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Ayutthaya - the Ancient Capital

THAILAND | Friday, 19 August 2011 | Views [1007]

After 2 days in the busy city of Bangkok, my friend and I were ready to make the escape. We appreciate Bangkok for all it has to offer - temples and other attractions, shopping malls and markets, a lot of good street food prepared the authentic way, very kind and helpful locals, and of course fellow travelers - but it would be good to experience another aspect of Thailand.

Ayutthaya, the Ancient Capital, is around an hour's ride north of Bangkok. It became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. It was later destroyed during the second Burmese invasion in the 18th Century.  Now it has become one of Thailand's contributions to the UNESCO World Heritage and a must see Thailand attraction. 

We took the railway train from the Hualampong Station for 20 Baht. The 3rd class trains leave almost every hour from the station. The ride is not as scenic as I was hoping but I enjoyed the clickety sound of the diesel-powered train as it traveled north. This was my first ever railway train ride.

A few minutes from the railway station is the Ayutthaya island. It is an island in the sense that it is surrounded by a small body of water. Khlong (canal) as they would refer to in Thailand.

It is easy to find accommodation in the small island but we opted to make a reservation in the Hi-Ayutthaya Youth Hostel - a quaint and very homey bed and breakfast near the main high way. (I hope to write about this inn too). For 500 Baht a night for two people, it is pretty cheap (note though that this is off peak price).

Exploring the kingdom is not a challenge as there are markers everywhere pointing to ancient structures (now ruins). Blue boards mean historical structures, other colors mean new temples, structures, etc. Most people would usually spend a day in the place but that will only limit them to seeing the main attractions - the Ancient Palace, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana and others just near the same area.

Different from a strolling experience in Bangkok, Ayutthaya is more relaxed. There are other tourists but it's not a whole lot of crowd. And the crowd that goes here are the more tame (or so I have observed). Photographers should stay longer in this place to see ruins hit by morning, noon and late afternoon light. It's quite a site. 

Before night falls, you can ride a long tail boat with other tourists to visit some more temples and ruins around the island. The ride costs about 200 Baht per head, not bad for the 2-hour ride. But every attraction, most especially the ruins require you to pay a fee of 50 Baht. 

Food is the same as in Bangkok, you eat beside the street. Here however, the locals have more time to attend to you because they don't have as much customers. It's a great opportunity to interact with them, learn about their food, culture and make friends. I made friends with other tourists as well - a Korean and Italian, both traveling solo.

Will I go back to Ayutthaya? I very much think so. I can imagine myself spending a week there, visiting the ruins, sitting by the park, reading a book, having conversations with other tourists and the locals, learning how to cook Thai cuisines. Hopefully next year.

Some photos here.

Tags: ancient capital, ayutthaya, thailand

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