Entering Thailand’s former capital city, Ayutthaya, can be quite the experience. There’s a splendor that the ruins of the former capital still exude when you walk into it, almost like a whisper from the past. In the most popular ruin, the Ayutthaya historical park, visitors will still see scorch marks on the bricks, the headless statues left behind, the crumbling stupas—some of which you can enter—if you listen closely, you can almost hear the monks from the distant past chanting the day’s suttas, the shuffling of their feet, the lively commerce.
Ayutthaya, you see, was ransacked by the Burmese army in 1767 during the Burmese-Siamese war.The Burmese attacked the monasteries first: numerous monks murdered, religious artifacts destroyed, sacred temples burned down. The tour guides will most likely tell you the gruesome stories passed down to each Thai generation if you ask.
One interesting story is that of the popular Buddha head that a Bodhi tree’s roots encased over time. The head came from a statue that got beheaded when the city was razed to the ground, and as the Thais rebuilt their cities, the statue head grew out of the roots, day after day. Another interesting feature of the park is the main stupa, which supposedly housed a relic of the historical Buddha just before the city was torn down.
There’s a variety of ways to get to Ayutthaya from Bangkok: all of them eventful and eye-catching. If you’re more of a land-locked person, a whole day bus tour leaves Bangkok every Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday mornings, or if you’re the type who likes privacy, you can opt for a similar private tour, all with lunch too! The bus will take you to other historical destinations that will be seen on the way to this World Heritage Site for as cheap as 76 USD per head.
For those who are a little more adventurous, for about 64 USD per head, there’s also a way to travel back to Bangkok from Ayutthaya or from Bangkok to Ayutthaya through a river cruise. An air-conditioned motorboat with a sumptuous buffet will ferry you back to Thailand’s capital while the sun sets—a perfect complement to a day spent exploring the stories of an ancient past.