Ayutthaya by Boat Cruise
I thought I might be templed-out after my morning of bicycling around the ruins of Ayutthaya, but in reality I found myself wanting more and signing up for a sunset boat cruise to see even more wats! During my day of biking I was able to hit all the highlights on the island that makes up central Ayutthaya, whereas the boat trip would be taking me to the temples lying on the outer banks of the river all while cruising along at sunset and seeing the outskirts of a city. And all for a mere 200 baht, or $6usd!
In addition to wanting to see the temples I signed up for the tour hoping to meet people. I was feeling a bit lonely after my day of solo sightseeing and knew that a tour would be a guaranteed way to meet conversational partners (you know… so I could stop talking to myself!) I’m not really good at talking to strangers and I knew this would absolutely be my biggest hurdle in solo travel. I was in luck and my tour was made up of a great group of Dutch, Irish and Isreali travelers, one of whom had just completed their Open Water course with one of my good friends in Koh Tao as their instructor! Oh, backpacking trail of Southeast Asia- what a small world you are.
Wat Panan Choeng
Our first stop was Wat Panan Choeng (20 baht admission, not included in tour) where I quickly realized our “boat tour” would include no actual tour guiding beyond, “Get off boat, come back 20 minutes.” But that was fine because there was so much to visually explore here!
This modern temple is known for its mix of Thai and Chinese influences, which was obvious from a simple glance around the complex.
This temple was bustling with activity and quirky vignettes. This image of two gold Buddhas sitting in the back of a modern pick-up truck is strangely one of my favorite photos of the entire day. Almost as fun were the woodland-animal topiaries sprinkled around the grounds.
By far, the highlight was stumbling on what appears to be some sort of monk-training summer camp in the middle of their snack break.
Inside, an impressive 62 foot tall Buddha actually made me gasp as I turned a corner.
As we departed the wat we had a really beautiful moment. Our boat pulled past a group of young monks sitting on the dock, singing and feeding the fish that were so plentiful throughout the river.
As I (heartbreakingly!) had the wrong memory card in my camera, it refused to record video and I was only able to get this short 5 second clip. Still, it gives you an idea of the chanting and the singing.
Saint Josephs Church
We did not stop at this cheery yellow church, but it was beautiful to sail past. The fact that there is such an old church in Ayutthaya is a testament to what a diverse city it once was- more than 40 ethnic groups called Ayutthaya home at the height of its power. Many Portuguese traders and diplomats lives here and brought with them Catholicism. While Thailand is very homogeneous in terms of religion (more than 95% of Thais are Buddhist and another 4% Muslim) a small group of Catholic Thais live in Ayutthaya today.
Wat Phutthai Sawsn
This wat was the second stop on our boat tour. Again, this was a sprawling complex with many different buildings and facets. We docked in front of a fairly modern and ugly building, but a bit of wandering led to much more beautiful ruins beyond.
I had separated from the group and actually felt like I was walking around in the backyard of the wat when I stumbled upon this beautifully draped reclining Buddha. While the structure that once housed him had crumbled, the Buddha remained greatly intact.
Another time I peeked into a doorway and was greeted by shrieking bats. Both of the temples we stopped at shared a propensity for hidden surprises and little quirks. I loved exploring them.
Our final stop of the evening was at Wat Chaiwatthanaram (supposedly 50 baht entrance fee, though we didn’t pay!) to watch the sunset. After an active day it was a welcome treat to sit down on a stone wall and watch the sky shift colors for a while.
And with that we headed back to town. The boat cruise was the perfect way to wrap up my short visit to Ayutthaya.
When we docked my new friends and I had one final surprise as we walked right into a night carnival! Funnily I recognized a lot of the games from the Water Festival in Phnom Penh. We had a great time walking around the carnival, snacking on street food and making the most out of the town’s limited nightlife.
All in all I can’t recommend a stop in Ayutthaya more highly. First of all, it is a place rich in not just beauty but cultural and historical significance. Secondly, everyone was SO friendly. I realize this is still a touristy place but compared to Bangkok and the islands the locals are much more “small-town” welcoming. Third, it takes a pretty minor investment of time and money. It cost 69 baht or $2usd to get there from Bangkok (taxi, train, water taxi), it was 500 baht or $15usd a night for an air-con boutique hotel room (I could have found cheaper) and my activities budget totaled 410 baht or $13usd (bike rental, boat trip, admission fees). So excluding food and alcohol I spent $45 total! As for time, I spent two days and two nights there but you could easily do everything I did in one day and one night if you didn’t have the same propensity as I do for blogging and air-conditioned naps.
Ayutthaya, you charmed me! The next stop on my train journey north, Lopburi, would have a lot to live up to…
I had no idea about the boat cruise, I would have loved to have done it, the photos are beautiful.
I’m looking forward to hearing about Lopburi… I didn’t enjoy it as much as Ayutthaya (but I think a hangover had a lot to do with it – that and being attacked by a monkey!)
I really enjoyed Lopburi for its sweetness and simplicity! But yeah, a hangover can ruin a lot of things 🙂
I love the little topiaries! Also the second Wat Phutthai Sawsn photo. I have to add Ayutthaya to my (ever growing!) list of places to visit in SEA next year.
Lindsey, if you are traveling between Bangkok and Chiang Mai you should definitely travel by train and hit up Ayutthaya, Lopburi and possible Sukkhothai (I didn’t make it there but hear great things!) Stay tuned for my posts about Lopburi, loved that town!
Those are incredible photos. No matter how many times I see photos of Thailand and its temples I am in awe and I realize how deeply I miss living in that country. But like you – I always wonder if I’ll “temple” myself out one day. But I doubt I ever will! Your sunset photos of Wat Chaiwatthanaram bring such a serene moment to my mind.
Hi Chrystal, thanks so much for reading! Currently I am back in the western hemisphere (I type this from Iceland!) and I miss Thailand a little bit every day. I hope we both return soon 🙂
The photos are sensational…love all the vivid colors you captured.
wow. just stumbled upon your blog as I was researching what to do in Ayutthaya as I am going the in a couple of days. will look out for the cruise.
Ayutthaya is an amazing place! Try to take a side trip to Lopburi if you have time… another fantastic little city.
I completely agree that going to Lopburi is worth the trip. It’s only just a little bit further north on the train. 🙂
One of my favorite cities in Thailand and such a hidden gem! Viva Lopburi 🙂
Alex, we are new to your site but after reading this post, we are sure to check in ya again. Your photos and thoroughness are most impressive.
I traveled to Ayuthaya only about a month ago and enjoyed a boat cruise as well. I agree that it’s the perfect thing to do to get the most of the island, especially stops on the other side of the water. 🙂
Thanks guys! So glad to hear you enjoyed Ayuthaya as well… I really recommend it to travelers in Thailand! I’m heading to Sukhothai soon, so it will be fun to compare the two.
All the photos are beautiful! I’m going to Bangkok and Ayutthaya this coming December. Thank you so much I gather many useful infos from you blog!
Have a nice day 😀
You are so welcome! Enjoy those two amazing cities…. you’ll have a great time!
ahm sorry, Alex 😉
Do know if there is any chance to get to Lop Buri from Ayutthaya by boat? Maybe even a cruise like the one you did, only that they will drop you in Lop Buri…
Hey Phil! I’m sorry, I’m not sure if that’s possible. I love taking trains, so that’s the only option I considered. Best of luck!
I got a question. I am planning on taking the train from Bangkok in the morning to Ayuttahya and do that boat trip 🙂
Can you tell me where I find this boat trip and what time it departs?
Thanks you in advance! 🙂
Hey Remco, just check with any travel agent or guesthouse in town and they’ll be able to arrange the cruise for you! I’m not sure of the exact time but I’d guess an hour or two before sunset.
We are here now and love it ! 🙂
I definitely want to do the boat tour you mentioned!!
That’s so great to hear Amanda! Let me know how the boat tour goes!