Ayutthaya – A Tour of Thailand’s Ancient Capital City

By Mark Wiens 36 Comments
View of Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล)
View of Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล)

Ayutthaya (พระนครศรีอยุธยา) is one of the most famous historical and culturally significant cities in all of Thailand. After Sukhothai, Ayutthaya was the second capital city of the Siamese Kingdom, founded in the year 1350. With a long history of violence, in the mid 1700’s Ayutthaya was overthrown by the Burmese army. The gems and gold in the Shwedagon Pagoda (a temple in Yangon) are supposedly originally from Ayutthaya. Now, Ayutthaya is a popular tourist destination for both foreigners and local Thais. Just an hour drive from Bangkok, Ayutthaya makes a great day trip, or a short getaway from the “Big Mango.”

On the top level of Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล)
On the top level of Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล)

The Ayutthaya historical park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it’s most well known for its historical temples, museums, and palaces. Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล), in one of the most interesting complexes to visit. The center of the temple is the tall chedi (or stupa) made from red brick, wrapped in orange cloth, and leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

Spending the day touring Ayutthaya, Thailand
Spending the day touring Ayutthaya, Thailand

Just like Wat Arun, you can climb to the middle section of the stupa to get a view of the surrounding area. Surrounding the stupa are a series of Buddha statues that are all clothed in bright orange fabric.

Reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya
Reclining Buddha in Ayutthaya

Though it’s a replica of the original, there’s also a reclining Buddha on the same site.

Sticking a coin on the bottom of the foot
Sticking a coin on the bottom of the foot

Many people attempt to place coins on the bottom of the foot and press them to try and get the coin to stick – I think it’s for good luck.

Stadium of roosters in Ayutthaya
Stadium of roosters in Ayutthaya

I had visited Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (วัดใหญ่่ชัยมงคล) years ago when I first came to Thailand, but somehow I missed the palace of King U-Thong and the amazing display of roosters. Cock fighting was a significant part of the growing up years of King U-Thong and so you’ll find a mind boggling amount of rooster statues. There’s probably an entire stadium full of roosters all neatly set up in rows, it’s quite a unique sight. Entrance fee – 20 THB

Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร)
Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร)

Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร), located in the Ayutthaya historical park, is especially famous for housing a giant golden Buddha statue that’s 19 meters high. It’s quite similar to Bangkok’s Wat Pho and reclining Buddha, but this one is in the seated form.

Chinese statues at Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร)
Chinese statues at Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร)

Wat Phanan Choeng (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร) is part Thai and part Chinese, so there’s an entire section of Chinese statues as well. Entrance fee – 20 THB

Drink a lot when you're touring Ayutthaya
Drink a lot when you’re touring Ayutthaya

Just like most places in Thailand, Ayutthaya is known for its heat and harsh sun (but that’s probably because most people who visit tend to walk around outside touring different sites and walking in the sun). That being said, it’s never hard to find cold beverages in Thailand, and there’s always a wide selection of icy refreshments available.

Refreshing myself with a fresh coconut
Refreshing myself with a fresh coconut

Along with lots of water, I settled for a fresh coconut that was sweet and packed with energizing electrolytes!

Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) in Ayutthaya, Thailand

What remains of Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ) is mostly in crumbles, but that’s sort of what makes the site so interesting. The main stupa is surrounded by all sort of small structures, statues, and ancient monuments.

Head of Buddha at Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ)
Head of Buddha at Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ)

Perhaps the most iconic image of Ayutthaya is the head of Buddha wrapped within the banyan tree at Wat Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ). How the tree grew to surround the statue remains a bit of a mystery, but many think that during the period when Ayutthaya was overthrown by the Burmese and then abandoned, nature took over, eventually creating this world famous attraction. Entrance fee – 50 THB

Making the crepes
Making the crepes

If you’re Thai and you visit Ayutthaya without eating and bringing roti sai mai back to Bangkok with you, you’ve made a huge mistake – nobody goes to Ayutthaya without buying roti sai mai (โรตีสายไหม) – it’s the most famous kanom wan the city has to offer. There are two parts to a roti sai mai, a thin crepe, and sugary strands of candy floss.

About to roll up a fresh "roti sai mai"
About to roll up a fresh “roti sai mai”

The candy floss is added to the crepe, rolled up, and eaten like a taquito. You’ll find an abundance of roti sai mai (โรตีสายไหม) vendors throughout Ayutthaya, and it’s something you must sample when you visit, especially if you enjoy Thai desserts. Whether you choose to visit Ayutthaya (video) for just a day trip, or if you decide to spend a few days there, it’s worth a trip. Here’s my Ayutthaya video of the entire trip. Watch it now… (If you can’t see the video, watch Ayutthaya on YouTube here)

How to Get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok

If you’re in Bangkok, the easiest and most convenient way to get to Ayutthaya is by taking a public mini-van. Take the BTS to Victory Monument station and exit towards Century Shopping Mall (located right below the BTS station). At the ground level of Century mall, you’ll find van stands where you can purchase a ticket to Ayutthaya. Vans leave frequently and you can just show up, purchase your ticket, and be on your way.

36 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • ActivityFan

    4 years ago

    Hi Mark!
    This is such a great post!
    I’ve been to Bangkok a while ago but haven’t got the chance to visit Ayutthaya – definitely on my list now! I heard many good things about Ayutthaya, including the lovely cruise tour from Bangkok to Ayutthaya and the incredible view of Ayutthaya at night. I wish I could visit Bangkok again soon!

  • Silvy

    5 years ago

    Hey Mark, I’m in Ayutthaya now and I’m strolling around on my bycicle. My next stop will be the Hospital area where I can trie the roti sai mai. I’m very curious and enthousiastic!! If you have any other Ayutthaya food advice or specialties that you know of, please let me know 🙂 Tomorrow I’ll be heading back to Bangkok for a final 4 days.

  • Peter Vredeveld

    5 years ago

    Hello Mark,
    The way you took that photo of Roti Sai Mai, is pretty amazing.
    I went to Thailand, but I have never been able to taste Roti Sai Mai.

  • Ish

    7 years ago

    Hi Mark
    Could you please give me a rough idea about the budget required for a Ayuththaya day tour from BKK, if one is to use a minivan, do historical sites and have lunch there.

    Also is distance between historical sites very long that we cannot do all by walking?

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hi Ish, great to hear from you. Do you want to hire a private van yourself? Or go with a tour group? For a private van yourself, should cost about 2000 THB per day, plus fuel, and then for the temples, the entrance fee isn’t too high, most of the time 20 – 50 THB per person. There are a few temples right in the center, but from there, distances are a little far from walking. I don’t know too much about Ayutthaya as I’ve only taken a few day trips there, but hope this helps.

  • Dean

    7 years ago

    Hi Mark,

    Can I please have details on where to find Roti Sai Mai in Ayutthaya? Thanks!

    • Mark Wiens

      7 years ago

      Hi Dean, you should be able to find roti sai mai at every market and outside of many of the temples around the city. Especially look for it around the outside of the temples. Hope this helps.

  • Peter Lee

    8 years ago

    Hey ! Great post. I would love to go this place after reading your blog. Thanks for sharing the information.

  • noel

    8 years ago

    It does get intense during the mid-day there and you really have to look for cool areas and refreshments, the coconut and crepe look ideal, now the tricky part is finding the shady and windy areas 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Noel! Yes, it does get hot, cold coconut is great!

  • Mike Pratt

    8 years ago

    Hey Mark,
    Excellent overview of this amazing place. My wife and I went there earlier this year but it was hotter than usual that day and we cut our visit short. I’ll certainly be going back and exploring in greater detail. Having been to many of the major ancient sites in Thailand, Ayuttaya is stunning and I’m happy it is Unesco site. My favorite ancient site thus far is a toss up between Phanom-Rung and Sukhothai. If you haven’t been, I highly recommend them.

    On a side note; I think it is truly great what you’re doing with this site and your YouTube channel. Showing the amazing history, culture, food, people and life in Thailand is important. My wife, who is Thai is also appreciative of what you are doing and quite enjoys your videos and blog. Cheers.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Mike, thanks a lot, that sun in Thailand can be harsh! I haven’t yet been to Sukhothai or Phanom-Rung, but hope to visit sometime soon. Glad to hear your wife is Thai – thanks so much for watching my videos!

  • Jacob Marlfoyle

    8 years ago

    Great post and awesome pics!The reclining Buddha is so awesome and more impressive than the one in Bangkok that is enclosed within the temple. I like the picture of the Buddha tangled in the tree roots (interesting theory on how that occurred) and then the shot though the doorway at Wat Worachetha Ram. I like your photos that are ‘framed’ like that. So three favs.

  • Wil @ Where’s Wil

    8 years ago

    Ayutthaya was the first place I visited after landing in Bangkok having just started my long-term travel lifestyle.

    If you make it there, rent a bike and explore the streets. You’ll love it.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Cool to hear that Wil, next time I’ll rent a bike!

  • Wil @ Where’s Wil

    8 years ago

    Ayutthaya was the first place I visited after landing in Bangkok having just started my long-term travel lifestyle.

    If you make it there, rent a bike and explore the streets. You’ll love it.

  • Steph (@ 20 Years Hence)

    8 years ago

    We went to Ayutthaya on a bit of whim as we had visited Angkor Wat over in Cambodia just 2 weeks earlier. I was not expecting to be blown away by the ruins found there, but wound up pleasantly surprised by how lovely and atmospheric they were.

    And the food! That’s really why we wound up spending 3 days in Ayutthaya, though I have to admit, i feel a bit chagrined that despite all our time at the night markets there we did not see roti sai mai! They look gorgeous and delicious and now I’m bummed we somehow missed them given that they are THE thing to eat in Ayutthaya…

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Steph, glad you still found Ayutthaya interesting after coming from Angkor Wat. You’ll have to go back to sample some roti sai mai!!

    • Jasmine

      7 years ago

      That’s because roti sai mai is not typically sold in night markets, most of the stalls are open during the day around the Ayutthaya Hospital! Or at least where the best ones are 🙂

  • downingsf.com

    8 years ago

    Hey Mark,
    Great to see the old Thai capital getting some coverage – We enjoy visiting every time we get that way and would just like to add that last time, we found the budget accommodations (under 600B) plentiful during Songkran 2013 (perhaps most folks were elsewhere?)

    * Good for a night or two stay over as well as day trippin’.
    * If arriving via train and “backpack-ish”, try walking directly to the river and taking the 5B ferry across to find guesthouses within a 10-15 min walk on the island side.

    be well

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey, thanks a lot for sharing. I’ve never spent the night in Ayutthaya, but maybe next time I go I will. Hope you’re doing well!

  • Anwesha

    8 years ago

    Hey Mark, I came across your blog while browsing for something else entirely. Liked it.
    Following you 🙂

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Thank you very much Anwesha! Are you from Kolkata? I had a great time visiting a couple months ago.

      • Anwesha

        8 years ago

        Yes I am from Kolkata, but left in 2007 for my higher studies and been living in different cities still, though, now in my PhD days, I live quite close to Kolkata and can visit very often.
        I did see your post on Kolkata. Glad you liked it. I love Kolkata despite all its shortcomings 🙂

        • Mark Wiens

          8 years ago

          Hey, cool to hear that Anwesha!

          • teva

            8 years ago

            congratulation for your wedding and thank you for all the advices

          • Mark Wiens

            8 years ago

            Thank you very much Teva!

  • Ron

    8 years ago

    Just got home from Bangkok…. I can’t fit all attractions in just 1 visit,
    Bangkok is so nice to visit and should not be in a hurry. Ayutthaya will be my next daytrip.

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey, good to hear you had a fun time in Bangkok. Ayutthaya will be waiting for you next time!

  • prasit khotchakhot

    8 years ago

    I like the stupa leaning like the Tower of Pisa.

  • Heather

    8 years ago

    Beautiful! We went to Sukhothai but decided to save Ayutthaya so we had something to look forward to on our next trip to Thailand. This makes want to start planning the return visit sooner rather than later!

    • Mark Wiens

      8 years ago

      Hey Heather, glad you made it to Sukhothai, I still haven’t been there! Hope you can come back to Thailand soon!