A Day Trip to Ayutthaya
No matter how much you love the city, the truth is that Bangkok can be too much to handle from time to time. All Bangkokians (both locals and expats) will tell you that periodic breaks are crucial to staying sane in the otherwise insane city. A weekend jaunt to Ko Samet is always a great option, but what if you don't have that much time to spare? Luckily there are a variety of choices for day trips outside of Bangkok, such as a visit to one of Thailand's postcard-worthy floating markets or my personal favorite: an easy outing to the UNESCO World Heritage Site city of Ayutthaya.
Pronounced Eye-U-Tea-UH, which sometimes sounds like you’re saying you have a UTI when talking to people who’ve never heard of it before, Ayutthaya was the second capital of the former Kingdom of Siam (present day Thailand for those in need of a history lesson). It was a thriving trading city for hundreds of years, eventually becoming the largest in the world by 1700.
Visiting today, you'd hardly be able to tell. In 1767 the Burmese army burnt the city to the ground, reducing it to ashes as quickly as it had risen to power. What's left are the ruins of ancient palaces and temples, religious monuments and Buddhist relics. Headless Buddhas and abandoned temple complexes offer a look into Thailand's history and serve as a reminder of how quickly things can change.
Rather than hopping on a plane or making the 12-hour bus journey north, my college girlfriends and I decided to take the overnight train to Chiang Mai when they came out to visit last March, stopping off in Ayutthaya for the day to break up the trip. From Hua Lamphong Railway Station in Bangkok, we jumped on the 3rd-class local train for a mere 15 THB (roughly 45 cents in USD) and enjoyed a leisurely two-hour ride with scenic views. Seat 61 has all the details you need.
As the historical city is actually an island at the junction of three rivers, you have to take a ferry from the train station. Grab your overnight train tickets to Chiang Mai before you head in if you're continuing on and you can store your bags at the station.
As always, I recommend getting a motorbike when you get off the ferry. You'll be able to cover the most ground and enjoy the scenery around the city. Cycling is also a popular option, or you can always hire a tuk tuk. But Ayutthaya is a great place to try your hand at motorbiking with its wide streets and slow(er) traffic.
Most of the temples open at 8am and close at 6pm, so make sure to give yourself enough time ~ especially if it's just a day trip. We didn't end up getting there until nearly 4pm and had to rush around on our bikes before the sun went down.
Fortunately we were there for golden hour and beat most of the heat of the day. With leaves scattered throughout the temple grounds and the warm glow of the sun washed over everything, it felt like an autumn day in the middle of March ~ a very welcome feeling after a year of living with no seasons.