Ayutthaya, former capital of the Kingdom of Siam
Ayutthaya, was founded in 1350 by King U Thong
Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya or Ayutthaya in short, is one of Thailand’s historical and majestic highlights. Serving as the Thai capital for 417 years (1350 1767: Kingdom of Ayutthaya), it was once glorified as one of the biggest cities in Southeast Asia. During the 17th century, most foreign visitors to Ayutthaya, traders or diplomats alike, claimed Ayutthaya to be the most illustrious and glittering city that they had ever visited. The map of Ayutthaya published in 1691 by Simon de la Loubere in Du Royaume De Siam is proof of such recognition.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya reached its apex in terms of sovereignty, military might, wealth, culture, and international commerce in the 16th century when the Kingdoms territory was extended far beyond present-day Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Ayutthaya even had diplomatic relations with Louis XIV of France and was courted by Dutch, Portuguese, English, Chinese and Japanese merchants.
Visitors can explore and appreciate Thai history in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, which is situated only 86 kilometers north of Bangkok. Visitors to Ayutthaya can marvel at its grandeur reflected through numerous magnificent structures and ruins concentrated in and around the city island surrounded by Maenam Chao Phraya, Maenam Pa Sak and Maenam Lopburi.
More importantly,Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, an extensive historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 13 December, 1991.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was built and developed in leaps and bounds.
The ruins in Ayutthaya that survived the test of time embody both the glorious and ignominious stories of the Kingdom.
This ancient capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350 by King U-Thong, had thirty three kings of different dynasties and reached its peak in the middle of the 18th century. A magnificent city with three palaces and over 400 magnificent temples on an island threaded by canals Ayutthaya was truly an impressive city that attracted both Europeans and Asians. After a 15-month siege the Kingdom of Ayutthaya was conquered and completely destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. When King Taksin the Great finally liberated the Kingdom, a new dynasty was established and the capital was moved to Thonburi.
The seal of Ayutthaya depicts a conch on a pedestal tray placed in a small castle under a Mun tree. According to legend, King U-Thong, founder of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya, discovered a beautiful conch buried in the ground being prepared for the establishment of the seat of his Kingdom. Consequently, he had a tiny castle built to house the shell. Hence, the provincial seal.
Today, there are but groups of crumbling ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where once an empire thrived. The temple compounds are still awe-inspiring even in disrepair and a visit here is memorable and a good beginning for those drawn to the relics of history.
The architecture of Ayutthaya is a fascinating mix of Khmer (ancient Cambodian style) and early Sukhothai style. Some cactus-shaped obelisks, called prangs, denote Khmer influence and look something like the famous towers of Angkor Wat. The more pointed stupas are ascribed to the Sukhothai influence. For new arrivals who had limited their visit to Bangkok, similarities may be noted with the riverside Wat Arun, an 18th-century structure that was built in the so-called Ayutthaya style, a melding of Sukhothai Buddhist influences and Hindu-inspired Khmer motifs.
Ayutthaya is administratively divided into 16 districts: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ban Phraek, Bang Ban, Bang Pahan, Bang Pa-in, Amphoe Bang Sai, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang, Maha Rat, Nakhon Luang, Phachi, Phak-Hai, Sena, Tha Rua, Uthai and Wang Noi.
From Bangkok, one can get to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya by various routes:
- Take Highway No.1 (Phahon Yothin) via Pratu Nam Phra In and turn into Highway No.32, then, turn left to Highway No.309 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Highway No.304 (Chaeng Watthana) or Highway No.302 (Ngam Wong Wan), turn right into Highway No.306 (Tiwanon), cross Nonthaburi or Nuanchawi Bridge to Pathum Thani, continue on Highway No.3111 (Pathum Thani – Sam Khok – Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena into Highway No.3263 to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Highway No.306 (Bangkok–Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani), at Pathum Thani Bridge Intersection, turn into Highway Nos.347 and 3309 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
- Take Expressway No.9 (Si Rat Expressway) via Nonthaburi – Pathum Thani and down to Highway No.1 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, turn left into Highway No.3469 towards Bang Pahan and turn right at Worachet Intersection to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.
The cheapest and most colorful way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. All north and north-east line trains depart from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station and stop in Ayutthaya, a trip of about 1.5 hours – 2.5 hrs depending on the type of train service. According to the State Railway of Thailand website, First Class costs 66 baht, Second class (non-aircon) costs 35 baht (seats can be booked in advance), while third class is just 15 baht (no reservations). You can check all the fares in the website www.railway.co.th/English/FareRate.asp. Trains pass by the province’s Amphoe Bang Pa-in, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya and Amphoe Phachi, where at Ban Phachi Junction the railway lines separate to the North and Northeast. Then, mini-buses can be taken from the railway station into the city. See Thailand “State Railway” for schedule and cost.
Please note, from experience, when you enquire about train services at the official information or ticketing counters, rates vary, perhaps due to the confusing variety of train services.
In addition, a Bangkok – Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya train pulled by a steam locomotive is usually provided by the State Railway of Thailand on 3 special occasions every year. The first one is on 26 March which marks the establishment of the State Railway of Thailand and the inauguration day of Thailand’s first railway line between Bangkok – Nakhon Ratchasima in 1890. The second, 12th August – the birthday of Her Majesty Queen Regent Sirikit. Third, 23 October – the memorial day of King Rama V, founder of the Thai railways. And the forth, 5 December – the birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. For more information, please contact the State Railway of Thailand at Tel. 0 2220 4334, 1690 or see the website www.railway.co.th, and Ayutthaya Railway Station at Tel. 0 3524 1521.
Ayutthaya’s train station is to the east of the central island. The easiest way to get to central Naresuan Road is to walk straight ahead from the station and take the cross-river ferry for 4 baht.
Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Moh Chit*) directly to Ayutthaya. First class air-con buses charge 50 baht. This trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of/into Bangkok.
To get to Northern Bus Terminal, take to Moh Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting gantry gates, cross the bridge on the right to go to bus-stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77. (air-con buses charge 12 baht, non air-con buses charge 7 baht.) Bus ride is about 10 – 15 minutes and the Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the bus services. However, buses do not stop in the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across. Cross the bridge to get to the Bus Terminal.
Also you can take a minivan from the Victory Monument direct to Ayutthaya. Takes ~1 hour and costs 60baht. Buses depart every 20 minutes or so
The buses are from 4:30AM–7.15PM. For more details, please call Tel. 0 2936 2852-66 or see the website www.transport.co.th and Ayutthaya Bus Terminal, Tel. 0 3533 5304.
In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Thanon Naresuan next to the Chao Phrom Market. songthaews to Bang Pa-In also leave from here. Some 1st-class buses to Bangkok, however, leave from the north side of the road some 500m to the west, on the other side of the khlong (canal); the queue for air-con buses is easy to spot.
From Kanchanaburi, take a local bus from the main bus station to Suphanburi for 45 baht (2 hours), then another local bus to Ayutthaya for 40 baht (1.5 hours). A taxi from Kanchanaburi costs 2000-2500 baht (2 hours).
There is also a central bus station east of town serving northern destinations. It can be reached by songthaew – ask around to find the appropriate stop.
By minibus (van)
Convenient minibus service (can get stuck in traffic, but makes no stops like regular buses) operates from the Victory Monument square in Bangkok. Take BTS Skytrain to the Victory Monument station, and go right on the elevated walkway – keep on it until you cross a large road, then descend – the buses are parked at the side side of the main traffic circle). The cost is usually ~70 baht, takes around 1 hour or 1 hour 20 min. It’s quite convenient since you don’t have to go to bus terminals (nearby Mochit) but the only problem is that the minibuses don’t have much space to put big bags and have to wait until the car is fully filled.
Minibuses (van) from Kanchanaburi can be arranged by guesthouses or any tour operators for around 350 baht.
Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. You’ll need to book in advance as there are no scheduled services, just trips for tourists. It’s a fairly lengthy trip (at least one whole day) and some of the larger boats offer (pricy) overnight tours. — Boat from Ayutthaya to Bangkok leaves 11:30AM daily (arrives Bangkok ~4PM) = 1350 baht/person PH: 08 97662672
Travelling by boat to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is popular among foreigners since it does not only reveal the beauty as well as lifestyle of the people on both sides of the Chao Phraya River, but also reflects the life in history at the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom when the Chao Phraya River served as a channel of transportation in trading with foreign countries.