Exploring Ayutthaya by Train and Bike

Ancient Buddha statue at Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is the ancient capital of Thailand, steeped in history, culture and wonder. On my most recent trip to Bangkok, I signed up for a day of adventure in Ayutthaya. However, it didn’t go quite as planned. Read on! 

Thailand’s bustling capital, Bangkok, is a whirlwind of energy and modern marvels. But a short train ride away lies a hidden gem: Ayutthaya, the former capital of the Siamese kingdom. 

Steeped in history and boasting magnificent temple ruins, Ayutthaya offers a glimpse into a bygone era. My adventure to Ayutthaya was something that I won’t quite do again, at least not in the same way. In summary, this is what happened: 

  • A train ride from Bangkok to Ayutthaya
  • Renting a bicycle to explore the ancient capital 
  • Having a very scrumptious lunch
  • Deciding it was too hot, and returning back to Bangkok via an earlier train

Getting to Ayutthaya 

Here’s everything you need to know about getting to Ayutthaya:

By car

Private tours are by far the best and most efficient way to get to Ayutthaya and around it. You can simply book one via Klook or even Get Your Guide, and they’ll pick you up and drop you off at your hotel. This is perfect if you want a hassle-free day trip, as most of these private vehicles come with a pre-planned list of temples to visit, and places to eat at. 

By public bus

You’ll have to be a really brave person to attempt this. For budget travellers, public buses offer a cheap option (around 80 baht) from Bangkok’s Mo Chit Bus Terminal (reachable by BTS Skytrain). However, expect a longer journey (2 hours) with multiple stops.

By train

This is what I did. While it may not be for everyone, it is a viable option to get to the ancient capital, albeit a little unpredictable. The trains leave at a select time, and are usually quite prompt. There’s no way to book the tickets online, you’ll have to check the schedule ahead of time, get to the Bang Sue Train Terminal before that and purchase our ticket. 

Note: Some online sites will promise you tickets for a date in advance. But they, too, send a person down to buy the tickets on the day of your travel. There is no assurance that you will get the seats that you booked, so it’s a lot easier to do go down and purchase tickets yourself. 

The train ride is for an hour, and I bought a 3rd-class express ticket. This meant the cart was not air-conditioned but I had an assigned seat. However, do note that a lot of the time, people just sit freely. You might have to ask someone to move if you really need the seat.

Crowded train heading to Ayutthaya

Alternatively, you can stand the hour to Ayutthaya, watching the paddy fields pass you by as the train zips you out of the city. To ensure a smooth journey, check the train timing chart and choose the train that best suits your arrival needs. I went in at 9 am and left by 2 pm as the heat was unbearable. 

The deets you need: 

Express Train – The express ticket costs around 291 Baht, which already includes an assigned, air-conditioned seat. I got a non-airconditioned seat, which cost me 20 Baht. 

Rapid Train – The rapid ticket is about 70 Baht, but without air-conditioning and assigned seats. It includes a fan, but will take longer than the express train.

Renting a bike to explore Ayutthaya

Once you alight the train, you can rent a bike from one of the shops across the road. Each bike will cost you 60 Baht for the day, and you’ll have to return it before 6 pm. The bicycle vendor will also provide you with a map, which you can follow to visit the various popular ruins around Ayutthaya. 

Bike dealers provide a map

Most of the roads here are marked with specified bicycle lanes, make sure to stay on them where possible. There are generally fewer cars on the road during weekdays, but weekends can be pretty packed so do be careful. 

Finding your way around – the bicycles do not come with a clamp for your phone, so referring to Google Maps might be a bit tough. You can place your phone inside the basket, like I did, then follow it to wherever you need to go. Because let’s face it, the paper map above can only get you so far. 

Temples in Ayutthaya 

Entrance to Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya
Entrance to Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya

No visit to Ayutthaya is complete without exploring its magnificent temples. Each structure tells a story, showcasing artistic styles and offering a glimpse into the city’s vibrant past. This ancient city has many great ruins you can check out, such as Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Chai Wattanaram and Wat Mahathat. 

As I was cycling under the hot sun, I only got as far as Wat Mahathat. Here’s what I found out about this temple:  

Foundational Significance: Built around 1374 by King Boromma Rachathirat I, Wat Mahathat (“Temple of the Great Relic”) is believed to be one of the earliest temples constructed in the Ayutthaya kingdom.

Royal Connection & Religious Center: It housed sacred Buddha relics and served as the residence of the Supreme Patriarch, solidifying its position as the centre of Buddhism in Ayutthaya. Kings also performed important ceremonies here, further emphasising its royal significance.

Architectural Grandeur: The central prang (tower-like structure) was a defining feature, reaching an estimated height of 46 meters (150 ft) in its prime. Historical records suggest it was a magnificent structure with a nine-tiered finial at the top.

Buddha Head in tree in Ayutthaya

Enduring Symbol: While the prang has undergone collapses and restorations throughout history, its imposing base remains a powerful symbol of Wat Mahathat’s past grandeur. The iconic Buddha head entwined with tree roots adds another layer of intrigue, making it one of Ayutthaya’s most recognisable landmarks.

Cinematic Reels: This temple, along with many others in the vicinity, has been time and again featured in Thai period dramas. If you’re a fan of Thai dramas, you might recognise this temple from Blood and Treasures, or Love Destiny.

Finding food in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya has many food options, catering to all budgets. Whether you’re looking for fancy restaurants or hole-in-the-wall restaurants, you can find pretty much a little bit of everything. 

From Wat Mahathat, I rode my bike down to Baan Mai Rim Num, a restaurant by the river. The restaurant is not air-conditioned, but they have an interesting water system that keeps their zinc roof cool, therefore keeping the diners cool, too! 

Refreshing Lemongrass salad with Prawns in Ayutthaya
Refreshing Lemongrass salad with Prawns
Classic Pork Red Curry in Ayutthaya
Classic Pork Red Curry
Deep fried omelette in Ayutthaya
Fried omelette
a classic steamed seabass in lemon sauce in Ayutthaya
Steamed seabass in lemon sauce

The food here was beyond excellent. Try the Lime Sauce Steamed Seabass, and Pork Red Curry. I even had a Lemongrass Salad for the first time, and was pleasantly surprised at how fragrant and non-fibrous the lemongrass slices were. 

The must order dish in Ayutthaya is the King River Prawns with head butter
King River Prawns with head butter

The star of the show here, and in pretty much any restaurant in Ayutthaya, is their King River Prawns with the head-butter. Each prawn will cost you about 500 Baht, which is close to SGD 20. The head butter is rich and lush, adding so much flavour to the plump and fresh prawn meat. This is served with a fiery yet tangy dip on the side, which honestly just elevates the entire dish. 

After lunch here, I had to call the day. The temperature was a whopping 37 Degrees Celsius, and it was too hot and humid to cycle around without getting a heat stroke. So I rode my bike back to the train station, returned it and grabbed an earlier train back to Bangkok, where I could hibernate in my air-conditioned room. 

Ayutthaya is a place I would highly recommend to anyone looking to get out of the Bangkok bustle just for a day. But if you’re not up for an adventure, then I’d recommend hiring a private car. Otherwise, I hope the information above has been useful in helping you chart your next trip! 

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