Ayutthaya was an ancient capital and it’s an easy day trip (no, really, i was worried about this, but it’s easy; pointers below) from Bangkok. what’s left are ruins of old wats, the conditions of which are not as good as the temples in the Angkor Wat area (my only other point of reference), but oh well. a wonderful — if not hot — way to spend a day exploring.
of course there is much more to see than Buddha statues, but i seem to have been on a Buddha kick this trip and frankly it made for a good theme.
sidebar: getting there and around bookmark this Thai Railways page so you can easily check schedules for the frequent trains. Bangkok is first on the dropdown lists; Ayutthaya for some reason is towards the bottom. you will likely be sold a third class train ticket by default, 20 baht (20!!!).
my tickets said “STANDEE” on them but there are seats — no one stood on the way there or back. there is no air conditioning and on some trains there might only be third class so be sure to sit near a window (they all open). the picture from the tweet below is from a “Rapid” train (makes more stops); i also took a short instagram video of my return train, an “Express” (fewer stops).
3rd class, no AC. At least the window opens! (Hoping for a scenic ride to Ayutthaya.) pic.twitter.com/HxqPyvdbWK
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) July 5, 2013
if you sit on the left-hand side on the way out to Ayutthaya, you can see remnants of BERTS, the original Skytrain whose construction was abandoned just as it was getting started.
— Jonathan Khoo (@jonk) July 6, 2013
once you get to Ayutthaya, exit the train station, cross the main street, and continue walking straight (with your back to the station) for a block until you hit the river. you can rent a bike here or once you cross (3 baht for the ferry, iirc) to the island which holds the old city. you should expect to pay 40 baht for a day-long rental. i’ve read warnings but i’ll issue another: check your bike out first. one person got a bike with a flat tire, i got a bike whose chain fell off three times during the day (i’m an expert and putting them back on now, btw, ugh). the distances aren’t that great, but you would be walking quite a bit in the heat and there is bike parking at each temple, so imho two-wheeling it is definitely the way to go. you will get a map from your rental place, but i admit i had to use Google Maps because i was completely turned around at times.