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I have been to Bangkok many times before, but never had the chance before (or took the time) to actually do the day trip to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya used to be the trading capital of Southeast Asia and once upon a time, in the 17th century, it was one the world’s biggest cities.
It is now a rather quaint and calm city with wide alleys, no crazy traffic, but really intense heat. It is usually 10-15 degrees hotter here than in Bangkok (which is not exactly a chilly place to start with).
There are a number of options to get you to Ayutthaya – I settled for the minibus option. They start from Victory Monument, which has lots of street food options, and can be reached via BTS Skytrain to go all the way into ‘downtown’ Ayutthaya. It is just 50 baht ($1.70) and the minibuses have AC and are well-organized.
The drive is about one hour without traffic. There were none going out of Bangkok on that Sunday morning, but lots coming back Sunday evening. Keep in mind that the last minibus usually leaves around 6PM and may fill up quickly, so try to go early to Ayutthaya so that you have enough time to enjoy it.
Once you get there, it is about a 10-minute walk to the first temple site. There are various shops there where you can rent a bike. Since it was 110 degrees in the shade and sunny, that was my first thought, so I negotiated a full day rental for just 30 baht ($1). This turned out to be a great idea, since it felt so much easier to get around on and enjoy some cooling wind.
There are about a dozen noteworthy main temple sites across the town of Ayutthaya. Each site charges 50 baht entrance fee. To see them all, it takes about 2-3 hours walking in one direction (then you can always return by bus or taxi) or 20-30 minutes of cycling.
Most temple ruins are on the ‘island’, although a few are off the island including the famous Wat Chaiwatthanaram, which appears on many travel guides as a landmark of Thailand.
The temples ‘on the island’ are in a park-like environment and it is a great pleasure to stroll or bike through them. Wat Chaiwatthanaram is further away (‘off the island’) and a bike ride there is by road, where things can get a bit strenuous.
It took me about 5 hours for the whole visit to Ayutthaya and I really enjoyed my time there. I’m sure I missed out on some temples, but I went home with more than 1,000 pictures and felt 10 pounds lighter. The temple sites are in good shape, there is little pollution and traffic around and the $1.70 entrance fee per temple seems very reasonable.
The only drawback was the enormous heat, but, well, that’s how things are there. I can highly recommended making the trip out to Ayutthaya so that you can see a bit more of ancient Thailand.