If one thing’s for sure, we can agree that Thailand has an abundance of amazing temples. The more I stayed in the country, the more I become fascinated with its culture, places and people.
Ayutthaya is one of the places I enjoyed going, and I always encourage my friends to spend a day or two in the city. It’s a beautiful place rich in history. In fact, Ayutthaya used to be the capital city of Thailand, and was considered as one of the biggest and wealthiest kingdom in the East.
The Siamese kingdom was founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1351. It used to be the capital city of Siam (now Thailand), and a center of trade for Asians and Europeans. The invasion of Burma in 1569 during the Burmese-Siamese war lost its independence, leaving the place in ruins.
Despite its melancholic history, Ayutthaya became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. There’s something about old ruins that makes them beautiful. Visiting the historical park, I can’t help but imagine how it used to look back then.
A day or two is usually enough to roam most of the attraction sites. Renting a bicycle, motorcycle or a car is the usual means to tour. It’s important to wear light clothes as you’ll do a lot of walking, and the weather is too hot in Ayutthaya.
If you search Ayutthaya in Google, you probably have seen the statue of Buddha’s face enclosed in the tree roots. Wat Mahathat is the most popular site, and the first place you’ll visit in Ayutthaya. It is located at the center of old Ayutthaya, between Chi Kun Road and Naresuan Road. You won’t see the most photographed object by the entrance, but rather at the back of the temple.
Wat Mahathat used to be religious center that contains many Buddha relics. Also known as the Temple of the Great Relic, there are many features inside the monastery. It includes a central prang, where only the base remains; the Vihan Luang or the royal assembly hall; and the Ubusot or the ordination hall.
Wat Rachaburana, which translates to the “Temple of Royal Restoration” is a monastery near Wat Mahathat. It is built by King Borommarachathirat II in memorial to his two brothers, who fought each other for the sake of who will be the next king of Ayutthaya (sounds like Game of Thrones, right?).
The royal vihara is made of mortar and brick, like most of the structures in Ayuthhaya. Its wall is almost gone, leaving the base intact. A giant prang can be seen when you enter the temple. Stairs were built in the prang so you can have a better view of the vihara, and its surroundings chedis. Inside Wat Rachaburana is a two-level crypt that contains murals of Buddha and Chinese people.
WAT PHRA SI SANPHET
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is one of the most important sites in Ayutthaya as it is located in the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya, and the only monastery used by royals alone. This place also served as a model for the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Grand Palace. It consists of three gigantic stupas, containing the remains of King Ramathibodi II’s father, older brother, and himself. This is why you can see warnings or signs on each sites telling not to step on chedis, and walls in the park as these are sacred artefacts.
Many objects in Wat Phra Si Sanphet didn’t survived when Burma invaded Ayutthaya. One of them is the 16-meter-gilded Phra Si Sanphet image covered of 340 kilos of gold was melted and then taken by the Burmese. Some of its remains were taken to Bangkok during the excavation.
WAT LOKAYA SUTHA
Not much can be seen in Wat Lokaya Sutha as it’s been heavily destroyed during the invasion. Also known as the Temple of Earth, it is home to the Reclining Buddha just like the one in Wat Pho, measuring 37 meters long, and 8 meters high. The statue is usually draped in orange clothing, and has an altar made by the locals.
WAT PHRA CHAIWATTHANARAM
Wat Phra Chaiwatthanaram lies at the west bank of Chao Phraya River, and is probably the most beautiful temple in Ayutthaya. Unlike the other temples designed in Khmer styles, this place is designed in Khom style. Wat Phra Chaiwatthanaram was built for 20 years by King Prasat Thong as a gift for her foster- mother.
The architecture of the temple is beautiful. It is notable for its cornered pagodas, wide ubusot with two seated Buddhas can be found, and symmetry. The monastery has a gallery, surrounding the Quincunx, filled with Buddha relics, and eight chedi-shaped merus or funeral pyres. Staying here for sunset is ideal as the place offers picturesque view.
HOW TO GET THERE
Using the train, take the BTS Sky Train Silom Line and alight at Sala Daeng (S2). From there, take the MRT and alight at the last station, Hua Lamphong. The provincial train station is a walking distance from Hua Lamphong station, so you will surely not miss it. Book a ticket to Ayutthaya. If you’re going on a day trip, it’s important to book a ticket to Bangkok so you could check the train schedule.
Each temples require visitors to pay for entrance fee that usually costs around THB 50. Temples are open from 8:00 am until 5:00 pm.