In case the pun in the title was lost on you(as it was on my students) Wat is Thai for temple, and this post is about a bunch of Wats. Seeing as I had so much to say about Ayutthaya, I decided to do a separate post on both a) Temples I would recommend and b) Things that should definitely be AVOIDED. Like all tourist traps, Ayutthaya was worth it as there was a lot to see, but as a westerner of course I was treated like a walking dollar sign at points.
I think Ayutthaya actually has more temples than 7-11s, and trust me that is RARE in Thailand, especially in a city. My travel buddy was uncomfortable with renting motorbikes to get around, so we splurged a little and used tuk-tuks to get to any temples that were far. Many were within walking distance from each other, however, making life a bit easier. If you visit Ayutthaya, I would definitely recommend renting a motor bike. Especially since tuk tuks usually stop running around 7, when it gets dark.
In Ayutthaya you can buy a pass that lets you into 6 of the major temples for 220 baht. It’s really only worth it if you plan on seeing all 6 of the temples, because most run about 20-50 baht each, 50 being on the higher end. In retrospect I wish I hadn’t bought it, I would’ve saved a minuscule amount of baht.
I’m going to be honest, when you see so many ruins, some of them start to blur together. They all have crumbling bricks, headless buddhas, pointed “chedis,” and tuk tuk drivers trying to cart you around the island at a fixed rate. A “chedi” is a pointed Buddhist tower, that usually houses some kind of remains. I’ll mention a few that really stood out, but here are collectively Wat Maha That, Wat Phra Si Samphet, and Wat Ratchaburana.
Wat Mahatat is infamous for a dislodged Buddha head that has gotten stuck in a tree. It has been speculated that this head fell into the tree when the temple was originally sacked, and that the tree just grew around it over time.
This temple is probably the temple that you’ve seen in pictures if you’ve ever looked up “Ayutthaya”online. It is a little outside of the city, and it supposed to be gorgeous at sunset. The ruins here were interesting, and very close to the river. Apparently it’s gorgeous when it floods, because you simply see the remains of the temple peering out of the water.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
This temple appeared to have been restored to a point, as it had the most intact buddhas, and there was a lack of crumbling brown brick compared to other temples. Coincidentally, it wasn’t included on the pass we bought, but it only cost 20 baht to get in. If you’ve ever looked up “Thailand” on Pinterest, then you’ve probably seen pictures of the many seated buddha, robed in orange, at this temple.
Sadly, the orange wrappings you see on the buddhas in pictures are a part of the tourist trap. People sell the holy wraps as good luck, so for a small fee you can clothe a buddha. Also, when you climb up the stairs to the temple, the main room simply houses a well to drop coins down, surrounded by a couple metallic buddha statues. So basically you make the climb in order to give the temple even more money, in exchange for “Buddhist good luck.”
This was called a temple, but was just one huge reclining buddha. It was cool, but there were reclining buddhas elsewhere, like at Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. If you visit Thailand and you’re at one of the other temples nearby, then I’d recommend seeing it, but it’s not really worth the tuk tuk fare.
Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
This was a temple whose main attraction was a large gold leaf seated buddha. It was a modern temple, meaning it wasn’t laying in ruins, and although it wasn’t included on our pass, it was free to enter. The large buddha was really something, although other than that there wasn’t much to see. Also ~celeb spotting~ this little guy DEFINITELY is on the cover of my students’ notebooks.
Ayutthaya: Tourist Traps to Watch Out for
The tuk-tuks in Ayutthaya are shaped like Darth Vader for a reason.
Ayutthaya has beautiful temples, but a lot of it is really monetized by the locals. For example, when you take a tuk tuk anywhere on the island, it should only be 30-40 baht. However, when the driver sees that you have white skin, they try to charge you 100-150 baht for the same ride. Which is frustrating when you know that they’re trying to rip you off. Go ahead & try to take my money, but don’t insult my intelligence.
This is especially irritating at temples that are far from everything else, as it is hard to find alternate transportation, especially in 95 degree heat, nd the drivers know this. Something that really pushed my buttons was Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon and the floating market. The tuk tuk drivers have fixed rates listed on the walls to get anywhere, that are at least twice what they should be, and they refuse to bargain with you. Coincidentally these are places that are hard to find alterate transportation from, so you are stuck either accepting the price or perishing in the heat.
Also, the amount of tuk tuk drivers that tried to scam us and charge us an hourly rate to bring us around the whole island is absurd. No, I don’t want to nor do I have time to see 6 temples today for 200 baht an hour, I just want to go to a freaking coffee shop and I’m too lazy/hot to walk 2 kilometers.
But the worst of all was the “floating market.” Thailand is known for its floating markets, and I hear there really are some great ones in other locations like Bangkok. However, the one in Ayutthaya is a straight up tourist scam.
For once, Lonely Planet led me astray. In their guidebook they recommended the market, however when we got there it was horrid. They let Thai people onto the boats for the market free of charge, while they insisted that foreigners pay 200 baht(usually 20 baht for the boat ride) for both a boat ride through the market and an elephant show. I wish that was an exaggeration. Lauren and I specifically wanted to avoid the elephant shows as we knew they weren’t exactly known for being humane, plus we were irritated at getting a higher price for being foreign, so we ate the 120 baht tuk tuk ride we took there and bailed, on to the next temple.
The worst part was the Ayodia inter market, located next to the floating market. This was where they offered animal attractions and elephant shows. They had a snake and an alligator in cages, both that were large enough to house only a couple of hefty goldfishes. They also had performing elephants, which you could hear screaming from outside the show walls. Tourism at it’s finest.
If you go to Ayutthaya, I would definitely rent a motor bike, or at least a bicycle, and just avoid the whole tuk tuk fiasco. But all in all, it still was nice to see.