big, busy city.
First, take the MRT to the Hua Lamphong stop. For a quick explanation of the Bangkok metro system, see my post here. The Hua Lamphong MRT station exits onto the train station of the same name.
Only a few steps from the MRT and you can be in line to purchase a train ticket. Don’t fear – the signs are in English, as well as Thai, and the staff at the window speak enough English for you to conduct a transaction.
On this day, I wanted to take the 8:20 Express train, arriving at 9:41 in Ayutthaya. At least, that’s what the timetable stated, but it ended up arriving 10 minutes later than I expected. The ticket was a bargain at 20 baht, less than one U.S. dollar. Just a warning – this particular train has only one class – third. There are no reserved seats and if full, you might not get a seat at all, so arrive early for your train. Also, there is no air conditioning, just overhead fans. Another reason to arrive early so you can get a seat directly below a rotating fan. Different time trains, whether designated as “rapid” or “express” or “special express” may or may not have a 1st class, which does have air conditioning. Neither my train in the morning or on the way back in the afternoon had 1st class seating, but the ride is relatively quick so it wasn’t an issue for me.
3rd class only trains also don’t have dining cars, but they do have vendors that periodically stroll the aisles selling cold drinks, fruit, and even meals – typical street food fare. There are also restrooms at the beginning of each train car – but I didn’t have to use one so I cannot attest to its cleanliness.
Upon arriving at Ayutthaya, you might have to step over train tracks to go through the station and out onto the street. I suggest stopping at the information desk inside and looking at the timetables first so you can see the times for the trains back to Bangkok and plan accordingly. You can even grab a free map.
The small station is clean and has restrooms and a snack shop.
As you exit, you will be met by touts for tuktuks. You can either rent a tuktuk to take you to all the temples you want for a set amount of time or go across the street and rent bicycles or motorbikes. Since it was a hot day and I didn’t know the lay of the land, I decided to bargain for a tuktuk driver for 3 hours. The initial rate is 900 baht. You can bargain down anywhere from 500-700 baht. The tuktuk driver will ask you which temples you want to see. I already had a list of the top 3 I wanted and the tuktuk driver suggested a couple more.
Across the street from the station is also where you can find a cluster of inexpensive eateries.
Before leaving for Ayutthaya, be aware of the rules for visiting temples – even if they are in ruins. Foremost is the dress code: no sleeveless tops, no shorts, no bottoms above the knees, - think modest. Most of the temples have vendors outside the entrances selling sarongs and pants, but if you can bring a coverup without buying one, do so. If you are in violation, you will be prevented from entering.
Other rules are: general respectful and polite behavior, no climbing on statues, no public displays of affection, and taking your shoes off before entering chapels housing the Buddha.
The temples I chose were:
Wat Mahathat - Easily the most popular due to the carved stone face peeking from tangled tree roots
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet - Stately ruins in beautifully landscaped grounds
Wat Lokayasutharam - Free; giant reclining Buddha
Wat Thammikarat - Quirky for the giant Buddha head being protected by hundreds of colorful rooster statues. Bonus: you can write prayers on tiles and bricks for 15 baht.
Each temple has its own entrance fee. Fees range from free to 50 baht to 100 baht for the most popular temples.