Day Trip to Ayuthaya

I traveled from the monkey town of Lopburi to Ayuthaya via a one hour train ride, which took us through gorgeous scenery of lush green fields with a backdrop of not-so distant mountains, whose color was ever changing due to the setting sun.  The train itself was rather unlike the upscale Special Express train I had taken earlier that day from Bangkok to Lopburi. This train did not blast the air-conditioning like a North American movie theater and neither had cushy seats nor free drink and snack service.

Train to Ayuthaya, Thailand at sunset

This Rapid Transit train had hard, slippery benches that faced each other. The wooden-framed windows that reminded me of a school bus were all wide open, allowing a strong wind to blow throughout the train car. Wanting to see everything, I made sure to sit right next to the window, an experience which has helped me completely understand the joy a dog feels when sticking her head out of a moving car. The sun slowly set on the opposite side of the train, which I enjoyed watching past the smiling faces of my fellow travelers. 

It was dark when I stepped off the train in Ayuthaya, the former capital of Siam. I won’t bore you with the details, but suffice it to say, I got incredibly lost and ended up walking a LONG way around to get to the island itself. (It turns out that all I had to do was simply cross the street out of the train station, take a short walk down a small road and take a 2 minute ferry across the river.) Tired of walking I checked into a relatively comfortable guesthouse in the touristy part of town, went to a restaurant not worth mentioning and turned in for the night.

Buddha head statue wrapped in tree trunk rootsThe next morning I arose excited for the day, so I rented a bicycle to check out the sights. Stop number one was the famous Wat Phra Mahathat, which hosts, without a doubt, one of the most photographed trees in the world. The head of a statue of Buddha has somehow been lodged in a trunk of a huge tree. There are various theories of how it got there, but no one knows for sure. The rest of the ruins are also nice to explore, especially because it was such a beautiful day. I wish I had hired a guide as I knew very little of the area.

The ruins of Wat Phra Mahathat reminded me so much of the ancient city of Chitzen Itza in Mexico or Tikal in Guatemala, that I found myself pondering the possibility of any connection.

Wat Phra Mahathat ruins in Ayuthaya, Thailand look like Chichen Itza in MexicoI decided to spend the afternoon bicycling around in no particular direction, just to see what I would come upon. My enthusiasm for the  bike ride slowed to a halt, however, when I came upon a most dreadful scene.

Elephant riding through the streets of Ayuthaya, ThailandElephants were actually joining traffic in the streets with a heavy huda on their backs carrying tourists and a mahout, on their necks, wielding a bullhook, ready to strike should at any time the elephant become out of line. Needless to say, this saddened me to the core knowing there was nothing I could do to help those enslaved.

And so I rode on with a heavy heart thinking these would be the only elephants I would see. After all, how big is the island anyway!

People walking underneath an elephant in Ayuthaya, ThailandBut just around the corner I came upon an elephant show where elephants were expected to perform very non-elephant tasks to the tune of blasting Thai music, excited tourists and the loud busy street it was next to. All four elephants, including one baby, were rocking back and forth, showing distress. The apparent climax of the show was having a male elephant stand up on two steps, raising his height so that the entire audience could file under him for good luck. Even up on the steps, the elephant constantly rocked back and forth.

My heart sank at seeing this display of animal abuse and again I found myself in no position to be able to do anything, other than document it by taking a video. Eventually, I got back on my bicycle and continued my bike ride feeling very defeated.

Ligeia learning Krabi Krabong martial arts in Ayuthaya, Thailand

Deciding that I just could not emotionally handle anymore “surprises” that day, I gladly stopped at a park just to sit and debrief. There, I discovered a group of children doing some sort of martial art, which helped lift my spirits as it piqued my curiosity. It turned out that they were practicing Krabi Krabong, a Thai traditional martial art and I enjoyed watching them hone their skills. Here I am holding the “krabi”, a long curved sword: 

The most touristy thing to do in Ayuthaya is take a sunset cruise around the entire island, stopping at various Buddhist temples and ruins along the way. Prices can vary anywhere between 150 baht to 400 baht, depending on how much of a cut the travel agency charges.

Ayuthaya boat trip at sunset

No matter the price the tour is the same in the end so if you’re on a budget, shop around. It is possible to hire your own boat as well. Despite its overwhelming popularity, this is something not to miss!

Our boat held eight people and we made three 20 minute stops: Wat Panan Choeng, Wat Phutthai Sawsn and the ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The last attraction was by far the most impressive with its picturesque beauty in front of the setting sun.

Ruins in Ayuthaya, Thailand

Things you should know about visiting Ayuthaya…

Boat Tours: Many travel agencies and guesthouse employees will tell you that you will get both picked up and dropped off at your guesthouse and this is not the case. Tours include the five-minute ride in the back of a pick-up truck to the boat launch, but your boat will dock at the Night Market and you are required to get back to your accommodation on your own. Not to worry, as there are tuktuks waiting at the side of the river to take you wherever you need to go, and the Night Market is a good place to get something to eat for dinner. Surprisingly, there were even a few vegan options, although admittedly many of them were desserts.

Mosquitoes: Ayuthaya is surrounded by three rivers making mosquitoes an issue, especially in the evenings and close to the water. While I was there I was bitten by several mosquitoes, one of which gave me the dreaded Dengue Fever. So be sure to stop in a pharmacy and get bug repellent before heading to Ayuthaya. The higher the Deet content (95% is ideal) the more effective the repellent will be.

Have you been to Ayuthaya? Were your experiences similar?

Bright sun behind large Buddha statue in Ayuthaya, Thailand

Happy travels,
Ligeia 🙂


10 thoughts on “Day Trip to Ayuthaya

  1. Heather

    Your photos are gorgeous, Ligeia! Thanks for including some of the reality (like the distressed elephants) with the idealized sunset shots.

    1. Ligeia

      Hey Heather, Thanks for reading my post and for the compliment on the pics. I guess the reality of every place is that there are always both good and bad aspects. Have you ever been to Thailand?

    1. Ligeia

      Hi David,
      I really do wonder if there was ever a connection. There just seems to be so many similarities. Perhaps someone out there is studying that. And speaking of strange connections, have you checked out our post on the Black House in Chiang Rai? It was the strangest thing to see in Thailand as it looked like something out of a Viking Museum!

  2. Claire | Traveling Light

    I love Ayuthaya! I didn’t like the heat when I went there, though. But braving the noonday sun was worth it. I was actually considering riding an elephant until I saw one being whipped. =( I didn’t ride anymore.

    I read your “About us” page – your wedding at Niagara Falls must be very exciting! What better and cooler way for a Canadian and American to marry? =)

    I was a lacto-ovo vegetarian for almost 5 years until I started traveling often. And then I relaxed my rules and ate fish from time to time in coastal communities, especially when the fish is served by a new friend or host. I admire you two for keeping your vegan habit!

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Claire,
      Thanks so much for checking out our site. When we first came to Thailand we too were excited about elephant riding, but we soon learned of the horrors that are behind it. As you saw, it’s a very abusive industry.

      Our wedding day was the most special day for us. And you’re right – the location meant so much to us as Niagara Falls is such a beautiful place that both our countries share. 🙂

      It’s often not easy being vegetarian/vegan while traveling. Some countries are better than others and often what we find is that in order to be vegan we have to eat in the more touristy places, which is not ideal either. But we soldier on. Thanks for your support. If you ever find yourself in Chiang Mai, we’ll show you all the good veggie places to eat. 🙂

  3. Greg Goodman

    Such a beautiful city full of amazing ruins. Loved your recap of the visit… especially the boat cruise. Now I guess that I have to go back, as Carrie and I missed that one. I especially love the last photo of the Buddha with the sunflare. Classic!

    1. Mindy & Ligeia

      Hi Greg,
      If you find yourself going through Ayuthaya, I highly recommend the boat cruise. Thanks for the compliment on the last picture. I liked that picture so much but didn’t quite know where to put it in the post, so I decided to put it at the end. 🙂
      Have you and Carrie been to Lopburi? It’s only an hour north of Ayuthaya and worth the trip:

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