Biking Ayutthaya, Thailand

Posted by - July 19, 2011 | Category: The Yard

To be honest, I had not heard about Ayutthaya before my trip to Thailand, but that’s just because I’m a jerk.  It wasn’t on Entertainment Tonight.  Perez Hilton didn’t blog about it.  And The Amazing Race never schlepped contestants through here.  Life was seen through television and the internet.  But there’s so much more to see when you power down and go outside.  Believe me, it’s better than cable.

Ayutthaya was the capital of the Kingdom of Siam (the name changed to Thailand in 1938) for 417 years, until the Burmese got their hands on it in 1768 and burnt it to the ground .  The government set up shop in Bangkok, and that’s where the capital has been ever since.

A few fellow Canadians and I took the morning train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya, stored our bags in the cloak room, dodged the persistent tuk-tuk drivers out front of the railway station, and set out in the search for bicycles. That took about 2 minutes. Vendors across the street were renting bikes for 40 Baht (about $1.30 USD) – for the whole day.  I know a deal when I smell one, so we hopped on and headed off.

The ancient city of Ayutthaya is an island, surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers, and it’s quite a mixture of old and new. It’s a busy town, but navigating through the traffic on bike has its rewards. 

Here are some of the sights you can expect to see…

Ayutthaya Wat Ratburana

Wat Ratburana juts out into the Ayutthaya sky. (Wat just means temple).

Ayuthaya Wat Phra Mahathat Buddha Head

Located at Wat Phra Mahathat is one of the most iconic symbols in Thailand.  The Buddha Head engulfed by the roots of a banyan tree is arguably one of the most photographed places in Thailand.

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When taking a photo of the Buddha’s head, better crouch or kneel or face un-nirvana like reprimands.

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Buddha wrapped in cloth at Wat Phra Mahathat.

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Tourists getting taken for a ride outside the Elephant Kraal, or enclosure.

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A monk releases birds outside of Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit.  The releasing of animals into their natural habitat is a demonstration of piety among Buddhists.

Ayutthaya Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit seated bronze Buddha

Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit is the site of one of the largest seated bronze Buddhas in Thailand.

Ayutthaya Wat Phra Si Sanphet stupa

Right next to Wihaan Phra Mongkohn Bophit is Wat Phra Si Sanphet which was the site of the ancient Royal Palace before the Burmese sacked it.  The three bell-shaped stupa (or large Buddhist religious monument) are all that remain after the site of the palace was turned into a temple.

Although there are plenty of options for accommodations in Ayutthaya, we decided to see it in one day. If you are coming from Bangkok and plan to leave in the evening for Chiang Mai, book your ticket as soon as you get off the train.  All the overnight trains headed north were sold out when we returned to the station late afternoon.

Have you been to Ayutthaya?  What do you think we missed?

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37 comments - add one
  1. We also biked it, but somehow we missed the famous buddha head/tree. Maybe we were too tired? We had a great time biking the sites, but we enjoyed the further out Wats (may of which were still active) the most. Probably because of the local interaction!

    1. It’s true, the further you go outside the old city, the fewer tourists you see. Too bad you missed the Buddha head! But we almost missed it too. We thought it was at a different Wat… 🙂

  2. I hadn’t heard of Ayutthaya before this post either, so that makes 2 jerks. I’ve even seen pictures my friends had taken of the Buddha head in the banyan tree and had no idea where they were taken.

    Nice photos! Sounds like a fun day.

  3. I love Ayutthaya! I went there in 2009 and was extremely impressed with the ruins. I think you covered the most stunning ruins and temples in this ancient capital.

    While it is a place I would not stay more than a day, today I feel like I want to go back to enjoy it again.

    1. It was a whirlwind to be sure, but very doable in only a day. Thanks for the compliment on the photos! Playing around with that new camera is hopefully gonna pay off… 🙂

  4. Ayutthaya is on our itinerary, but never thought to bike through it. Would love to get on a bike again (but only if the heat doesn’t flatten us out,lol)

    1. I would highly recommend a bike. The only time we got really sweaty and flustered from the heat was when we weren’t on the bike — the breeze you get is sooooo refreshing!

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