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Why you should visit Ayutthaya - Thailand’s forgotten city


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‘Ayutthaya?’ I hear you say. I had that exact reaction when my host in Bangkok recommended I go here. 

Ayutthaya was once the biggest city in the WORLD, inhabited by 1 million people from many surrounding countries. Europeans regularly proclaimed it the most beautiful city they’d ever seen, full of palaces draped in gold - then the Burmese invaded and burnt every inch to the ground in 1767. What remains now are the magnificent ruins of the once impressive city of gold. 

Ayutthaya lies about 1.5 hours north of Bangkok. I caught a bus there for around 100baht (£2!) and it’s WELL worth a visit whilst travelling through Southeast Asia or staying in the capital. SO few people are aware of this ancient city filled with beautiful ruins and towering pagodas - which isn’t always a bad thing.

The quiet ruins were unforgettable

‘Adventure awaits…’

As I stepped off the bus I began looking for travellers like me to share a tuk tuk with. Drivers were lined up at the historical park entrance ready to give me the grand tour. To my surprise, there wasn’t anybody else on the bus jumping off at the ruins and not ONE backpacker in sight - a world away from the bustle of Bangkok and only an hour down the road!

I bagged an amazing driver for 1,000baht (£20), for however long I needed to see every main temple there was to see. There are many smaller ruins in the centre of Ayutthaya but the beauty in the larger buildings is unmissable. At each stop he was there to greet me with a new gift, a smoothie, a bottle of water, a fan, a parasol for shade, he was awesome! I’m sure it’s possible to score a better deal but that money goes a long way for locals and I was happy to pay it to make his day - he certainly made mine.

‘Unleash your inner tomb raider…’

When we pulled up at the first temple I was immediately taken aback by its sublime plots to explore. I wandered up staircases, through fallen walls and to the tops of towers marvelling at the intricate details in each statue, some draped in golden cloth, some built with white stone that reflected the mid-day sun. Each ruin I explored had its own story, often carved into the pagodas structure, telling of powerful leaders or grand royal weddings. An utterly captivating history was told in each through the stone.

I strolled among the ancient ruins of seven temples including the famous, and my personal favourite, Wat Mahathat (Buddha head in the tree), followed by Wat Na Phra Meru (giant golden Buddha), Wat Lokkayasutharam (giant reclining Buddha) and so many more breathtaking structures.

The contrast of these precious remains among the still lively city of Ayutthaya wasn’t a massive leap from the tourist magnets of the Temple of Dawn and Wat Po in Bangkok but the HUGE difference was that on several occasions I was the ONLY person wandering around the grounds of the sites in Ayutthaya! I recommend you never skip the unforgettable ruins that will forever be a treasured memory of my time in Thailand and a constant reminder of what amazing secrets each part of the world hides in its lesser known corners. 

Have you been to Ayutthaya? Have you seen any amazing sites around the world?

This is a Student Travel Writer competition entry.

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