the water, remember that The Wat is located on the west side of the Chao Praya river. The sunsets behind the temple. So going there in the evening is a bad idea if you aim for the reflection. Otherwise, the evening is a great time to spend some quiet time on the riverside.

The other temples – Not so Impressive

Wat Phromniwas Worawihan

If you are not into religious and spiritual experiences, you may skip by looking for ancient structures and history. This is like any other temple in Thailand but holy for Buddhist monks.

Wat Phutthaisawan

A small temple near Wat Chaiwatthanaram is different from other temples with new and old structures.

Wat suwannavas

This temple is not your “instagrammable” spot. While we walked in the early morning, it felt bizarre to find these ancient brick structures popping in the modern town.

Things to do other than seeing Wats.

Go for early morning jogging or cycling. 

I think it is the 10th time I am mentioning it; I will do it one last time – Go jogging or cycling early in the morning. The clean streets are free of vehicles, and chirping birds on those bulky trees that hide 600+-year-old bricks – You can’t start your day better than this in Thailand. Walking around famous Wats like Mahatat in the morning, you will notice something you had missed the previous day!

Explore the European side of Ayutthaya 

From the first word of this post, I have been gabbing about Siam, Burmese and Cambodians. So, I was shocked to see an ancient Catholic church by Chao Praya while going to Chaiwatthanaram! In its glory days, Ayutthaya drew colonisers from all over the world. So, many foreign quarters belonged Dutch, Portuguese and French! When I saw a sushi place opposite Ratchaburana, I wondered why will a cafe sell only Sushi in this tiny Thai town. When asked the owner why a Sushi place in a historical city, he said that there are many in the city with Japanese ethnicity in Ayuttaya. ! So Japanese cuisines are pretty famous among locals here. Visiting these foreign quarters and the French church built in the 1660s shows Ayuttaya’s diversity.

Take a boat ride

 All the historic ruins are reachable by road. The boat ride in Chao Praya shows you another side of the town. The houses built on stilts by the river, locals fishing, abandoned old boats – Vey different from those brick temples you have seen. You spot many modern temples, an essential part of local life here. There are dozens of hostels with hammocks hanging. Backpackers with a book vibing with the town’s sleepy vibe were there throughout the river banks. It isn’t common in Middle East countries to see women rowing boats. Women and their daughters handled most boats here. In their blue-white uniforms, the pretty-faced hard-working girls come back from school directly to the dock to help their moms and sisters!

Eat the Thai version of continental food. 

Ayutthaya’s food is peculiar compared to all the other six cities I have seen in Thailand! I had a croissant with coconut jam here! They sell Sushi ( I don’t know how it tastes, I went to the shop just for curiosity) with sauces other than Wasabi. The kind of fish they use is fresh from the Chao Praya river. Other than Chiang Mai, I found Ayuttaya more Vegan-friendly than the other Thai cities. 

There are other usual Thai things to do here – Thai Spa, nightclubs and bars, Ayuttaya floating market and night markets if Ayuttaya is the only Thai town you visit. 

What are your thoughts on Ayuttaya? Please let me know in the comment section below if you know how to handle the migraine headache by heat. So that I don’t lose half a day sleeping in the room next time 

Published by Sahana Kulur

Traveller | Blogger | Architecture and history

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