The ancient Ayutthaya temples and ruins are UNESCO World Heritage sites near Bangkok making it a perfect day trip destination from Bangkok city.
You will enjoy the visit if you want to learn more about the local culture, history, and lifestyle.
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📜 History of the Ayutthaya Temples
Ayutthaya was the former second capital of the Siam empire in Southeast Asia before it was attacked and destroyed by the Burmese Army in 1767.
The full name in Thai is Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
What remains of the former glorious golden Ayutthaya kingdom are still actively used temples as well as a huge area of brick stone royal palace ruins, monuments and buddha statues
Did you know? A Buddhist temple in Thailand is known as a Wat and Siam is the former kingdom/country name for Thailand.
The city was an important trading post for the west and the east.
Foreign Traders such as Dutch, French, British, and Portuguese had each a trading spot given to them in Ayutthaya. The Japanese and Chinese were the prominent trading partners from the east.
Ayutthaya was a globally connected city, which, at its peak, had a population of a million people.
Trading and friendly open relations turned it into a rich utopian spot on earth.
The Ayutthaya World Heritage site is a proud 290 ha large and came to its size piece by piece.
Each king enlarged and erected their set of temples and buildings in Ayutthaya.
💡 Tips for Visitors
- Ayutthaya is about 1 hour away from Bangkok city by car.
- Wat means Temple in Thai
- The monument complex is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm.
- The temple complex includes 9 separate temples. Some are free others ask for entrance fees, which range between 20 and 50 bath.
- The temples and archaeological park are not situated nearby, so it’s a good idea to travel by car with a knowledgeable local guide in the heat. That way you can make the most of your trip in a timely manner.
- It can get really hot after 9 pm
- Dress appropriately to visit the temples in pants and with a t-shirt which should cover your shoulders. You don’t need a headscarf. Don’t come with shorts, a dress, or a skirt.
- Don’t walk on ruined walls or anything that can crumble
- The elephant rides near the temples are not tourist attractions. The animals are being overworked and mishandled.
🛕 Wat Phanan Choeng – Oldest Temple in Ayutthaya
Wat Phanan Choeng is the oldest and most colorful in the historic city of Ayutthaya, which is still an active place of worship.
The teak wood-decorated temple houses a giant golden Buddha. This temple has been maintained a lot, so it’s rather unclear how this UNESCO World Heritage Site has been protected.
The fee to enter the Wat Phanan Choeng temple is 20 baht.
The emperors of Siam had a special bond with the Chinese and this is very much visible when you visit Wat Phanan Choeng.
Behind the main temple, near the channel with the catfish, a shrine was placed for the long-gone Chinese queen who married into the Thai court.
Therefore, the influence of Chinese architecture is ever so present!
Legendary Chinese figures and dragon statues decorate this part of the temple which is totally surreal but shows how well other cultures are welcomed here.
Wat Phanan Choeng is a great starting point to visit Ayutthaya.
Our Guide, Jareya, lives in the area, so she took us to the right places first.
That way we could slowly get into the feeling of the area so that we could understand the location and culture better.
🏛 Wat Mahathat – The Temple Ruins
Wat Mahathat is a temple ruin in the Ayutthaya park. Basically, the main attraction here is the Buddha head in the tree.
You won’t have to search for it, there are always a bunch of people standing in front of it.
The fee to enter Wat Mahathat ancient ruins is 50 baht.
The area of Wat Mahathat Ayutthaya temples is rather large, and you can stroll about, admiring of what is left of the ruins.
A part of the Wat Mahathat main temple was sacked in a way after the Burmese army raided the area.
Most statues have lost their heads due to the military attack, which makes me think why the Buddhist Burmese would do that when they themselves were Buddhists.
I think, it just shows again that religion at times is just used as an excuse to raid another rich kingdom, or nowadays example, a country.
The golden stupas and Buddhas must have been shining far beyond the Siam empire’s border in Burma.
⛩ Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon – The Monastery
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is an active Ayutthaya temple monastery with monks and nuns residing around the old bell-shaped temple complex.
Visitors can go up the steep stairs to the elevated base and take around to the top for the view and see the donation bucket in the shaft.
The Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon entrance fee is 20 baht.
As in all religions that have originated in the Indian subcontinent, which includes Buddhism, make sure to turn and walk around the tower on top clockwise.
That is how it’s done and while someone will tell you that in Buddhist temples and monasteries in India, in Thailand we didn’t see anyone directing the people to do so.
However, our guide explained the respectful proper way is to walk around the tower the way it has been directed by their elders, clockwise.
The statues at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon all have a head and are dressed in bright orange cloth, which are purchased by believers so that the monks can put them around the statues.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon isn’t that large, but many visitors come by this temple, so you will notice warnings about pickpockets all over the place.
Hence, it is advised that you walk with your backpack placed to your chest.
🏰 More Temples in Ayutthaya
- Wat phra si sanphet – the largest temple of the former kingdom
- Wat Ratchaburana – one of the most beautiful temple prang
- Wat Chaiwatthanaram – restores temple complex
- Wat Phutthaisawan – white temple complex with rows of golden Buddhas
- Wat Lokaya Sutharam – large reclining Buddha
🚗 Getting Around
The Ayutthaya historical park is located to the north of Bangkok.
The easiest way to get from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is by car, as the places tend to be apart from each other.
You could take a taxi, but this would cost you quite a bit, and you would still have to figure out how to prioritize, so to say decide which temples are worthwhile a visit.
The number of temples is countless and some are more interesting than others.
The best way to travel and experience the Ayutthaya temples, and also the nearby Ang Thong temples, in Thailand is by hiring a guide with a private car.
This is what we did and that way we were able to discover some real travel gems!
What are some other temple complexes in Asia that resemble Ayutthaya?
Sukhothai in Thailand is located between Bangkok and Chiang Mai and the ancient monuments resemble the ones in Ayutthaya. Hampi, a Hindu city in India, and Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, had a similar fate.