The former capital of Thailand (then Siam) was once the middle of a wide kingdom that dominated much of Southeast Asia and was one of the largest and most influential cities in the region at the time. Established in the 12th century, Ayutthaya would have been magnificent in its heyday, and the main reason to come here is for a sense of this former kingdom.
Ayutthaya Historical Park
Ayutthaya Historical Park is the jewel in the crown of Ayutthaya and is filled with a collection of temples and crumbling ruins of statues and other artifacts that hint at some of this city’s former glory. A nice way to explore the park rather than going on a fixed tour is to rent a bicycle, which are plentiful in Ayutthaya, and spend the day or half a day biking around and going wherever the mood takes you.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Ayutthaya was raided by the Burmese in the 18th century and most of its valuables stolen, but what was left behind is now on show at the National Museum, so if you want to continue your heritage tour then this is the place to come to learn some more about the historical and cultural significance of Ayutthaya. Some highlights of the museum include ancient weaponry, jewels, and even a teak house with depictions of daily life in the time of the kingdom.
Khun Paen’s Residence
If you want to go back in time again and see how people would have lived in Ayutthaya in the 1800s then head for Khun Paen’s Residence, a traditional Thai house made of teak that hints at how things used to be. There is not much in the way of signs or English explanations around the house but the building is beautiful and if you are a history buff then it is worth stopping by and exploring.
Ayutthaya makes a great stop if you want a heritage and cultural experience in Thailand as opposed to just a trip to Bangkok and a quick excursion to the islands. There is much less in the way of a party scene or a backpacker feeling here and you have to be interested in the historical background in order to make the trip, but the Historical Park alone makes it worth the journey if you like gracefully crumbling ruins and pretty temples.