When it comes to Thailand’s history and culture, Ayutthaya is one of the leading and most important cities in the country. It was the old capital of Siam but was unfortunately invaded by the Burmese in the 18th century and virtually destroyed.

The old capital, which once shimmered with gold, was a pioneer in Asia in trade and commerce. Today, all that is left of its former glory is a number of ruins and cultural attractions. These ruins, however, are the city’s main attraction and a fascinating insight into ancient Siam. Among the sights include ruins, temples, museums, elephant kraals and beautiful scenery.

Ayutthaya is not as busy as nearby Bangkok and enjoys a much slower pace of life. Many tourists simply visit for the day, but if you have time it is worth saying for a few days to really get a feel for the place. The tourist infrastructure is very good, with countless hotels, excellent restaurants, bars, shops, tours and good public transport options.

The town isn’t home to a pulsating nightlife, which adds to its charm. There are a few small bars and nightclubs, which are mostly found in the hotels. It is the perfect destination for those looking to enjoy good food, a few leisurely drinks by the river and the many cultural shows on offer.

In effect, Ayutthaya is a giant outdoor museum which has held onto its past and still thrives on it. It is easily reached from Bangkok and as a result, it is a quiet alternative and a good place to escape the buzz of the capital.

Getting There & Away

There is no airport in Ayutthaya, but Bangkok’s new international airport is only about 1 hour away by road. People who arrive in Bangkok can choose to take a bus, taxi or train, or drive themselves. The train station is on the main Bangkok-Chiang Mai route and takes about an hour to reach from the capital. Traveling by road to Bangkok from the center of town takes about 45 minutes.

Chao Sam Phraya Museum: is home to a collection of Buddha heads which are all missing their bodies. There are many Buddhist relics which have been excavated from sites across the city. Highlights include golden ceremonial objects from Wat Ratchaburana and Buddha images from other temples.

Siam Park: this adventure park is an ideal place to take the whole family. It is just outside the city, on the way to Bangkok, and offers rides, a water park, live entertainment and refreshments.

Ancient Palace: is largely in ruins, but located in stunning grounds.

Chedi at Wat Phu Khao Thong: is famed for being crooked. Situated in grounds which house a smiling fat Buddha, it is a must-see.

Khun Phaen Residence: is a reconstruction of a traditional teak house which is found in beautiful gardens.

Phra Ram Park: is woodlands which are divided by nature trails and beautiful bridges over walkways. There are many Buddha images and ancient buildings to be seen here.

Bang Pa-In Palace: located 18kms south of Ayutthaya, it is truly magnificent dating back to 1632. Like most other buildings in the area, the palace was ransacked by the Burmese but was restored by King Rama IV in the 1850s. It has been well maintained ever since, with the last restoration having taken place in 2001.