Points of Interest
Experience a quintessentially Thai adventure as you cruise along the Chao Phraya. Today, a trip up the historic waterway will introduce you to sacred sites, heritage museums and local artisan communities.
Behold the magnificence of Wat Arun, the Temple of Dawn. Standing on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburi, Wat Arun has existed since the days when Ayutthaya was still the capital of Thailand. Today, it is one of Bangkok’s best known landmarks, famous for its uniquely decorated chedis covered with thousands of pieces of multicoloured Chinese porcelain.
According to a famed Thai chronicler, King Naresuan rested with his army here to pay respect to the Reclining Buddha before his great white elephant battle with the Burmese crown prince. Now a royal-grade monastery, this temple is an amalgam of two former buildings, Wat Chi Pakhao and Wat Talat. During the reign of King Thaisa of Ayutthaya, the temple was known as Wat Pamok because of the existence of so many “mok” or Apocynarea trees in the area. At 23 metres long, the Reclining Buddha is one of Thailand’s oldest and most beautiful.
Constructed on the command of King Rama V in 1878, Wat Niwet Thammaprawat was built in the style of an English Gothic church. The temple’s stained glass windows and unusual architecture make it one of the most distinctive Buddhist temples in Thailand.
Ayutthaya's Grand Palace
The most important monastery located in Ayutthaya’s Grand Palace is Wat Phra Si Sanphet, built during the 15th century. Formerly a residential palace, it was later used as a royal chapel, but no monks or novices have ever inhabited the wat, as is the normal practice at other temples. Its ruins are one of Ayutthaya’s most beautiful sites.
Adjacent to Wat Phra Si Sanphet on the palace grounds is the Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit, which houses a large bronze-cast Buddha image originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east. The original sanctuary (wihan) and Buddha image were badly destroyed by fire during the second fall of Ayutthaya.
The Ruins of Wat Mahathat
A tall pagoda built by King Ramesuan in 1384, Wat Mahathat houses a relic of Lord Buddha, several golden Buddha images, and many other objects of gold, ruby and crystal.
Believed to be one of Ayutthaya’s oldest temples, Wat Mahathat is located in front of the Grand Palace, next to Pa Than Bridge. Its central prang, of which only the base remains, once rose to a height of 50 metres. Traces of the original stucco decorations can still be seen on some of the surrounding chedis.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
This museum houses various bronze Buddha images, antiques made of gold and decorated with precious jewels, famous carved panels and local artefacts of the Ayutthaya period. Of note is a receptacle in the Thai pavilion that contains relics of the Lord Buddha and other objects of art that are more than 500 years old.
The Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre
Since 1990, a special feature has set this national research institute apart from other museums: it does not focus on collecting and arranging priceless antiques such as Buddha images, pottery and jewellery, leaving visitors to imagine for themselves what the Ayutthaya kingdom was like.
Instead, its aim is to use historical evidence to recreate the social and cultural life of Ayutthaya through accurate scale models of various structures, places and activities. Maps of Ayutthaya drawn by foreigners, overseas contracts, replicas of traditional Thai houses, models of ancient palaces and the elephant kraal are all displayed in the museum, a visit not to be missed.
National Museum of Royal Barges
At the floating National Museum of Royal Barges, you can discover eight of the kingdom's 52 royal barges. These boats are reserved for special occasions and have only made an appearance 16 times in the past 65 years. Each of these unique and stunning vessels are carved from huge pieces of teak, the prows engraved with mythical creatures, gilded in gold and ornately decorated with tiny shimmering pieces of glass. The most beautiful and the highest-ranked royal barge is the Suphannahong, the king's personal barge.
Located slightly south of Ayutthaya and dating back to the 17th century, Bang Pa In Palace was used as a country residence by Ayutthaya's royal families.
When the capital was moved to Bangkok, King Rama V restored the palace compound as it now appears today, with various distinctive buildings, such as the Chinese-style pavilion and the famous Thai pavilion in the middle of the lake.
Ekkarat Drum Making Village
The residents of this village began making drums in 1927. After the harvest, villagers carve the soft wood from the silk or rain tree, and then fit it with cow or buffalo skin for the drumhead. View the whole process from woodturning to the final tuning of the skin. All sizes of drums are still produced with exquisite craftsmanship.
Potters of Koh Kret
Pottery making was one of the traditional skills brought by Mon refugees to the river island of Koh Kret in the 18th century. Today, Mon people continue to earn their income as their ancestors did by producing simple, utilitarian flower pots.
However, they also make more elaborate Mon-style creations such as decorated water jars and lightly glazed cooking pots, similar to those found in the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Each worker can produce approximately 300 pots a day.
Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre
Established to promote unique, handmade local products, the Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre is the main centre for handicrafts in Thailand. On the large grounds, visitors will find exhibitions showcasing handicrafts and arts from all four regions of Thailand. Explore the handicrafts village with wooden houses representing different regions of Thailand, workshops where you can watch how handicrafts are being made, and a bird park named Suan Nok that has two large aviaries housing dozens of birds.