The Ultimate One Day Ayutthaya Bicycle Route
If you’re a fan of ancient temples but don’t have time in your SE Asia trip to visit Angkor Wat, do yourself a favor and make the quick trip north from Bangkok to the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Located an hour and half train ride north of the current capital, Ayutthaya was the epicenter of the Thai kingdom reigning from 1350 to 1767. As with today, ancient Thai culture was steeped in Buddhism. Dozens of stunning, brick and stone temples were built in worship of the Buddha during the Ayutthaya reign. The beauty of Ayutthaya is that it can be enjoyed in a day or in a week. You can stop-over for a day, or linger for a while and dive deep into the temples. If you have the time, I would highly recommend staying here for a few days. However, if time is short, here’s the ultimate one-day Ayutthaya bicycle route to see the best sites in the area.
You can rent a bicycle for just a few dollars a day from most hostels and guesthouses, as well as from any one of the countless rental shops around town.
A month pass to all of the major temples only costs 220bht ($7), and most of the smaller temples are free of charge. Ayutthaya is also incredible easy to get to: trains from Bangkok leave every hour for a mere 20baht.
- Prang: a large tower like spire, usually oranately carved. Typically served as a shrine for a religious relic
- Chedi: bell shaped structure housing a Buddha statue or remains of important royal figures
- Ubosot: is the main prayer room and one of the most important structures of the wat.
- Viharn: temple hall
The Ultimate One Day Ayutthaya Bicycle Route
1. Wat Maha That
This is one of the largest and most popular temples in Ayutthaya. The name translates to “Monastery of the Great Relic”. Construction was started in the late 1300’s by King Borommaracha I. Maha That was one of the most important sites of the Ayutthaya kingdom. It was the center of religious activities and held countless Buddhist relics. Here you will find the iconic budda head entwined in the roots of a Bodhi tree. As you wander the expansive grounds, you’ll come across large chedis, countless libraries and sanctuaries, and hallways lined the with the remnants of Buddha statues. Give yourself at least an hour to explore all the corners of this picturesque temple. This is one of the most popular sites on the one-day Ayutthaya bicycle route. I highly recommend getting here early to beat the crowds. The temple opens at 8am.
If you have time, check out Rama Public Park, located right behind Wat Mahathat. Paths wind through the park, taking you to less restored ruins from the early periods of the Ayutthaya reign. The park is the perfect place for some peace and quiet after dealing with the crowds at Mahathat.
2. Wat Ratchaburana
After Wat Maha That, bike across the street to Wat Ratchaburana. Founded in 1425, King Borommarachathirat II built Ratchaburana in memory of his two older brothers. Its defining feature is a large Kmer-style tower, or prang, located in the center of the temple. Ratcha Burana is less popular and crowded than Wat Maha That, which makes for a nice change of pace. The central prang is impressive, but I found the large brick hall at the entrance of the temple to be more visually appealing. I also really enjoyed wandering through the outer reaches of the temple grounds where parts of the temple are in a less-reconstructed state. Give yourself at least 45 minutes to thoroughly explore this temple.
3. Wat Phra Si Sanphet
A quick 10 minute bike ride down the street brings you to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Next to Mahathat, this is probably the largest temple in Ayutthaya. At the center of the massive temple grounds are three immense chedis that I would imagine house equally large Buddha statues. This site held relics of immense religious significance during the Ayutthaya period. At one point it was home to 16 meter-high bronze and gold statue that weighed an estimated 64 tons!
This is another popular temple on the Ayutthaya bicycle route. If you want to avoid the crowds, explore outside the central chedis to the outer borders of the temple complex. Here you will find leaning chedis, and the ruins of sanctuaries and halls. We took photos inside the ruins of a sanctuary for over 15 minutes without seeing another person.
4. Wat Phra Ram
Lost in the cluster of primary temples on the Ayutthaya bicycle route is Wat Phra Ram. Oft neglected by organized tours, this temple affords you an opportunity for some peace and quiet after the sometimes-chaotic atmosphere of Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wat Mahathat. This temple features an impressive central Prang; similar to Wat Ratchaburana, as well as long brick hallways lined with remnants of ancient Buddha statues. Make a stop here to catch your breath and enjoy the relative solitude compared to Wat Phra Si Sanphet.
5. Wat Lokayasutharam
About a 15minute bike ride away from Wat Phra Ram, is Wat Lokayasutharam. I’m going to be honest, your guess is as good as mine as to how to pronounce it. The temple itself is little more than a brick foundation; the highlight of this stop is the 42-meter-long reclining Buddha statue. Originally build in x and restored in x, the statue is an excellent example of the ancient empire’s expert craftsmanship. The statue is adorned with a different color sash for each day of the week, an impressive feat considering its size. There’s not much more to do here beyond taking some pictures, so you won’t need too much time for this stop.
6. Wat Rakhang (aslo called Wat Worapho)/Wat Worachettaram
Just up the street from the reclining Buddha are the juxtaposed temples of Wat Rakhang and Wat Worachettaram. Though small, they each have a unique style. They were two of our favorites because of how different they look from the other temples in the area. Since they are right next to each other, they make for a great stop if you are short on time.
This temple goes by two names. Wat Rakhang and Wat Worapho. To find it on Google Maps, search Wat Worapho. It’s unique from other temples in the area in that it is shaped like a pyramid. Steep staircases in all cardinal directions lead to the top of the pyramid which once housed an ancient relic. I’m not sure if you’re technically “allowed” to climb to the top, but the few locals who were around didn’t seem to mind. From the top you can get some nice views of the surrounding ruins. If you do decide to climb up, be aware that it’s hundreds of years old and be mindful not to damage the structure.
Located right across the street from Wat Rakhang/Worapho is Wat Worachettharam.
These names are seriously ridiculous. I haven’t the faintest idea of how to pronounce this one either.
This temple is small and won’t take much time to visit. I found this one interesting because its design is very similar to a western-style church. There is a large sermon hall lined with Buddha statues. Just outside of the sermon hall is a large Buddha statue. It’s been restored, but it’s one of the largest fully intact statutes in Ayutthaya. Definitely worth checking out.
After a quick visit to these two temples, it’s time to hop on the bike and cruise over to the last temple of the day and the best one for watching the sunset, temple-style.
6. Wat Chai Wattahanaram
The final stop on the Ayutthaya bicycle route is Wat Chai Wattahanaram. It’s the farthest temple away from the center of town. Located off the main island, about a 25-30 minute bike ride from Wat Worapho. As you head out out of town, food options become seriously limited. If you haven’t eaten at this point, I would recommend getting some food before making the 4km journey. We neglected to eat before biking out of town and Ashley was getting seriously hangry by the time we got there. Luckily there was a small restaurant right across from the temple that had pretty decent food.
To get to Wat Chai Wattahanaram, head East on the main road that runs along the river. Turn left to cross a large four lane bridge. At that point, you’ll be able to see the towering stupas in the distance. Take the first left across the bridge and follow that road all the way to the temple.
The temple isn’t included in your park pass, but the 50 baht fee is well worth it. The temple grounds are sprawling and the most Angor-esque in terms of style and grandeur. Though the temple rests in a stunning location along the Chao Phraya river, barriers that have been erected to protect it from the frequent flooding that affects the area highlight just how vulnerable the incredible historic sites in Ayutthaya are.
Wat Chai Wattahanaram is perfectly positioned to watch the sunset. The changing colors of the sky serve as a dramatic backdrop to its towering chedis and prangs.
After watching the sun go down, enjoy the cooler evening temperatures as you cruise back into town for a well-deserved Chang.
If you’ve worked up an appetite after a full day of templing, I would highly recommend finishing with dinner at Burinda Restaurant. The food is delicious and cheap, and the Beers are always served in a bucket of ice. The owner is a total sweetheart who will eagerly share his life story if you care to listen.
This Ayutthaya bicycle route will take you to all the highlights in a day, but the city is littered with in various states of restoration, all within easy bicycling distance. You could spend days cruising the countryside and find something new on each trip. If you have the time, I would recommend spending a few days exploring around. If you only have a day, this route will make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights.
Tips For The Ultimate Ayutthaya Bicycle Route
-Get an early start (as close to opening as possible). You’ll beat the crowds at Wat Mahathat and will get to explore at least one temple for the heat becomes sweltering. It will also give you the time and freedom to take a longer break during the hottest part of the day.
-If you really want to beat the crowds, do the route in reverse starting at Wat Chai Wattahanaram (dare I say for sunrise??) and finishing at Wat Mahathat or Wat Ratcha Burana for sunset.
-Be sure to inspect your bicycle before you set off. The area is flat, so gears aren’t necessary, but make sure the tires are inflated and the brakes work.
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