Ah, beautiful Ayutthaya. City of ancient temples, elephants, war stories from times gone by ….. but, what to do when the lights go out? Ayutthaya is somewhat of an early bird when it comes to nightlife. You won’t find the beer street sellers or go-go girls of Khao San Road here. But, you will find many friendly locals, a few decent watering holes, some delicious Thai food and scores of like-minded travelers and ex-pats to share stories and a few drinks with.
Try to avoid the temptations of spending the entire evening on Soi 8 Naresuan Road, also known as “Soi Fallang.” Save that for later. Soi = street, fallang = foreigner, so it is obvious why many people choose to remain in the relative comfort of familiarity. But, for a more rounded Ayutthaya experience why not head out a little further afield and try some delicious and inexpensive local Thai restaurants and bars ….
There are many places to try on the island city, all a short walk away – or tuk-tuk ride for those already weary from a day’s sight-seeing or the relentless heat.
Mingle with the locals and take a stroll along the evening market on Bang Lan Road, where you can buy a range of freshly cooked Thai food, clothes, make up, watches and various other items. This is not a market aimed at tourists however, so don’t go expecting to be able to stock up on souvenirs and trinkets to take back home.
There are several stalls with seating areas, so you can enjoy a meal whilst watching the buzz of market activity. Be aware that the market tends to pack up around 9pm, so it is not a place to go in search of a late night feed. There is a smaller street food market near Ayutthaya Wittyalai School, which remains open until late.
If you prefer a more formal dining experience, and formal is used in the loosest possible sense, you could try one of the many restaurants located around the island. Most of these also double up as bars as the hours pass by. A favourite includes Amuse Bar, located on Pa Thon, where you can often hear a local band playing popular Thai songs. Spin Bar, on Naresuan Road, provides more of the same. Also on Naresuan Road you can find several smaller restaurant-cum-bars, none with signs in English. You cannot miss these, due to open fronts, seating sprawling onto the pavement and bright lights. Look out for the place with red Chinese style lanterns, the place with a low white fence and a dubious water feature and a barbecue restaurant where everything is provided for you to cook your own meats on a small metal BBQ. Around the corner on Chikun Road there are even more places to eat and drink. Malakor restaurant is particularly charming; a traditional wooden Thai style building set on stilts with an extensive menu. Choose whether to sit at regular wooden tables and benches or relax on cushions at low tables.
The Seven Seas, located opposite the train station, is a pretty good choice if you arrive in Ayutthaya later on in the day. For those seeking to spice up their meal with a spot of romance, head to one of the river-side restaurants – Sai Thong is especially yum and often has a pianist playing.
One thing is sure though, walk in any direction from any place for about 5 minutes and you are almost certain to stumble across somewhere to buy food and drink …. Eating is a national Thai pastime!
After you have eaten, you could take a temple tour by night. Why see the temples again, I hear you ask in puzzlement. Well, quite simply, because seeing the temples in their splendor lit up in the darkness is so very different from exploring them in the daylight. Awesome. Breath-taking. Sometimes quite eerie. You can pre-book this tour through many guesthouses and tour operators, but it is so easy to arrange yourself. See tuk-tuk, take trip. Simple. Many eager tuk-tuk drivers will show you pictures of where they will take you to see – make sure the driver knows where to take you, agree a price beforehand, sit back and enjoy a bumpy ride that you will surely never forget! As a guide, do not pay more than 500 Baht per vehicle for this experience. Many a driver will go lower than this. Barter for the price with a smile on your face, but remember that they do still need to make a living. Whilst you cannot go inside the temples, popular temples that are illuminated at night include Wat Mahatat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Si Sanphet and Wat Lokaya Sutha.
An alternative way to see Ayutthaya by night is to take an evening river boat cruise. Some include dinner. Arrange these in advance through a guesthouse, hotel or tour agency.
As the night gets later you will probably find yourself heading towards Soi Fallang to chill with a few cool local beers and some pretty cool characters. Unwind here and enjoy the banter. Let the barman in Jazz Bar puzzle you with his mini trivia quizzes, step into Plan B to enjoy a more sophisticated atmosphere and impressive choice of drinks from around the globe, kick back in Chang House and enjoy live music in Streetlamp. Take a wander around the corner to Gun T to enjoy some yummy cocktails or follow the (predominantly Thai) crowd into the bar with the big orange sign.
For those who like their nights to be slightly more raucous, alas, this is not a party place. You will need to head off the island to the Grand area – near the Grand Hotel and Grand Market. Here you will find more bars, one of the more well known being Cowboy Bar, karaoke joints and a couple of disco clubs with enormous sound systems. This area is also home to Ayutthaya’s red light district. Transport back to the island late at night can be difficult and costly at best, impossible at worst, and there have been some reports of thefts, drink spiking and minor violence, so exercise caution.