I love visiting ruins. I am fascinated by how buildings survive or crumble well after humans have left. I can get wrapped up for hours in reconstructing a place in my mind, imagining how life could have been hundreds of years ago. So visiting the ancient city of Ayutthaya was at the top of my list before we even arrived in Bangkok.
Ayutthaya is the former capital city of Thailand (then Siam). In the 1600s it had a population of over a million people. Now, the main “attractions” or areas of interest include former temples, palaces, and other important buildings most of which are centrally located in a small town center that is surrounded on all sides by a river, with a few others scattered around the outskirts of the old city. The nice thing about visiting Ayutthaya is it can be a quick day of sightseeing as day trip from Bangkok or can be taken at a more leisurely pace if you want to stay overnight (we went for the former).
What I didn’t realize is visiting Ayutthaya isn’t like visiting Palatino in Rome. The former capital isn’t abandoned and left to crumble but is a functioning city with over 50,000 people that just happens to also house the temples and palaces of 400 years ago. This gave us the opportunity to see different way of life in Thailand. We took the local train for 15 baht each (about 30 cents), we ate lunch at a small, riverside restaurant, and we passed by schools, homes, and shops as we rode bikes we had rented in between temples.
The laid back feel of the place worked well for us because the day we went it was hot. We were able to meander between temples and stop to rest in the shade as often as we liked but it did mean we took the day at a very slow pace. Of the five main sites we had hoped to visit, we ended up going into three and admiring a fourth from the outside. Thanks to the guide book I had bought on my kindle, we were able to get a sense of the history and culture while we were there. Even without seeing every single site, the visit was one of the highlights of our time in Bangkok, and I would definitely recommend it.
Here are a few photos from the day if you’d like to see.