Ayutthaya is the former capital of Thailand and at it’s height was once of the largest and wealthiest cities in the world, French ambassadors to King Louis XIV compared it’s size and wealth to Paris at the time. The city is full of ancient ruins, temples and is a must see even if just for a day trip as it’s only an hour from Bangkok.
When I was living in Thailand the first town I lived in was just outside of Ayutthaya, there were 5 foreigners in the town and the only tourists we saw were lost because they trying to get to Ayutthaya and had taken the wrong bus. We use to love going into Ayutthaya after work during the week and on the weekends if we didn’t go to Bangkok or an island we would go to Ayutthaya.
Ayutthaya reminds me of a much smaller version of Chiang Mai, it is surrounded by a moat, is full of history and culture, lots of temples, ruins, a taste of real Thai culture, it’s laid back and is best explored by bike or foot.
You can easily do Ayutthaya as a one day tour from Bangkok but I recommend spending a couple of days in Ayutthaya and staying there overnight in the main backpacker street in town, I usually stay at “Tony’s Place” but there is a lot of hostels on the same street. You can hire a Tuk Tuk that will drive you for a tour of the temples or take a boat ride to visit several temples but it’s also worth getting a map, hiring a bicycle and slowly exploring the city and surrounding area at your own pace.
There is an Elephant Krall in Ayutthaya which is highly regarding for protecting elephants and it’s conservation program, I have been here on a day trip but I’m not sure if they do day tours anymore, if you feel like volunteering with elephants are not going up to the North of Thailand, this is a really good option for a place close to Bangkok. (You can read more about this place and other elephant sanctuaries in Thailand here)
Getting to Ayutthaya is easy, you can either get the train from the main train station in Bangkok or a bus, there are frequent minibuses going from the bus terminal at Victory Monument, Victory Monument is accessible on the sky train by going to Victory Monument BTS station, or is about 80 baht in a taxi from Khao San Road. Ayutthaya is pronounced “Are you tie yah” which may help when asking for the right minibus. The cost of the minibus from Victory Monument was 60 baht, however it may have gone since I last went, either way it should be under 100 baht.
Consider a trip there next time you find yourself in Bangkok with a few days to spare.