Thailand, a beautiful multi faceted country that boasts both turquoise waters with thriving aquatic life and lush green mountains home to monkeys, temples and world heritage sites.
I took a trip around modern day Siam and filled 16 days with as much of the country, culture and cuisine as I possibly could. I fell in love with this little nook in South East Asia and wanted to journal it for myself but also for you, dear reader, to possibly help inspire you to consider Thailand for your next adventure. Or if you’ve already been but are considering going specifically as a backpacker, perhaps this will give you the push you need!
Welcome to my Thailand Diaries!
Backpacker’s Guide to a day in Ayutthaya
Before visiting Thailand, I had heard many amazing things about the capital of Thailand, Bangkok, but I knew close to nothing about the ancient capital of what was once the Kingdom of Siam. The city of Ayyuthaya today is a UNESCO World Heritage Center, with the main highlights being the historical sights including the temples and ruins of the old city.
It’s quite possible to visit all of the main sites in a day, which was exactly what we did. We arrived early morning, filled our afternoon with a tour of the city, and that same evening, took an overnight bus to our next stop.
Getting there and getting around
We arrived in Ayutthaya at around midday, and took a cheap hostel (which we found on HostelWorld), where we could drop our bags and grab a quite shower later that evening. The mini bus we took to get there from Bangkok was a bit sketchy, and ended up taking much longer than we had anticipated. That’s what you get for booking a mini bus the night before on a random street in the middle of busy Bangkok!
Alternatively, you could also take a train from Bangkok to Ayutthaya which takes about an 1-2 hours. The mini bus ride was around 3 and a half hours drive time and it was a bit cramped so if you do book a minibus, you may want to double check the company beforehand.
After refuelling with a green curry for lunch from the hostel, we then went in search of a tuk tuk driver to take us around the city sights for a good price. I had to put my bargaining skills to the test (which was fun!) and we eventually found a lovely lady and her husband who gave us a reasonable price for a two and a half hour tour.
Map of all the main sites in Ayuttaya
Ayuttaya Historical Park
The historical park covers the ruins of the old city and includes 67 temples and ruins. There’s a 50 baht fee to enter the park and you have free roam of the ruins.
The city used to be the heart and life of the Siamese Empire, the centre for commerce and power so it’s fascinating for history buffs to walk through the ruins and imagine an entire city that used to bustle about the very grounds.
Wat Phra Mahathat
This iconic Buddha sculpture is a large stone Buddha head set in a colossal and deep-rooted tree. It’s unclear how the head got to be where it is or exactly how old it is but as the legend goes, 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.
It’s one of the most photographed spots in Ayutthaya but out of respect for the statue and the religion, they do ask visitors not to stand above the Buddha but to sit level with it to take pictures.
Wat Panan Choeng (Golden Buddha)
This 19 meter Golden Buddha in the Wat Panan Choeng Buddhist temple is one of the oldest and most worshipped statues in Thailand, revered throughout the region as a sacred figure for mariners. The myths say that it wept tears when the Burmese burnt Ayutthaya down in 1767.
The Buddha pictured below is another similar large and impressive Golden Buddha found in the Viharn Phra Mongkhonbophit temple.
Other iconic sites in Ayutthaya include:
- Bang Pa-In Royal Palace
- Wat Yai Chai Mang Khon
- Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
- Wat Lokaya Sutha (The Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
Ayutthaya is a city set on the Chao Phraya river, which adds a very unique setting from which to imagine how thriving and magnificent the capital would have been in it’s glory days. You can even book a daytime tour or dinner cruise on the river to see the city ruins and the city’s modern day primitive beauty from the water.
Where to eat in Ayutthaya
- Coffee Old City (located perfectly near the Historical Park)
- Somtum Sukunya (located near Wat Mahathat)
- Sala Ayutthaya Eatery And Bar
- The Summer House
- Kauy Tiew Pak Wan
- Grand Chaophraya
Later that evening, we travelled from Ayutthaya to Chiang Mai in an overnight bus. At around 8pm, we took a tuk tuk from the centre of Ayutthaya, to a 7/11 about 20 minutes out of the center. I’ll be honest with you, it felt a bit dodgy right up until we pulled up outside the 7/11 and saw a group of equally confused backpackers also waiting for the overnight bus.
Find out what happened next!
A FEW THINGS TO NOTE ABOUT VISITING THAILAND:
- DO NOT flush toilet paper down the toilet, their pipes can’t handle it. If you do number 1, just place the tissue in the bins provided, if you do number 2, read up about the bum gun
- Don’t drink the tap water. In order for us to be sustainable, we had to fill in our water bottles every day at the hostel when we could (they usually have refill stations for 10 baht)
- Don’t worry too much about laundry. There are soooo many places that offer laundry services and prices depend on where in Thailand you are (40 baht/kg in Koh Tao and 100 baht/kg in Bangkok)
- Don’t be afraid to barter with the taxi drivers or vendors on prices
- Most places will ask you to take off your shoes before you enter
- It’s normal for hostels to ask to keep your passport while you’re staying with them
- Don’t expect everyone to speak English and don’t be that person that gets annoyed and complains when locals don’t speak your language, it’s their country so be kind and patient
In 16 days, my best friend and I managed to visit Phuket, Koh Phi Phi, Railay Beach, Koh Tao, Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Chiang Mai. And what an amazing 16 days it was!
Sit back, grab some Oreos and I can’t wait to see what life has to offer us next.