Ayutthaya is located 76 kilometers north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. Such ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indo - China's most prosperous cities. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, a Historical Park and a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO's list of world heritage sites since 13 December, 1991. Having been the Thai capital for 417 years, it is one of Thailand's major tourist attractions. Many ancient ruins and art works can be seen in a city that was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong when the Thais were forced southwards by their northern neighbors. During the period of Ayutthaya, being the Thai capital, 33 Kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767.
The Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre is a national research institute devoted to the study of Ayutthaya, especially during the period when Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam. The Centre is responsible for the museum of the history of Ayutthaya, which exhibits reconstructions from the past. The Centre also supports an information service and a library containing historical materials about Ayutthaya.
Due to its strategic central positioning, there are numerous highways which run through Ayutthaya. Eight in total, the province has the most highways passing through in the whole of Thailand.
The cheapest and most colorful way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. All north and north-east line trains depart from Bangkok's Hualamphong Train Station and stop in Ayutthaya, a trip of about 1.5 hours - 2.5hrs depending on the type of train service.
Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok's Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit*) directly to Ayutthaya.
Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. Travelling by boat to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is popular among foreigners since it does not only reveal the beauty as well as lifestyle of the people on both sides of the Chao Phraya River, but also reflects the life in history at the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom when the Chao Phraya River served as a channel of transportation in trading with foreign countries.
Wat Yai Chaimongkon
(on the Bang Pa-in Rd, 1km east of Wat Phanan Choeng) This is a large working wat, with ruins that appear on some of the well known photos of temples in Thailand. It features a large reclining Buddha in saffron robes in its own ruined wiharn, and, most spectacularly, a huge chedi swathed in golden cloth set in a courtyard which is lined by Buddha images all wearing saffron robes. Very photogenic.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This important and most impressive monastery is located in the Grand Palace compound like Wat Phra Si Rattanasatsadaram (Wat Phra Kaeo) of Bangkok. Used as a residential palace, it became a monastery in the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokanat commanded new living quarters built, this residential palace was given to be a temple area, thus originating Wat Phra Si Sanphet: The royal chapel does not have any monks and novice inhabitants.
Elephant Kraal Pavilion
The pavilion, utilized as the royal seat to witness the elephant round up, is located in Tambon Suan Phrik, 4 kilometers from the city along Highway No.309. The outlook is a big cage surrounded with logs having, from the front centre, fencing lines of 45 degrees spread out to both sides far away into the jungle area. Around the kraal itself, is an earthen wall with bricks to the height of the pillars’top. Behind the kraal and opposite the front fencing line is the pavilion housing the royal seat. The Kraal currently seen was renovated in the year 1988 by the government.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng means "sitting with crossed legs". Founded in 1334, it includes a 19-meter-high, cross-legged seated, gold-plated statue of the Buddha, one of the largest in the country. The robe of the Buddha is always tied together by new smaller saffron colored fabrics. By donating a small amount of money, visitors can get a piece of robe for the Buddha statue which will bring good luck and happiness to the donator. This temple is visited by many Thais.
It is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya, located on a small island. Almost all chedis and Buddha statues were destroyed or beheaded. From here is the famous photo of the Buddha head which is embedded by the roots of a huge tree. Directly behind the compound it is a beautiful park with bridges and old statues.
Bang Pa-In Palace
Originally, Bang Pa-In was a riverine island. When King Prasat Thong became the Ayutthaya king (1630-1655), he had the Chumphon Nikayaram Temple built on his family estate. The palace surrounded by a lake 400 metres long and 40 metres wide. Bang Pa-In was used as a country residence by every Ayutthaya monarch after King Prasat Thong.
Chao Sam Phraya Museum
The Chao Phraya Sam museum contains artifacts from various ancient temples such as severed Buddha heads. The three-part museum also displays artifacts from archaeological excavations from other regions and different eras of Thailand.
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center
The Ayutthaya Historical Study Center was funded by the Japanese government. It gives an insight into the daily lives of the people who have lived here. Besides several impressive reconstructions of ancient Ayutthaya a well stocked library is affiliated.
Near the Khun Phaen Residence is a small elephant farm where visitors have the chance to feed the animals and take a ride on their back.
The Chao Phrom Market and Hua Raw Night Market are also worth a visit and offer a nice change to the cultural program. There acrobatic chefs prepare the food in front of the eyes of the guests.Therefore the waiting time just flies by and visitors may like to remain seated and watch the lively markets after eating a bit longer.
Ayutthaya, located in the central plains, is affected by three seasons:
Hot Season: March – May
Rainy season: June – October
Cool season: November - February