Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country with thousands of temples or ‘Wats’ and ancient ruins significant to its cultural history. Instead of the popular 3 iconic temples – Wat Arun, Wat Pho and Wat Phra Kaew, I ventured into the outskirts of Bangkok to understand more about this beautiful country. Just 80km north of Bangkok lies Ayutthaya, an ancient city and glorious archaeological site that was once the capital of the Kingdom of Siam.
#1 Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya
The Ayutthaya historical park is located at Phra Nakhom Province. It’s home to the famous ‘Buddha head entwined in fig tree’ and a UNESCO world heritage site. Despite being partially restored, this glorious place is a must-see for it’s rich cultural heritage which stood after the Burmese raid. We got a bottle of water from the shops outside for 20 baht and an ice cold coconut (50 baht) before starting the your exploration journey – as it’s going to be scorching hot!
#2 Wat Ratchaburana
Across the street, there is a vast collection of temples and ancient ruins in Wat Ratchaburana. The stone towers preserved here certainly looks similar to Cambodia’s Angkor Wat and the stones date back at least 10,000 years ago. One particular tower has a mysterious staircase down to a small enclosed room (not for the claustrophobic) with visible drawings and paintings engraved on the walls and ceiling. I saw two dead cockroaches on the steps, almost aborted my mission forward. Interestingly, the colours and details remain intact – aside from the suspense, there’s nothing too spectacular down here.
#3 Wat Lokayasutharam, Phratuchai
Wat Lokayasutharam is a reclining buddha statue in an open area, located at the Phratuchai district in Ayutthaya. This religious site is relatively small compared to the iconic golden reclining buddha at Wat Pho but still a sight worth to visit.
#4 Phra Pathomchedi
Phra Pathomchedi means ‘First Stupa’, it is the tallest stupa in the world and dates back to the 6th century. The magnificent structure is used as a sacred place for meditation and is one of the most tranquil golden temples in in Nakhom Province, north of Bangkok.
#5 Buddha Monthon Park, Bangkok
Phutthamonthon is a Buddhist park in the Nakhon Pathom Province, West of Bangkok. It’s by far, the most majestic monument of the Buddha in Thailand and considered the tallest standing Buddha in the world. The park spans over 400 hectares and is a pristine sight with an abundance of ponds, grass fields and walking/cycling pathways. If I had a grass mat and a basket of strawberries, this would have been a perfect picnic spot. The vast space creates a delicate, peaceful atmosphere.
As of May 2016 –
Entrance fee to Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana for non-Thai citizens: 50 baht
Entrance fee to Phra Pathomchedi for non-Thai citizens: 40 baht
Free entrance to: Wat Lokayasutharam, Buddha Monthon Park
There are 4 ways to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok: Train, taxi, minivan, bus. The best option is to get there by taxi or a private car.
For taxis – look out for those with a meter if you cannot speak the language and unable to negotiate. Alternatively, you can try GrabCar. Choose ‘GrabCar Economy’ for the cheapest fares. A table breakdown of the fare system can be found here.
However, for those looking for a cheaper alternative, the bus and train are about 60 – 70 baht but trains are notoriously slow and late in Thailand – making it not very practical.
Still undecided? This site has a detailed breakdown of how to get there.