Ayutthaya, Thailand’s former capital boasts a magnificent set of temples and is deservedly a UNESCO world heritage site. For those visiting Bangkok, it’s an easy day trip, even for the solo traveler, and a must see.
After researching ways to reach Ayutthaya, I chose the train. It’s an authentic way to visit, probably more comfortable than the bus, and packed with locals. The trains leave from Hua lamphong Station in Bangkok’s city center, (a stop on the BTS MRT line) roughly every hour, with local and some express trains. Seats on express trains cost more. The journey is about two hours and costs about 20baht ($0.50) for the 3rd class seat, 1st and 2nd class are more expensive.
The train takes around 2 hours and when you arrive in Ayutthaya tuk-tuk drivers are waiting to take you to the old city with the temples. I negotiated a four-hour tour at 200 baht an hour. It was enough time to visit the main sites. Some people opt to rent bicycles especially with just a few people but it was very hot out and I was on my own, so the tuk-tuk was a better deal for me.
Most of the temples cost 20-50 THB (roughly $1) and I visited 7 temples — Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Na Phra Men, Wat Suwan Dararam and Wat Thammikarat. They are all different and extraordinary in their own way.
There are plenty of places to stop for lunch but I wanted to make the express train to Bangkok so I went temple to temple. Then I had my fabulous driver take me to the station. Once at the station, I realized that I had a bit of time and stopped in their café for a snack and a little quality wifi time.
The thing about the express trains is that they are packed and standing room only. I had been standing for at least 40 minutes when I felt someone grab my arm. I turned and it was an older woman. She had one foot in the booth where she was sitting and one in the aisle near me. She grabbed my other arm and in one move placed me into her window seat, then gave me a big smile. I responded with wai (hands pressed together) and a head bow. She was very kind to this stranger on a train. This was my overall experience with the people of Thailand — whether it was making sure I had food to eat, or drivers who didn’t speak English and still managed to get me to my destination — I always felt safe and looked after, by complete strangers. Hospitality and kindness are the two words that best describe my impression of the Thai people. I was very grateful for the experiences that I had and look forward to returning.
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