Ayutthaya: Thailand’s heritage rich city

Nico Marco (Contributor) (The Philippine Star) - June 3, 2013 - 4:17pm

Once the most important kingdom of Siam, Ayutthaya is now known as a popular day trip destination from Thailand’s capital city. Most tourists of this temple town are traditionally spill-over visitors from Bangkok, as traveling time only requires no more than a two-hour commute.

The usual day-trip visitors to Ayutthaya spend their entire time trawling the city’s 14th century ancient ruins, most of which has been bestowed with the much coveted UNESCO World Heritage Site recognition.

There is a lot more though to Ayutthaya than a destination for a busied up itinerary of temple hopping under the blazing hot sun. One of the best things about it is that compared to say, Siem Reap, it still remains a truly living local city in spite of the daily tourist influx.

At least an overnight to a long weekend getaway will not go wasted in Ayutthaya.

The mix of rural and urban way of life here is very strong, and what curious tourists just need to do is step beyond the perimeter of the ancient ruins and observe how the Thais here go about with their usually more “chill” lifestyle (compared to Bangkokians).

The charm of Ayutthaya as a living city can be an antithesis to Bangkok’s sometimes overwhelming hustle and bustle. It is not surprising to find an ancient ruin (or at least a neighborhood temple) right on someone’s backyard. A stoplight can even be found at the corner of ancient temple ruins, even on a relatively busy traffic street.

Accommodations in Ayutthaya are also some of the cheapest in all of Thailand. As seen on Agoda and Philstar.com hotels page, there are fairly affordable choices that suit all kinds of travelers from family excursionists to solo explorers. It is not unusual to find an accommodation as low as PhP 700/night.

Ayutthaya is best explored by bicycle allowing much easier navigation from one ancient temple to another. The town is incredibly bicycle-friendly with most hotels offering rentals for either complimentary or PhP 40/day. The Ayutthaya Historical Park also has convenient bicycle parking slots.

Exploring most of the Historical Park is better in the earlier part of the morning as the heat on this side of Thailand can get more blaring from noon onwards. Whenever the heat becomes unbearable, it is always advisable to have some delicious Thai iced coffee, usually found in makeshift stalls or quaint sit-down cafes.

Also a must-do in Ayutthaya is the sunset cruise along the historic Chao Praya River. Several tour operators offer similar destination stops and the prices just differ based on the size and quality of the ferry/boat. The cheapest option can be as low as PhP 800/person, with an easy and comfortable itinerary that starts from 4:00 pm well until the sunset. Most hotels offer this kind of package as well.

On Saturday evenings nearby WatMahathat, Ayutthaya has a famous night market that showcases the best Thai cuisines. Coming here hungry is necessary and the sellers make sure that their patrons are seated as comfortable as possible with plenty of tables (and sometimes even electric fans) by the roadside. Some of the famous food that can be found here are the Thai-Muslim style briyani and Ayutthaya beef noodle.

Visitors must remember that Ayutthaya is a venerable city to the Thai people. At one point in history it was one of the most powerful kingdoms in the world, and its temple ruins are considered sacred and still used as places of worship to this day. Tourists must therefore remain mindful of their decorum.

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