On my recent trip to Thailand I went to on yet another outing to see the temples in Ayutthaya. This was my third trip to the ancient capital city that is just an hour away from Bangkok, and you know what? I still really enjoy visiting this lovely city.
First of all, city is a bit of a misnomer when you’ve come from the urban intensity of Bangkok. Ayutthaya has a totally different vibe. Ayutthaya is relatively low-rise in terms of buildings, an antithesis are Bangkok. The roads of quieter, and there is so much more greenery. My first impression of Ayutthaya is always about how green the city looks, there is an abundance of trees.
The old city of Ayutthaya is actually a landlocked island formed by rivers separating and converging on all four sides. Historically this made for an excellent natural defence and I guess this was a natural choice for a capital of a growing kingdom.
One of the great things about these rivers is the supply of the infamous giant river prawns (see my food post for a photo), a must-try when you visit if you are a fan of seafood.
Today, however, we are here to talk about temples, of which Ayutthaya is home to many. Temple hopping in Ayutthaya is a great way to spend a day or two here. I recommend either hiring a tour guide to whizz you around in a minibus, or hire a bicycle and take in the sights at a more relaxed pace.
Temples in Ayutthaya
Wat Maha That
Wat Maha That, aka Temple of the Great Relic, was built around the 14th century. It’s a large temple complex not far from the old palace. It’s also home to the famous buddha head in the tree, probably one of the most photographed spots in Thailand. Historians believe that when the city was ransacked by the Burmese, the attackers sought to destroy the temples and palaces so they cut off the heads from buddha statues. This particular buddha head ended up in the undergrowth as the temple was forgotten about and over the years the tree grew around it.
One thing I do like about this temple is just how leafy it is! Not only is it pretty, but it also offers a bit of shade when visiting on a hot day.
This temple is situated in the centre of Ayutthaya, and on the eastern edge of Rama public park.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, aka. Temple of the Holy, Splendid Omniscient, is an impressive temple ruins with its three grand stupas in a row still standing/successfully restored. The pagodas would have been covered in gold, and when the city was destroyed the temple was set on fire and gold melted and taken away.
Before the city was destroyed this was the holiest temple in Ayutthaya. Apparently it was one of the grandest and most beautiful temples at the time, and later inspired the Temple of the Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaewo) in Bangkok (now considered the holiest temple in Thailand).
As the holiest temple at the time, Wat Phra Si Sanphet was reserved solely for the royal family and used for royal ceremonies.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is located the other side of the park (the west side) from Wat Maha That, and within the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, aka. Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory, is an impressive temple and monastery complex. The main pagoda is the tallest in Ayutthaya, and can be seen from quite a distance away.
The temple is home to a large reclining buddha, rather similar to the famous emerald buddha in Bangkok.
As a practising temple and monastery you are likely to see quite a few monks when visiting.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is southeast of the old city just outside the river boundary.
Wat Phanan Choeng
Wat Phanan Choeng, aka. the Chinese temple, is possibly one of the first temples built in Ayutthaya, apparently built before the city became the capital of Siam. Over the centuries the temple has continued to be renovated and restored and today it is still an incredibly popular temple with locals and visitors.
Inside the main hall is an impressive sitting buddha statute with a height of 19 metres. Worshippers can purchase robes which are blessed and wrapped around this enormous structure for good luck.
The temple complex has several statues and places to worship including this smaller temple room which features a solid gold statue (see photo above, it’s the one on the left). There are some beautiful murals around the temple, as well as opportunities to buy offerings such as flowers, incense and gold leaf.
Wat Phanan Choeng is located on the southeast corner of the old city, on the opposite bank of the river.
Other temples in Ayutthaya worth checking out (visited on previous trips)
– Wat Chaiwatthanaram
– Wat Phra Ram
– Wat Lokayasutharam
– Wat Ratchaburana
– Wat Som
Tips for visiting the temples in Ayutthaya
- Do not stand over Buddha – this means respect the images/statues of Buddha by kneeling in front of them. Particularly important if you visit the buddha head in the tree at Wat Maha That
- Go early – if you can, get to the Ayutthaya before the sun gets too hot and the crowds appear
- Carry water – always stay hydrated when temple touring
- Hire a guide – the temples alone are pretty impressive but learning the history, culture and significance puts them into perspective
- Dress appropriately for temples – make sure your shoulders and knees are covered
- Take off your shoes when entering a temple (not necessary for visiting the ruins)
Have you been? What were your favourite temples in Ayutthaya?