The first time I stepped off the bus in Ayutthaya, I thought
“Oh hell naw.” This place is a complete bleep hole. Granted, the town had just
been hit by the worst flood in the last 50 years and I’m rolling up about 24
hours after the city streets dried up. Let me paint you a vivid picture of what I was looking at: DUST, DUST DUST, dried mud
covered every square inch of street, building, tree, plant, side walk, and ant.
Piles, excuse me, MOUNTAINS of filthy garbage and debris from homes and
buildings that gave off the most horrendous stench that could make a baby’s
diaper smell like sweet roses. Dogs, stray rabies filled dogs, hungry, tired,
abandoned and mean, looking for some Leash-Dawg to munch on, roaming the
streets like they own the place. There was not a soul in sight, no buildings or
markets open, no cars on the streets, no lights. I felt like I rolled up to a
town during the wild wild west that had just been deserted after a shoot out.
The water line from where the floodwaters had reached was taller than me in
some places. This distinct line left its mark over the entire city as if to say,
“Flood wuz here” like graffiti on the door of a bathroom stall.
|Strolling along in Wat Mahathat.|
|A building with a super high water line. |
|Wall near my apartment with a water line taller than me. I'm 5"3'.|
|My poor eyes were affected by the dust bowl.|
Thankfully that didn’t last long. Not long at all actually. There was continual improvement in the city each day post-flood. Every shop owner, resident, and monk did his
or her part to clean and restore Ayutthaya into the beautiful city it is.
Ayutthaya was the ancient capital of Thailand for 417 years during 1350-1767. It’s
actually an island and the water surrounding the landmass was originally crafted
to provide a blockade against the Burmese. The Burmese burned down much of the
capital and the city was abandoned, but bricks and skeletons of temples still
|River surrounding the island of Ayutthaya.|
I’ve learned something great about Thai people, their
persistence and determination for their home whether it’s their city, country,
their place of business or their actual residence, is unstoppable. I admire
their upbeat attitude and fortitude when it comes to getting the job done
through a shattering event.
I’m proud to call Ayutthaya my new home away from home for
at least a little while. I love jogging through the ruins after school each day
and having to move over for the elephant in my path. Catching the sun set over
the ponds. Waving “Sawadee kaa” to the same familiar faces you see each day. I
love the night market near my house and how the “spring roll lady” knows my
face and my order without even asking. I love the group of foreign teachers and
how we have our own community within the community, even though we’re from all
over the world. I love riding my bike around the island and discovering old
ruins, statues, and temples that are hundreds of years old right in my back
yard-mixed with the modern conveniences of 7-Eleven. Ayutthaya is a true Thai
cultural experience, not just a tropical tourist spot. I’m so glad I stayed
during those difficult first few weeks, but I’m most thankful for my first hand
experience at watching a city rebuild itself.
|Friends at the "Moustashio Bashio"|
Location Location Location
Bangkok is a
short (2 USD) hour ride away in an air-conditioned minibus for all my Westernized needs.
Bang Pa-In Palace
– On the outskirts of Ayutthaya, a gorgeous and well-preserved royal palace is
awaiting your arrival. The palace is covered in lush green grass and vibrant
flowers. The estate gave off a very European feeling with its tidy landscape.
The watchtower is a great place to get a bird’s eye view of the gorgeous
palace. You can definitely spend an afternoon exploring the exhibits in several
of the buildings as well as the incredible architecture.
|View of Bang Pa-In from the watchtower.|
Bang Sai Arts and
Crafts Village – The Queen of Thailand established this arts center in the
1970’s. She arranged for professionals to assist local Thais to improve their
handicraft, which would increase their standard of living. Visitors can watch
local craftsmen create products of their specialty trade and purchase any items
they desire. Activities that can be viewed and purchased include:
|Glass maker creating trinkets at Bang Sai.|
- Basket weaving
- Glass blowing
- Silk weaving
- Furniture making
- Thai doll making
- And tons more!
The property is gorgeous in itself; while I visited there
was a wedding reception on the grounds alongside a bird park and a freshwater
Say Wat? - Top Temples (Wats)
There are over 1600 wats in Ayutthaya but these are my favorites:
Wat Mahathat – A
park of ruins where you can take a walk alone, listen to a guided tour or let
an elephant chaperon you through the park of remains. The famous Buddha head
stone is embedded in tree roots among these remainders. Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat
Ratburana are all in the same area as Mahathat so you can hit them all up
at the same time. About a minute from my apartment, I jogged the path through
the scenic ruins almost everyday. Probably my favorite thing about living in Ayutthaya
|Buddha headstone at Wat Mahathat. |
Wat Yai Chaimongkal
– “Yai” means big in Thai and that’s pretty much exactly why it’s called big Chiamongkal.
There is a giant reclining Buddha where you can paste gold flakes to his feet
and head surrounded by a giant wat. The grounds are encased by the 38 Supreme Blessings,
which is the main reason I love this ancient temple.
|Reclining Buddha at Wat Yai Chaimongkal.|
– Beautiful! There’s an enormous and jaw dropping golden Buddha inside. Located
directly off the river, it is worth taking a boat tour around the island to see
the massive, ornate structure.
|Golden Buddha inside the temple of Wat Phananchoeng.|
Talad Na ng gan – People in Thailand traditionally do not cook dinner, it’s cheaper
to eat out every night so there are markets solely open in the evening.
Luckily, I had a rocking night market within walking distance of my apartment off
Naresuan Road (near Wat Mahathat)– Fresh fruit, shakes, red curry paste, noodle
soup, spring rolls, and omelets galore. As always clothes, shoes, and things
you don’t need are available for purchase too.
|Night market near my house.|
Ayutthaya Floating Market
– The floating market is awesome. On the weekends, it’s a typical tourist
attraction but there is so much fantastic food and high quality souvenirs to
buy that the locals pour in during the week. The market is a maze of vendors on
land and boat. Turn to your right there’s a lady selling mango and sticky rice
on a boat, turn to your left – there’s a man selling giant chicken balls from a
regular stand. We’ll get to chicken balls later. If you’re lucky, you can catch
a performance of Thai dancing and soldiers reenacting the history of Ayutthaya. You can take an elephant ride directly next to the Floating
|Floating market in Ayutthaya.|
Chao Phrom Market – WoW. Chao Phrom is the HQ of Ayutthaya. Directly across from “Soi Farang,” all the mini buses meet here, there is shopping and food plenteous. Anything you want to buy is hidden here. On the outside, the market looks like one narrow row chock full of goodies but veer off to the right and you will find yourself in a maze of accessories, clothes, bags, jewelry, and the kitchen sink.
|Main drag of Chao Phrom Market.|
Out on the Town
Not much nightlife around these parts but “Soi Falang” (Foreinger Street) is nicknamed for all the right reasons. It has plenty of guesthouses,
local bars with live music and Changs on your face all night long. Or at least
until 12-ish when they start closing up. You’re sure to meet travelers from all
corners of the world, or get tickled by the Thai kiddos hanging out at their
parents’ bars. Chang House, Street Lamp, Jazz Bar, and Tony’s Place are all
rocking establishments. Just enough western touches but not a tourist t
|Hilarious owner at Chang House.|
much every market will have the best Thai food around. Street vendors that have
a sit down option usually make the most incredible Thai food for about $1,
can’t go wrong.
Ban Kaw Pod
|Joyce owner of Ban Kaw Pod restaurant.|
– A hidden gem a street over from Naresuan. Joyce, the owner, is super friendly and the food is delectable and price is even better. Joyce cooks right in the back with the freshest ingredients from the local market.
Sai Thong – Grab a table with a fabulous view of the Chao Phraya River and enjoy amazing Thai food. This restaurant is located directly across the street from Chomsurang Upatham School, where I taught everyday. It’s also recommended on Lonely Planet. The crab fried rice is heavenly.
On “Soi Farang
you can get a decent hamburger at Tony’s Place if you need some beef in your
life and across the street at Plan B you can get a tasty pizza, a cheese plate
|Front of Sherwood Guesthouse|
Patrons can order an actual sandwich on a baguette and a legit Western breakfast
with eggs, bacon, and toast. The portion sizes won’t disappoint you. There's also a swimming pool if you want to take a dip.
|Outside the Grandparent's Home. |
or “Grandparent’s House
” - I lived here
during my time in Ayutthaya. I recommend Grandparents
, as we like to call it,
to anyone visiting the city. The ruins are right outside the door on Naresuan Road.
There is a great sitting area in the front of the building where you can relax
with a cold one or enjoy a meal from their full menu. You can rent a bike at
Grandparent’s or simply walk to the ruins. The rooms are super clean and pretty
much everything is new. The family who owns the place is extremely nice and
they want their customers to have a wonderful experience in Ayutthaya.
So much to see, do and eat in Ayutthaya, so little time! If
you need suggestions please email me at Alycia@travelonmyface.com
or post a
comment. I’d love to hear from you! If you have recommendations to add let me
Loved reading your blog as always!! Im gutted I didnt make it to Ayutthaya!! guess I'm going to have to go back to see it!ReplyDelete
Thanks so much for reading, it's a great city. Now you HAVE to make a trip back to Thailand to check it out. It's definitely worth it!ReplyDelete
What a fantastic travel blog, I very much enjoy beef in my face.ReplyDelete