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Day Trip to Ayutthaya, the Second Capital of Thailand

Nisha and I have been to Thailand many times before. Doing a day trip to Ayutthaya was on the cards for quite a while but for some reason Ayutthaya had always eluded us. Last time when we got the chance, we grabbed it with both hands. So here is our things to do in Ayutthaya, the historic city,  located about 90KM North of Bangkok. Now we can say Thailand holidays are incomplete without a tour of Ayutthaya. So after reading this go ahead and integrate Ayutthaya itinerary into your Thailand itinerary.

Entwined Buddha, Wat Maha That, Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Tour

A little history

The story of Thailand, perhaps, started with a kingdom set up by the Thai people in early 13th century. Prior to that this region was part of a Khmer kingdom. Later two Thai brothers expanded the kingdom and the Buddhist religion and soon Sukothai was one of the most thriving and culturally rich kingdoms. This was the Second Kingdom of Thai folks.

In the meanwhile, a neighbouring King Uthong, moved the capital to Ayutthaya because of an epidemic from further up the stream of River Chao Phraya. (Yes, the same river which flows into Bangkok). Ayutthaya was chosen because it was a fertile land surrounded by three rivers, Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lop Buri.

The Buddha, Ayutthaya

The name of the city, Ayutthaya (Ayodhya) suggests influence of Hindu epic Ramayana known as Ramakien in Thai, during that period. Not going into more details, in time Ayutthaya grew richer and more powerful and conquered several neighbouring kingdoms including Sukothai and thus gave the second most important Kingdom of Thailand, after Sukothai.

The name Siam (maybe Syam) was probably given by other foreign kingdoms but the locals (known as Tai people) always called it Krung Tai, or the Tai Country or, well, … Thailand.

Ayutthaya is often referred to as the Second capital of Thailand.

Next 4 centuries saw Ayutthaya and Siam prospering at the same time warding off several incursions (sometimes not) by Burmese Kingdoms. In its heyday Ayutthaya was the richest city of the region. With it grew Architecture, sculpting, literature and many other forms of art. It was evident in the umpteen Buddhist monasteries and temples. Eventually Ayutthaya fell by debellatio to the Burmese. Meaning the end of the war was by complete destruction of Ayutthaya.

Tour of Historical park of Ayutthaya

Five minutes before the appointed time Polly, our tour guide gave me a call that she was waiting at the lobby.

Suggested route map for Day trip to Ayutthaya

Polly explained in short what our Ayutthaya day trip itinerary was going to be like, while we walked to the car and while in the car explained, in her cheerful voice, most of what I have written above.

Vasu with Polly, the guide at Yai Cha MongKhon, Ayutthaya

So here we go to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya as the city is respectfully called and which is now a UNESCO World Heritage.

What follows is our exploration of what is left of the 4 centuries of prosperity, of this beautiful old capital of Thailand, demonstrated by way of large number of huge temples, most now in ruins.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon or Mongkol

In less than 2 hours we reached Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. This was one of the first Buddhist monastery and temple in Ayutthaya. Located outside the island, the original name for this temple was quite exotic, Wat Pa Kaeo meaning Monastery of the Crystal Forest. If this temple could talk, it would tell us all about coronations, festivals and other celebrations and also about the wheeling and dealing done by enemies of the king. After about 250 years, when the then King Naresuan of Siam defeated the Burmese prince, they built the biggest Prang (pagoda) to commemorate the victory and called the temple Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon meaning, The great monastery of Auspicious Victory.

Main temple, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Ayutthaya

When Ayutthaya was destroyed, so was this temple. The temple was rebuilt in the middle of 20th century and the original prayer room’s foundation has been excavated and kept as it is to show how big it was. The temple was surrounded by a moat which still exists.

The first thing that catches your eye, as soon as you enter and go left is a huge reclining Buddha, draped in gold, in what was once a big prayer room. The ceiling is long gone and only parts of the walls remain. Praying to this Buddha is considered lucky. One could see swarms of devotees applying gold leaf to Buddha. We also saw a lot of them trying to stick a coin to Buddha’s feet. It is considered lucky for anyone who can do that.

Reclining Buddha, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Ayutthaya
Rows of Buddhas at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Ayutthaya

The main temple complex is surrounded by a gallery of sitting Buddhas. Normally they would all be draped in yellow but when we went most were bare. Soon there were young religious students in their saffron clothes, endorsing the fact that, the monastery was very much alive and active. They were quite charming and were very happy to have me in their photo.


Vasu with young students of Buddhism at Wat Yai Cha MongKhon, Ayutthaya


Wat Yai Chai Mongkhom catches the sun, Ayutthaya.

At the back there is a white Buddha installed on the lower level of the Pagoda and probably signifies where the original Buddha Statue sat in the original prayer room.

Open from 8:00AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price: 20 Bahts
Time required: 30 minutes to 45 minutes

Wat Phra MahaThat

We took a short ride of about 10 minutes to reach Wat Maha That. On the way we crossed one of the three rivers, River Pa Sak, which meant that we were now inside Ayutthaya island. The meaning of the name of the temple is “The Monastery of the Great Relic”. (Don’t you love these descriptive names? 🙂 ) .

Wat Maha That is perhaps only a couple of decades younger than Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon or Mongkol but the oldest in the island and was built around 1370s. However the entire complex was built over the period several years and expanded by many rulers.

One of the several satellite prangs, Wat MahaThat, Ayutthaya

History also says that a later king, King Borommaracha II, attacked Angkor (of Angkor Wat fame) and brought back sculptures of animals to decorate Wat Maha That and other temples. Soon it became the most important centre for Buddhism and important celebrations, ceremonies and festivals were being held there.

What must have made this temple attractive was the tall central Prang or the pagoda (stupa). It is said, it used to be over 40 Metres tall including the decoration on the tip. It was also one of the largest in terms of area, spread over around 4 hectare (about 10 acres). Over time, the structure became weak and finally the top part collapsed in 1620 or so. It was rebuilt, this time to measure 50 Metres. That is like 15 floors high!

Main Prang, Wat MahaThat, Ayutthaya

In 1767, the Burmese set fire to this too, along with other temples and buildings. The strong main pagoda survived till the beginning of 20th century when it collapsed to the current state.

It was an awesome sight when we entered Wat Maha That complex. As such all the pagodas and other structures were fully or partly in ruins. The main pagoda was at the centre and other smaller (but quite tall) pagodas surrounded it. If you imagine hard enough, how spectacular it would have been in its height of importance, it is truly awe-inspiring. It was a goose-bump moment for us.

Almost every one of the Buddha statue was damaged. Many during the Burmese invasion and quite a few by thieves who cut of the heads and sold it to western collectors.

Buddha head entwined in a Bodhi tree, Wat Mahathat, Aytthaya


For me one of the most important sights was the Buddha head entwined in the roots of a Peepal (Bodhi) tree (Ficus Religiosa). This is thought to be the most photographed part of all of Ayutthaya. It was one of the heads of Buddha that found its way to the base of the fig tree and its roots in time covered it. Had the Buddha not been smiling it would have made an eerie sight.

Octagonal Pagoda at Wat Maha That, Ayutthaya

We were also impressed by the unique octagonal pagoda which is almost intact. Its unique shape and design showed the artistry of the artisans. Another unique feature is that there are mini pagodas on the top level. On top was a bronze stupa once upon a time which has now been preserved in the museum here. During excavations a lot of treasures were found including a golden lion and are also part of the museum collections. I am sure a lot more have been lost to the thieves.

Open from 8:30AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price: 50 Bahts
Time required: 45 minutes to 60 minutes

Wat Ratcha Burana – The Monastery of Royal Repairs

Literally, just next door, lies Wat Racha Burana, built around 1424 CE by King Borommaracha II. Once upon a time there was a King of Siam named Intharatcha in the beginning of 15th century.. He had 3 sons who were ruling over border regions. Sounds like a fairy tale! Likeness to fairy tale stops here. The story goes that when the king died of illness, his two eldest sons , Ai and Yi, fought for the throne mounted on elephants. The duel happened on a bridge just a few yards from this Wat. The result was bloody and both sons died slashing each others neck at the same time. The bridge was over a canal that does not exist now.

The Royal Vihara or Prayer room, Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya

The youngest son became the king. As a mark of respect he made two stupas (Chedis) near the bridge in the memory of his brothers. He was named Borommaracha II. King Borommaracha II built this fine temple in the same year, 1424CE. It is said that, though a beautiful temple, successive Kings never visited this as it was considered cursed.

In 1767, a crow flew in and impaled itself on the finial of the central pagoda. This was considered a bad luck and sure enough the Burmese had come and destroyed everything.

The majestic central pagoda welcomed us through the Royal Sermon Hall. When people started coming back to Ayutthaya , looting and trophy hunting for Buddha’s head was rampant. it was said that the crypt of the main Prang contained treasures of immense value. Unfortunately the guard protecting it colluded with thieves and stole a lot of gold and artefacts from the crypt and also from the surrounding areas. The authorities did manage to recover some of them. There is a sign board that says 75 Kg of Gold, 10 Kg of gold artefacts, over 2000 small gold objects weighing over 10Kg etc. should have been there. Wow! Only 10% was recovered.

Painted ceilings and walls with Murals. A view from the treasure crypt. Wat Ratchaurana, Ayutthaya

But we saw inside the crypt a treasure no looter thought was important. The walls of the crypt had what must have been beautiful mural paintings. Devas, Chinese kings and warriors. It was extremely dark to properly take pictures, but still we tried. The roof of the crypt was also well decorated.

We recommend you pause the Day trip to Ayutthaya at this point for a quick lunch.

Open from 8:30AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price: 50 Bahts
Time required: 45 minutes to 60 minutes

Wat Chai Wattanaram

Wat Chai Wattanaram is located on the west bank of Chao Phraya River on the main land.
We took a boat to reach the temple. The boat ride on all the three rivers is definitely an experience worth a try. From afar we could see the magnificent Wat Wattanaram. It some how gave me a feeling that we were looking at the Angkor Wat temple. I cant describe why. Maybe it is the architecture or is it the layout? The presence of water only reaffirmed the feeling.

Majestic Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya
One of the Pagoda s at Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya

This was built by King Prasat Thong when he ascended the throne in the year 1630. On this land his mother lived in a house and wanted to build a memorial for her. There is a central pagoda and eight smaller satellite pagodas in symmetrical arrangement.

The fact that it took about 20 years to complete speaks of the elaborate arrangement of various Prangs and Chedis. This also became one of the most popular temples of Ayutthaya for all the kings who succeeded King Thong, right till the Burmese siege and destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767.

Riverside Entrance to Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya

Oh! one minute. I forgot to point out that all the kings always used the riverside entrance, just like us :). Walking along what is left of the prayer hall, made us feel very important 🙂 and I was thinking “Ah . Those were the days!” 🙂

As we entered the main complex we saw a lot of Thai people wearing traditional dress and were here with their family. We saw a few elsewhere too, but here there were just too many of them. Looking at my puzzled looks Polly said that for one, it was a holiday and the second reason was quite interesting.

TV Series “Buppesannivas” meaning Love Destiny, has been extremely popular with the Ayutthayans (if such a word exists). The people identify themselves with the main characters, King Narai and others.

Locals dressed in period costumes to celebrate TV series on Ayutthaya. at Wat Chai Wattanaram

When we visited, it was almost the last few episodes. I have never seen such a strong influence of a TV Drama on people. I am sure in days to come Thai people will see more of such TV Dramas produced for them.

The inner courtyard, as was the practice those days, were covered with statues of Buddha, but now all were headless. All in all it was one of the best restored and maintained Wats of Ayutthaya.

Open from 8:30AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price: 50 Bahts (Ticket counter is on the Road side not on the Riverside)
Time required: 45 minutes to 60 minutes

Wat Lokayasuttha or Lokayasutharam

A short drive back into Ayutthaya island of less than 10 minutes brings us to Wat Lokayasuttha, or the Temple of the Earth. From far off only the remnants of a single tall Prang was visible. I was still trying to figure out what was special about the place, when Polly stopped the vehicle and directed us to the highlight of the place. Out in the open was Phra Buddha Sai Yat, one of the largest 42Metres long and 8 metres high reclining Buddha.

Sleeping Buddha, Phra Buddha Sai Yat, Wat Lokayasuttha, Ayutthaya

It is quite likely that there might have been a covered room and there are no tell tale signs that indicate so. Locals still come to worship here and place their offerings and donation in a small box kept for the purpose.

However not much is known about this temple.

Open 24 hours
Ticket Price: Free
Time required: 15 minutes

Wat Worachettharam

Next door is the Wat Worachettharam. There is a very little reconstruction done. The high point is a serious Buddha outside and a smiling Buddha inside the prayer room.


Smiling Buddha, Wat Worachettharam, Ayutthaya
Sad Buddha, Wat Worachettharam, Ayutthaya

Both Wat Worachettharam and Wat Lokayasuttha must have been important temples because it is close the erstwhile Grand Palace.

Open 24 hours
Ticket Price: Free
Time required: 15 minutes

Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit

It may be loosely translated as Temple of Buddha of Holy Reverence. This golden statue (actually made of bronze) of Buddha is believed to be sculpted in the year 1530. However the Buddha was consecrated in this temple much later in 1637 or so.

Vihara Phra Mongkhon Bophit, Ayutthaya

In 1767, the whole temple and the statue was badly damaged due to fire set Burmese.
The story goes that the Thai King at that time was smuggled out to a village from the Grand Palace (next door). However he was found out by Burmese guard and taken to their camp where the king died. He was then cremated right in front of this very temple as mark of honour.

A few heads of Buddha with gold leaves stuck by the devotees are displayed here belonging to some or the other temples of Ayutthaya.

Of all the temples we visited today, this was the one completely crowded with devotees and this was the one which was restored to the best possible condition. The sitting Buddha measures 12.5 Metres high is one of the biggest bronze Buddhas in Thailand.

Open from 8:00AM to 5:00 PM
Ticket Price Free
Time taken: 15 minutes to 30 minutes

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

Again next door is Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. The famous three huge pagodas in the shape of bells is situated here.
Originally a palace was built just about the time Ayutthaya came into being , even older than Wat Yai Chai Mongkohn.

The Three Chedis containing ashes of Kings father and brother at Wat Phra Sri Sanphet

The temple just started evolving inside the premises of the Grand palace, without a plan, in the end of 15th century. First two chedis were built to bury the ashes of the King’s Father and Brother. Then a prayer hall was built. Eventually a large Buddha statue , with a height of 16Metres, was installed. This was supposed to be one of the most beautiful Standing Buddhas of that time, with 340 Kilograms of gold leaf covering the whole statue.

Yet another 100 years later more Buddhas were added , embellished with gem stones, silver and gold and thereby making the already beautiful temple even more so.

The irony of it was that within a decade of final renovation and construction , Ayutthaya was destroyed!

Open from 8:00AM to 6:00 PM
Ticket Price 50 Baht
Time taken: 15 minutes to 30 minutes

Tips to visit Ayutthaya

  • Ayutthaya is about 90 KM from Bangkok but could take upto 2 hours by car. There are frequent minibuses that also take around 2 hours.
  • There are trains too, and guess what?… they also take around 2 hours 🙂
  • From Bangkok there are cruises that take you to Ayutthaya and back.
    While visiting the temples it is advised to wear conservative attire (Not revealing! 🙂 )
  • Apply Sun screen, wear sun glasses, bring umbrellas and drink lots of water and wear a hat too. All the jaunts in the open sky amongst rocks could be a warming experience.
  • Bring some snacks too. There are plenty of options for libation and alimentation but during the tour it might be a good idea to munch on some snacks, once in a while.
  • Long Tail boat ride for 1 hour would cost around 300 to 400 Bahts.
  • If you plan to spend more than a day then we recommend visiting Chao Sam Phraya Museum and the oldest Wat Wat Phanan Choeng which existed even before Ayutthaya was founded, There are many more temples but only some of them are interesting or important.
  • Please respect the local culture and refrain from clambering onto a Buddha statue for that ever important selfie!

Day Trip to Ayutthaya: Pin it!

This tour was made possible by Take Me Tour, Thailand’s largest selection of local experiences.


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P.S.- This article, A Day trip to Ayutthaya, the second capital of Thailand, or Things to do in Ayutthaya, belongs to Le Monde, the Poetic Travels, an Indian Travel Blog, published by the traveling couple, Nisha & Vasudevan R. Reproduction without explicit permission is prohibited. If you are viewing this on another website rather than the RSS feed reader or itself, then that website is guilty of stealing our content. Kindly do us a favour by letting us know via Contact Us. Thank you.


38 thoughts on “Day Trip to Ayutthaya, the Second Capital of Thailand”

  1. I’ve been 3 or 4 times now and STILL not found the Entwined Buddha that you have up top. I always forget to look for it. So I guess I’ll just go back again. We’ve also used Take Me Tour, they were great.

  2. This is very detailed article. We have visited Bangkok many times but missed Ayutthaya every time.

    Thanks for mentioning the touring company, it will help in taking their help when we go there. We love experiencing local stuff.

  3. I was just in Bangkok and Thailand in May! I had no idea about this place. Who knew something so beautiful was this close to the city? Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is something I’d love to see next time I’m there.

  4. Great article — love the attention to detail. It makes a great guide for anyone thinking about visiting Ayutthaya. The architecture is stunning, and you’ve done a great job of capturing it. Love your photographs! It is easy to understand why the Buddha entwined in the roots of the banyan tree is the most photographed thing there. I’d have to say, that’s my favorite image!

  5. Sounds like you had a lovely trip to Ayutthaya! Cool to know that you can see so many temples and lovely historical sites in just a day.. 🙂 Love that you have included the history of each site. Thailand is such a beautiful country with such fascinating history! Love your photo of the Wat Maha That. It does look specular even on its ruins state.

  6. Is that really gold leaf on the reclining Buddha? Wow, it must be worth so much money. And worth an awful lot more to the devotees, I imagine. A really interesting post!

  7. A trip to Ayutthaya looks like a great day for the culturally inclined. It reminds me in a way of Arunadhapura, the erstwhile capital of Sri lanka. Very informative post and the your useful tips at the end will ensure a comfortable day to this ancient land.

  8. I really wanted to visit Ayutthaya when I was in Thailand but I only had the chance to see the islands and bangkok! Although the temples there were lovely something about this temple seems more authentic…even the reclining Buddha is modest compared to the golden ones in Bangkok! Crazy to think it was destroyed too! Wonderful article!

  9. Oh we’re going back to Bangkok in December and hopefully, we could also go to Ayutthaya on a day trip. The Reclining Buddha, Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, is something really travelers talk about here and personally, I’d love to see it, too! Also, I wondered why I never visit Ayuthaya even tho I lived in Bangkok for months before. lol

  10. I feel special when I read about Ayutthya as it fills me with pride. The image of entwined Buddha is so intriguing. I would love to capture it myself some day. With your narration I can guess you had a great guide in Polly. Rows of Buddhas at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon looks amazing. Great photographs.

  11. Thanks a lot, you shared very good post.
    I really wanted to visit Ayutthaya when I was in Thailand. Next year I sure will go there and try to visit all temples.

  12. Have seen it before but can never get enough of this one!
    All those Buddhas seem to have different expressions from different angles.
    SOmewhat reminds be of Sanchi STupa from certain angles by the Thai style is unmistakeable.

  13. What a fantastic and very detailed article. We missed visiting Ayutthya on our last visit to Bangkok. Fortunately, we’ll be going back in the next couple of months and were just talking about making sure we don’t miss visiting this time around. Perfect timing for the article 🙂 The history is amazing and the architecture, outstanding. It looks like there is more to see and do than we originally thought. Pinning this for later 🙂

  14. I did this tour some years back and seeing and reading your post felt like walking down that memory lane. While the ruinous condition saddened, the fact that the structures still standing tall amazed me! I was seeing large sized Buddhas here for the first time then and was spellbound!

  15. I am yet to visit Thailand, but Ayutthaya looks amazing! That Buddha in the tree roots is so unusual, I absolutely love it. For me, the Smiling Buddha is the most captivating, your photography really shows the beauty of Ayutthaya and why I need to visit!

  16. Ayutthaya seems to be a city of temples, and each one more spectacular than the other! I haven’t heard of this city, to be honest, but considering that it’s not far from Bangkok at all, maybe I should have included it in my list of places to visit in Thailand. The statue of the reclining Buddha draped in golden at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is really nice as is the architecture of Wat Chai Wattanaram. I can imagine how cool the boat ride to the temple would have been!

  17. What a lovely post. I love this place and like you, it has been eluding me for a while now. Not sure if I can make it this time but will try. It is so my kind of place. Loved reading all the stories behind each one of these places. The Buddha peeping out of the tree is such an iconic spot. Fingers crossed that I witness it for myself.

  18. Fantastic guide to Ayutthaya and looks like I really do need to do this when I hit Thailand. The temples look really beautiful. Thanks for the tips and the prices (at present) to go and check out all these beautiful places. Really cant wait to get out there.

  19. I have not been to Thailand, the temples are fascinating. I would love to explore the Pagoda s at Wat Chai Wattanaram, Ayutthaya and I must see the Sleeping Buddha

  20. I loved visiting this ancient site, its been over 20 years and still looks amazing. Thanks for the fun tour and seeing this wonderful temples again and how well they are still maintained.

  21. Ayutthaya was one of my first contacts with South East Asia and I loved it! A miniature Angkor Wat of sort 🙂 I’d actually recommend spending a few nights there to really let it soak in, it’s a wonderful little place to explore by bike 🙂

  22. Your this post is really remarkable and everytime i read it i find something new but that entwined Buddha is deeply engraved in my mind. The site of it fills me with mixed emotion. I seriously feel bad for myself for not visiting Ayutthaya during my last visit to Thailand for it has so much history & heritage. I would make sure to land their during my next visit for sure. Thanks for all tips. Pinning this for later.

  23. Wat Ratcha Burana sounds very interesting. The history is interesting. I feel like the youngest brother was smart. Let the two older fight and then take over. I do like how he honored his brothers. It is to bad that the temple was looted. I would have loved to see the treasures.

  24. I did not see any statue of Little Buddha like this between the tree roots . What a beautiful and amazing place, this one. It looks like Angkor Wat but different and more beautiful in some ways .

  25. All those buddha statues — such a treat! Sad to know that many were destroyed.

    I didn’t know about sticking coins to the feet of the reclining buddha. That’s interesting. 🙂

  26. Lakshmi Radhakrishnan

    A detailed and informative article. Loved the beautiful pictures you have captured of the history and architectural beauty of the place. Lovely post.

  27. This is incredible! I’m adding this to my list of places to go. I never realized how beautiful Ayutthaya was, how much history there is. Thanks for taking the time to write out such a detailed itinerary and doing all the research. I definitely want to go now! 😀

  28. Ayutthaya looks like a beautiful epic etched in stone. Always wonder at how life must have been when these kind of masterpieces of stone were shaped. I am awed by the two statues of the reclining Buddha, they reminded me of the one in Bangkok. Indeed the Buddhist chapter of the epic called Thailand never fails to enthrall.

  29. This is really inspiring for me. A story that can make the place alive in mind. As a traveller i am very much delighted to see this. You portrayed the whole blog beautifully and it will motivate the new travel bloggers.

  30. I had not heard of Ayutthaya. But I see why you say that you should visit when you are in Bangkok. Glad to know you can do it as a day trip. Fascinating to visit such an old monastery at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. I am sure it would have lots of tales to tell. The reclining buddha is interesting. But I loved the long line of buddhas. And the buddha head in the Bodhi tree roots. So many interesting temples one after another must have been amazing. But maybe a bit overwhelming to see all in one day?

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