Just 80 kilometres north of Bangkok lies the Thai city of Ayutthaya. Famous for its archeological sites it attracts many visitors from all over the world. Most people make a day trip from Bangkok just to see the most important sites and return in the evening. We decided to do it differently and stay for a few days on our way to the north of Thailand.
And we were so happy we stayed.
Ayutthaya once was the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Founded in 1351 the city grew rapidly and became one of the largest cities of that time. In 1765 though, the Burmese army invaded the Kingdom. After a 14 months’ siege, the city of Ayutthaya was destroyed and the Kingdom collapsed. Almost all artefacts, literature and treasures were burned.
A lot of the ruins from those glory days were renovated and are carefully preserved in what is known as the Ayutthaya Historical Park. The Historical Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The modern city of Ayutthaya was built a few kilometres to the east of the old city. Now old and new blend into one another harmoniously. The Historical Park is not just one seperate fenced off sector. Instead there are ruins all around a larger area and new roads, parks, houses and shops have been built in between.
Arriving in Ayutthaya
We arrived in Ayutthaya by train. It had only taken around an hour to get there from Bangkok. To get to our guesthouse we had to cross the river that surrounds the old centre of the city. A small ferry makes the short ride across the river back and forth all day long so we hopped on and soon enough were on the other side from where we walked the rest of the way to Baan Lotus Guesthouse. The guesthouse was set in a big old wooden house, surrounded by a lush garden and behind the house was a big pond. Our host was a lovely old Thai lady, in her eighties, who spoke English slowly but meticulously. Our room was simple but comfortable with a view onto the garden and a veranda in front.
Exploring the city
Because the ruins of Ayutthaya are so spread out, and there are so many of them, we thought the best way to explore would be by bike. Our guesthouse had bikes for rent so we were sorted. On a city map I had all the ruins I really wanted to see marked and we set off with plenty of water and camera’s. To see some of the biggest ruins a small entrance fee is asked, others are free to enter. We spent the whole day riding around town, visiting as many temples as we could. We drank about 6 litres of water each and sweat it all out again.
The temples of Ayutthaya turned out to be amazing. From very big and impressive structures to smaller remnants, they really gave us an idea about how majestic this city once was.
Lunch on a local market
In the afternoon we got hungry from all the cycling and sightseeing but because we were in a part of town without restaurants and shops we decided to keep going. Until we suddenly came across a market by the side of the road. This was clearly a local market and we saw food so we hopped off our bikes, locked them up and started exploring. There was fruit, there was fish and there were all kinds of other fried and barbecued snacks. After looking around we settled for some kind of meat with chilli and lime. The lady who was selling this dish did not speak any English so we went for it purely based on the way it looked. We also got rice and a portion of battered and deep-fried prawns. We found a little bench by the public washing machines that you find out on the streets in Thailand and dug in. This was some of the best food we had had in Thailand so far! Fresh, spicy and full of unexpected flavours.
When we had eaten everything we went back to try and ask for the name of the meat dish. A vendor next to the lady whom we bought the dish off spoke a little bit of English and told us the dish was “pig limon”. After expressing how much we had enjoyed the food we said goodbye and continued our temple quest.
The night market
And there is more good food to be found in Ayutthaya. A small night market takes places next to the river every night. With vendors selling all kinds of local Thai dishes there is plenty of choice and there are tables and chairs to sit and eat your dinner of choice. Needless to say we spent every evening there. Except the night when it started raining. And not just raining but pouring. We waited around, for an hour. Then another hour. But the rain didn’t stop.
Eventually we ventured out to find some food but because of the weather there were no food stalls anywhere. Completely soaked we finally found a small restaurant where two ladies were selling rice congee and a type of noodle soup. So we got one portion of each dish. Unfortunately that was the worst food I could have imagined. My noodles came with organs. And if there is one thing I am not keen on it’s organ meat. But we ate as much as we could, mainly going for the rice congee, the noodles and the broth, leaving the organs behind.
At the end of the day, that’s what travelling is all about. Trying new things! And yes, sometimes that means getting a bowl of noodles with an animal’s tongue inside.
The time-lapse video we shot in Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was one of our favourite places in Thailand and is often overlooked by tourists. Staying around for a few days to get a good feel of the place and see more than just the most famous temples is more than worth it. Other than exploring the amazing archeological treasures of the Ayutthaya Historical Park, we really liked the relaxed atmosphere in Ayutthaya and the good food.
There is a decent offer of different types of accommodation in Ayutthaya. We really enjoyed our stay at Baan Lotus Guesthouse. The room itself was basic but it had everything we needed and the building was so lovely as well as the garden and lily pond. A lovely place to relax after a day of riding around visiting ruins.
Getting around Ayutthaya is very easy by bicycle but if you don’t want to sweat out 6 litres of water you could opt for a scooter. Visiting the beautiful ruins of the Ayutthaya Historical Park is very cheap and you can do it at your own leisure so you can see as much or little as you feel like.