Ayutthaya Tourist Attractions
The old Thai capital of Ayutthaya (Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya), today one of the most impressive ruined cities in Asia, stands on the wide and fertile plain of the Menam Chao Phraya at a point where the river forms a natural loop.
Indeed the city is completely encircled by rivers, the Menam to the south and west, the Lopburi to the north and the Pasak to the east. A canal also links the Lopburi and the Menam, the effect being to create a most favorably situated island.By car: Highway 1 from Bangkok. After 86 km (53 mi.) turn left onto Highway 32 at Wang Noi (signposted).By bus: from Bangkok (Northern Bus Terminal). Departures at 40-minute intervals from 5am-7pm. All the larger Bangkok travel agencies arrange sightseeing tours (day trips).By rail: from Bangkok-Hualampong (11/4 hours).By boat: the excursion on the Menam Chao Phraya can be quite delightful. There is no public boat service but tourists can join an organized tour aboard, for example, the "Oriental Queen" river boat, which leaves from the pier of the Oriental Hotel at 8am. Visitors normally go one way by bus, the other by boat.Those with a real interest in Thai history should allow at least two days for sightseeing and include visits to Lopburi and Sukhothai, two other "royal" cities in central Thailand closely linked historically with the old capital.Organized tours usually allow visitors only an hour or so in Ayutthaya. They also tend to arrive in the heat of the day, which means not seeing the ancient ruined city at dawn or dusk when it is at its most magical.
The history of Ayutthaya was shaped by 33 kings, it grew from a small outpost to a capital city. The remains of palaces, temples, forts and gates have been unearthed during excavations.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
On the eastern outskirts of Ayutthaya (cross the Pasak River and take the Bangkok road, turning right about 300 m (990 ft) beyond the railway) stands the exceptionally interesting Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, its massive chedi rising from a square base surrounded by four smaller chedis. The wat, built in 1357 under King U Thong, was assigned to monks of a particularly strict order trained in Ceylon, members of which still live there. In front of the chedi are the stumps of columns which once supported the roof of the temple.
Anyone with time to spare who wishes to delve more deeply into Ayutthaya's history should include a visit to the French St Joseph's Cathedral on the south bank of the Chao Phraya. Restored only a short while ago the cathedral is a fitting monument to the large group of French settlers who left their country to live in Siam.Several more wats are also located outside the walls of the old city. Much the best way to visit them is by boat along the Menam; departing from the landing-stage the trip takes about two hours.St Joseph's is noted mainly for its religious history - over 300 years of Catholis worship in Thailand. It was built in 1666 at the request of the Vietnamese missionaries.
Wat Suwan Dararam
Here, framed by three small lakes, stands Wat Suwan Dararam. Built around 1700 by the grandfather of Rama I it was extended by the rulers of the Chakri dynasty who also carried out a considerable amount of restoration work and decorated the temple with numerous paintings. Notice how the foundations incline towards the center. Wat Suwan Dararam also has the distinction of being the only temple on Ayutthaya island still inhabited by monks.Particularly noteworthy are the large bot with portico, the wood carvings on the gable, the internal frescos from the Early Bangkok period, the beautiful coffered ceiling and a statue of Buddha in the Ayutthaya style. The wiharn, built by Rama II (1809-24), was decorated in 1931 with modern murals depicting scenes from Thai history.
On leaving the temple compound the remains of Phom Phet, the only fort of which anything now survives, can be seen opposite, on the banks of the Menam River. Next continue round U Thong Road as far as Fort Phom Pratu Chakrai Noi (30-minute walk). Here turn north off the ring road; some 400 m (1320 ft) or so along Si Sanphet Road lies Wat Boroma Buddha Ram.
The elephant compound is about 3 km (2 mi.) north of the city. This is a square enclosure constructed in its present form by King Rama I. It was used for catching, taming and exhibiting elephants and is the only such compound still in existence.
Map of Ayutthaya Attractions