Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a magnificent Buddhist temple in Ayutthaya situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. A number of temples throughout Thailand take their design from this building, an eye-catching arrangement which includes a raised platform and eight towering chedis, or chapels. All of the chedis are attached to secret passageways and have colorful paintings illustrating the life of Buddha inside. There are 120 sitting Buddha statues dotted around the area; originally thought to have been painted black and gold, they now sit dressed in orange drapery, creating a peaceful, picturesque scene.
Wat Lokaya Sutha is the restored ruin of a monastery located in northwest Ayutthaya, in the Pratu Chai sub-district. This is one of the most impressive sites in the region, and is certainly an unmissable spot for any trip to Ayutthaya. Visitors can explore the ancient remains of the monastery’s floors, walls and pillars, and examine the detritus of archaic Buddha images.The highlight of this ruin is the ginormous reclining Buddha statue, 42 meters high and eight meters wide. The Buddha is usually wrapped in brightly colored orange cloth, and there is a small altar at its side where visitors can make offerings. If travelling on a hot day, make sure to relax with a refreshing mango juice at one of the roadside cafés overlooking the temple.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, meaning “Temple of the Holy, Splendid and Omniscient” in English, was revered as the grandest and most beautiful temple when it served the Siamese capital over 700 years ago. Today it remains a stunning testament to the culture of times past. Built on old palace ground, the site is comprised of three ancient chedis, or chapels, these ruins being all that was left of the temple after it was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. The steps here are steep, the architecture breathtaking, and there is the option of an elephant ride to the site if visitors are feeling weary and sun-drenched.
One of the most photographed spots in Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Mahthat is comprised of a large stone Buddha head set in a colossal and deep-rooted tree. Exactly how the head became locked in its present location is unclear, however it is thought to be linked to the immense flooding and destruction of previous years, and the rapid vegetation growth which ensued afterwards. Legend has it that, a few meters from this spot, two brothers fought violently over who would succeed as the King of Siam. The victor, King Ramathibodi I, subsequently built the palace and all the Buddha statues here in honor of his brother. The head in the tree is believed to originate from one of these statues, and so is thought to be an eery replica of the defeated brother. Whether or not this story is true, it makes a popular and interesting anecdote when visiting the attraction, told often by guides around the area.
One of the lesser visited temple sites in the city, Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon offers a more intimate experience of Ayutthaya architectural ruins. There are magnificent rows of Buddhas encompassing the main temple here, and another giant and imposing sleeping Buddha, the sole of which is believed to emit magical qualities; many locals rub coins on the feet of the statue in order to be blessed with good luck. There are towers around the site in various states of preservation, and stunning statues inside the temple are adorned with intricately molded golden leaves. Festivals and celebrations are regularly held here by Thai locals, reinforcing the idea that the area is monumental and sacred.
Thailand is a country which embraces the water surrounding it, with ferries and boats being extremely popular modes of transport in all regions. An exciting way to experience a Thai river journey is to board a boat cruise from Ayutthaya to Bangkok along the Chao Phraya river. During the trip tourists have a chance to relax and unwind, to glide past the primitive beauty of the city, and to spot exciting attractions such as the Wat Arun temple on the water’s edge. Tours can cost as little as $55, with a popular choice of operator being Viator, offering air-conditioned transportation and an expert English-speaking licensed guide on every tour.
Wat Panan Choeng is a Buddhist temple on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River. When traversing the stairs here it is easy for visitors to be overwhelmed by the gigantic golden Buddha figure majestically posed above the site. It is 19 meters high, 14 meters wide, and is universally revered throughout the region as a sacred figure for mariners. The effigy is one of the oldest, largest, and most worshiped statues in Thailand, with legends claiming that it wept tears when the Burmese burnt Ayutthaya down in 1767. This temple is still widely in use for religious ceremonies, so take care when visiting to dress appropriately in accordance with Buddhist custom.
Viharn Phra Mongkhonbophit is a restored temple ruin, a magnificent structure which houses another stunning Golden Buddha. The temple, christened with a name which means “Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence” in English, was built in 1538 and has undergone many intense restorations over the years. It was once a site of sanctuary during a war between the Siamese and Burmese, with the Burmese allegedly being so in awe of the site’s beauty that they left it untouched.
Constructed in Ayutthaya in the 17th century, Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, simultaneously known as the Summer Palace, is the former residence of the Thai monarchy, and is still used today as a site for royal retreats and holidays. Russian and Chinese architecture as well as traditional Thai designs blend brilliantly to create a colorful and symmetric exterior here. Visitors are highly recommended to climb the brightly painted lookout tower if time permits, which offers amazing panoramic views of the surrounding city. The palace remains largely open to guests all year round, with tours available for the Chinese-style royal palace and throne room as well as the lavish, vibrant gardens.