Availing a tour from travel agencies or operators is rare for me because I prefer exploring tourist attractions on my own. Apart from the bigger savings, it’s also great to approach and talk to locals and get to know their stories. But I have to admit, having an agency preparing everything for your trip is more convenient than a do-it-yourself travel. On the Thailand leg of my SEA trip, it took me a while to decide to do Ayutthaya Historical Tour. I did my research and exploring the destination on my own will somehow need a big chunk from my budget.
The spare day I have on my stay in Bangkok made me decide to consider visiting the old city of Ayutthaya. The ancient capital is 80-kilometers away and a 2-hr drive from Bangkok. Commuting from Bangkok to Ayutthaya is already tiring given that it was on the last days of my 2-week trip. Knowing my stamina, I already predicted travel fatigue.
Doi, of The Travelling Feet, was also in Thailand during my visit. Fortunately, she joined the Travel Blog Exchange Asia Pacific 2016 happened in Manila last October. She was able to meet some brands related to travel including Voyagin. The brand helps travelers discover local destinations, filter the best things to do, and offers experiences that are truly Asia. When Voyagin found out that she was in Bangkok, they offered us a complimentary visit to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya Historical Tour
Voyagin has several options for the Ayutthaya day tour. Ayutthaya Historical Tour choices include join-in or private tours both full day tour (van only) or with river cruise. Available tours start from Php2159 (43USD) to Php3615 (72USD). Private tours need at least 2 persons and will be cheaper if you maximize the 9 needed persons. Rate inclusions are entrance fees on temples, transportation from Bangkok, an English-speaking guide, and lunch cruise in Chao Phraya River. This post is only for the Ayutthaya Historical Tour and lunch cruise in Chao Phraya River is on a separate post.
Call time was 5:30AM where the tour guide and the van picked-us up on our hostels near Ratchathewi BTS Station. We traveled from Bangkok to Ayutthaya on comfortable seats, relaxed and without worrying where to alight. In fact, we slept during the travel and were just notified by our guide, Nuddy, when we arrived on our first destination.
BANG PA-IN PALACE
From the admission area, we walked along the alley to Ho Hem Monthian Thewarat. The small stone structure in Khmer-style (corncob-shaped), serves as a small praying temple for the royal family. Before we continued the tour inside the compound, Nuddy mentioned that the complex was divided into two parts: the outer and inner palace.
In the middle of the outer pond is Phra Thinang Aisawan Thiphya-Art, a Thai-style pavilion with spired roofing, an exact copy of Phra Thinang Aphonohimok Prasat inside the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The pavilion has a bronze statue of King Chulalongkorn, the fifth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri.
The inner palace starts from Deveraj-Kunlai Gate that resembles a single-storey building in a semi-circle structure. We also passed by Pae Song Baht, Keng Boo-Pah Pra-Paht, and Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisathian on our way to Phra Thinang Wehart Chamrun. The Chinese-style building was built it 1889 with the first level having a Chinese-style throne while the upper level housing an altar with name plates of King Mongkut, the fourth monarch of Siam under the House of Chakri, and King Chulalongkorn with their respective queens. The area is connected to Ho Withun Thasana, a lookout tower that offers a stunning view of the surrounding landscapes. Visitors are allowed to scale up to the third level of the tower.
We ended our tour in Bang Pa-In Palace at the memorials dedicated to Princess Saovabhark Nariratana (and Three Royal Children) and Queen Sunandakumarirattana. In 1881, on her way to Bang Pa-In Palace, the queen’s boat capsized and sank in Chao Phraya River. In the past, it’s a capital offense in Thailand to touch a royal member. With this, everyone who witnessed the incident didn’t dare to save the queen. Entrance fee for foreigner: 100THB.
After an information overload, we checked the first heritage site on our list that day, Wat Mahathat. If you’re familiar with the area, this is where you can find the famous ‘head of a Buddha in tree roots’. The entangled head was part of a sandstone Buddha image which fell of the main body onto the ground and gradually trapped into the roots of a Banyan Tree.
What’s odd in Wat Mahathat are the headless Buddha images. The walls of the main complex have numerous smaller Buddha images with most of them beheaded. Our guide mentioned that these Buddha suffered from the Burmese Army during the Burmese-Siamese War in 1765-67. Wat Mahathat is considered as the most important temple in the kingdom because of the royal ceremonies held and of the beliefs that one of the chedis, an octagonal pagoda, holds the relics of the Buddha. Entrance fee for foreigner: 50THB.
WAT PHRA SRI SANPHET
From the most important temple, we moved to the most outstanding temple of old Ayutthaya, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet. In the past, the complex holds a 16-meter tall gold-covered Buddha image but was destroyed and melted down when the old capital had fallen in 1767. The world heritage site today has the 3 main stupas containing the ashes of Kings Boroma-Tri-Loka-Nat, Boroma-Rachathirat III, and Ramathibodi II. It was a royal temple of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya yet monks were not allowed to reside and only invited during special occasions and rites. Entrance fee for foreigner: 50THB.
WAT LOKAYA SUTHA
If you’ve been to Wat Pho in Bangkok and was amazed by the massive reclining Buddha, Ayutthaya has also its own reclining Buddha. Unlike with the image in Wat Pho, the The Phra Buddha Sai Yat is not enclosed yet there are traces of octagonal pillars, suggesting that it was once encased by a Vihara. The structure is 42-meters in long and made of bricks and covered with plaster. Free entrance fee.
Aside from the royal palace and temples, we had a market encounter to check the local offerings in the area. In one of the markets, we tried the crispy fried catfish skins and bones and rolled pancakes with candy floss. There were also a lot of stalls selling pickled fruits such as mango, olives, tomato, and tamarinds.
The half-day tour was not enough yet it was already sufficient to enjoy the interesting architecture of temples in Ayutthaya. An obvious mix of Khmer for the cactus-like towers and the notable Sukhothai-style for the pointed chedis or stupas.
As much as we wanted to explore other sites, we needed to catch the ferry for our river cruise. Other destinations to include are Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, Wat Chao Phraya Thai, and Wat Chai Wattanaram. You could also add on your Ayutthaya Historical Tour the Wihan Phran Mongkhon Bopit, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Phra Ram,.
Disclosure: Voyagin invited and provided us the Private Ayutthaya Day Tour + River Cruise. All opinions stated on this post are my own.
**Roti Sai Mai and Crispy Catfish photos by Doi of The Travelling Feet.