Ayutthaya, Thailand rests just north of Bangkok along the Chao Phraya River. Founded around 1350, the city eventually became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Because of it’s central location with easy access to the rest of Asia, Ayutthaya became one of the must important trading centers in the world. By 1700 the Siamese capital was the world’s largest city with over 1 million inhabitants. Today the Ayutthaya temples and temple ruins are some of the most impressive in all of Asia, drawing huge crowds to the small city.
Ayutthaya successfully held off many western invaders and Thailand was never colonized. However, the Burmese successfully sacked the city in 1767, riding on elephants and knocking the heads off of every Buddha statue they could find. The occupation was short lived, as the Chinese had seized the opportunity to move their armies into Burma. The Burmese forces retreated to their homeland with a majority of the Thai gold, burning the Ayutthaya temples in their retreat. The following years were plagued by civil war in Siam until control was taken by King Rama I. The founding member of the Chakri dynasty, which still reigns in Thailand to this day, Rama I relocated the Thai capital from the ruins of Ayutthaya to present day Bangkok.
Today Ayuthhaya is home to some of Asia’s greatest temples, and the history of the place is intruiguing. The Ayutthaya tempes are an easy day trip from Bangkok by bus or train, taking less than two hours to travel by either.
We booked a room at Yimwhan Hostel & Cafe just outside the old city. They had bikes for rent which we took advantage of and soon found ourselves among the temples. I purchased a large rainbow bag of corn puffs which I though would be funny to cruise around with in my bike basket. They tasted terrible and I was a bit disappointed until I was told that the puffs were actually fish food for children to throw into the river. We went to the river and threw some in as giant catfish swarmed all around. We laughed about this for a little while, then biked across the river to the more famous Ayutthaya temples.
There are temples all over the city, but the best area for biking is inside the old city’s moat where the temples are more numerous.
One of the most popular temples for tourists is Wat Mahathat which contains the famous Buddha Head in a Bodhi tree, where one of the knocked-down Buddha heads became entangled in the roots of a giant old fig tree.
Another of our favorites was Wat Ratchaburana which you could climb inside of. After heading down a very steep set of stairs you reach the crypt which has some ancient paintings on the walls and bats in the ceiling.
Here is a good website to book your transportation from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.