Located in central Thailand, Ayutthaya is a really interesting city with lots of fabulous and interesting temples. It is easy to get to from Bangkok by bus, mini-van and train, and has good transport links with other surrounding areas. Many people dash through on a day trip from Bangkok, but it really is worth taking a couple of days to truly enjoy all the delights of Ayutthaya, wander through the ruins and soak up the fabulous atmosphere.
Many ruins can be found in the Historical Park area, which is where the main part of the old city was situated. This area can easily be explored by foot or by bicycle. Rather interestingly, many of the Buddha statues have no heads; there are just rows and rows of headless Buddhas. This is from when the city was ransacked by Burmese forces in the 1700s, who in their looting and plundering chopped off the heads to take the gold leaf covering back to Burma.
In Wat Mahatat, though, there is a prominent head …. but not on a body. Perhaps one of the most photographed sights in the area, a stone Buddhas head is lodged within a tree. The tree has grown around the head, making quite a fascinating sight.
Next door to Wat Mahatat is the impressive Wat Ratchaburana. It is possible to climb the main prang and gaze out at the surrounding ruins.
Wat Si Sanphet has three stupas that stand proudly in the centre of the ruined site. There is also a nice working temple nearby, as well as a small market area.
There are good reclining Buddhas at Wat Lokaya Suta at Wat Yai Chaimongkorn. This latter temple is not in the historical park area, but is easy to access from the centre of Ayutthaya. Despite being a bit further out than many of the other ruins, it is worth a visit because of its sheer beauty. Also, the statues here are, for the most part, intact. Most of the statues are draped with saffron coverings, the same colour as worn by Thai monks. It also has a large pagoda that you can climb up. A smaller area contains a shrine where Thais go to worship and pay their respects.
There are two places in Ayutthaya from where you can take an elephant ride around some of the temples. One is near to the floating market, the other is near to Wat Mahatat. The elephants at Wat Mahatat are from a larger elephant stay project in the town.
Pom Phet fortress on the river banks, whilst not a temple, is still a great place to make a stop, as is the city shrine.
Many temples are lit at night, and it is easy to take a tuk-tuk tour around the eerie remains.
Most if the larger ruins charge a small admission fee, but there are many smaller sites than be explored for free. Many tour operators are able to provide handy maps to make the most of your stay.