Exploring Ayutthaya: Thailand’s Ancient Capital

Feel like getting out of Bangkok but don’t want to spend all day on a bus (or hours on a plane)? One of Thailand’s most interesting historical destinations is just over an hour from Bangkok by van, and it’s packed with interesting things to do.

Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s oldest and most historically significant cities. The city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong for a rather unusual reason: he wanted to escape an outbreak of smallpox (at the time an incredibly serious health threat) in the nearby province of Lop Buri.

The city was founded and it became the capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (also known as Siam). Within 250 years, the small city had grown into a fairly big one, with a population of more than 300,000 people. This may not sound that impressive today, but in the 17th century it made Ayutthaya one of the world’s largest and most populated cities.

Ayutthaya fell apart in 1767, when Burmese invaders destroyed most of the city. Today, it’s an amazing relic of Thailand’s deeply interesting history and a major tourist attraction for both Thais and people from abroad.

The best place to visit in Ayutthaya is Ayutthaya Historical Park — a UNESCO World Heritage Site that covers more of the old city’s ruins. Good spots to visit include Wat ChaiwatthanaramWat Kudi Dao, and Wat Mahathat, which provide an interesting look into the Siam and Ayutthaya period of Thailand’s history.

Bring a camera (or a smartphone with a good camera), since you’ll want to take plenty of photos of the cool Indiana Jones-style temples.

It’s worth remembering that Ayutthaya is an important historical area, and that dressing like you’re going to the beach probably isn’t a good idea. Wear long pants and a shirt that covers your shoulders, or else you might be turned away at some of the temples due to the city’s somewhat conservative dress code.

If you’d like to escape from Bangkok’s seemingly endless expanse of concrete and spend a day exploring a side of Thailand that many people don’t see (Ayutthaya is nowhere near as popular as Chiang Mai or the islands) then visiting Ayutthaya is a good choice. Getting there is easy — just take the minivan from the public station at Victory Monument.