Off the Island Tour Guide

Outside of the island-based Historical Park, there are some remarkable outlying temples and great historical spots, well worth the effort if you have the time. The tour is also a great opportunity to see some of the magnificent countryside around Ayutthaya. We calculate the full circuit to have a distance of around 30km (about 18 miles) and can be done as a loop. You can shorten it by over 5km by omitting Wat Phu Khao Thong or just do a section of the loop. The roads are mainly flat so good on a bicycle, although note it will get sweltering in the afternoon! The route is also suitable to see these sights by motorbike or by car. Alternatively, you can simply hire a tuk-tuk or a taxi to follow the route or select one or two of the most impressive-sounding attractions from our list. Wat Phanan Choeng We are going to commence our "off-island tour" at Wat Phanan Choeng. Located just off Route 3477, it covers a large area on the south bank of the confluence of the Prasak and Chao Phraya rivers. There is a ferry that operates from the island directly opposite the wat. You can take a bicycle on but we are unsure if they will let a motorbike on. Wat Phanan Choeng boasts one of the largest, most beautiful and most highly revered Buddha images in Ayutthaya. Sculpted in 1325 from a mix of brick and plaster and later gilded, it displays an early Ayutthaya style. The 19-metre-tall and 14-metre-wide Buddha image seated in the Subduing Mara posture in a richly decorated wihan is staggering and should be top of your list to see! The wat is a focus of the Chinese community in the area, who are thought to have settled here in the 13th century after fleeing persecution from the Song Dynasty. So the place is often very busy with Chinese descendant locals. The Wat predates the founding of Ayutthaya in 1350 by 25 years. You can see many Chinese influences around, and there is also a separate Chinese-style building containing a shrine dedicated to a local goddess. From here you might want to visit Baan Hollanda and the Japanese Village, as they are both within walking distance just down the road (see separate highlights), or if you are doing the full loop you can see them at the end. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon Riding east out of the wat away from the river on Route 3477 you will pass next to the Chinese cemetery (which is worth a quick look), it’s then a 1.5km ride east to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. It’s on your right just after the left bend. The 72-metre-tall stupa built in a Sri Lankan style out of brick and plaster is the last standing of its kind in Ayutthaya. There is a crypt housing several Buddha images which can be accessed by a steep staircase. It's well worth the climb for the breathtaking views. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is a working monastery and many foreign monks make it here. It is also a popular pilgrimage for Thais. Established as a meditation and study centre by King Uthong, the monastery became more closely associated with King Naresuan after he erected a massive stupa here in commemoration of a key Siamese victory over the Burmese in 1592. The legend has it that in the late 16th century, King Naresuan slew his Burmese counterpart in a one-on-one elephant duel, and this ended the war. Following his victory, he commissioned the construction of the towering bell-shaped stupa that still stands today. There's a depiction of the duel in the ordination hall. Fronting the stupa is a large seated Buddha image. You can get a great shot of the Buddha’s head framed by bricks and sky halfway up the stairs. Dozens of smaller seated Buddha images border the complex and still have possession of their heads. There’s also a giant reclining Buddha. Wat Maheyong Now head northwards along Route 3477 for 2.6km. You will go straight over the traffic circle, pass the Floating Market on your right, then turn right down Soi Mu Ban Chang and you will pass Elephant village on your right before following the road round a left bend. There should be a Chedi on your right, keep going 200m to see the Wat Maheyong entrance also on your right. Established in 1438, the atmospheric ruins are a pleasure to wander through. After passing through a brick gate, stroll down a long walkway between brick walls draped in low-hanging trees, and you will reach the remains of a large hall with most of the walls still standing but no roof. Remains of a Buddha image sits exposed to the elements, at the rear of the grounds is a large bell-shaped chedi made of brick and plaster that is still partially intact. The ridged spire that once topped the chedi lies headfirst on the massive brick base, presumed to have been left exactly as it fell. Bordering the base are dozens of white-plaster elephant statues. With few visitors, you can enjoy a few minutes of solitude wandering around the grounds which are dotted with minor chedis and ancient walls. You might also like to wander across the lane to the ponds and pavilions set amid forested grounds near the meditation monastery. Wat Na Phra Men Your next stop is a bit of a bike ride, about 6.5km. Head back to Route 3477 and then south for approx 1km and turn right at the traffic circle onto Route 309. Ride east along this road, over the Pasak River Bridge, and keep going until you reach Khlong Makharm Riang Road, not far from the Ayutthaya Palace Youth Hostel. Turn right (north) along Khlong Makharm Riang Road and stay on this road for several kilometres, crossing over several roads, including Naresuan Road, until you reach a junction at Pa Maphrao Road. Here, turn left (west), and eventually you will come to a T-junction. Turn Right (north) and you will soon come to Uthong Road where you turn left (east) for around 800m. Look out for the bridge on the right-hand side over the Muang River. Cross over this bridge and head north for a 200m and you will reach Wat Na Phra Men on your left. This temple was built sometime around the turn of the 16th century and is worth this side trip to see a well preserved rare early Ayutthaya-style temple, most of the others were destroyed or fell into ruins. During the siege of Ayutthaya in the 1760s, the Burmese used Wat Na Phra Men to bombard the nearby Royal Palace with cannon fire, but a Burmese commander was killed when a cannon misfired. The Thais now consider the site to have potent spiritual powers. The main place to visit is the eye-catching ordination hall which is still in immaculate condition. Inside contains a six-metre high seated Buddha image, with its incredibly detailed headdress and regalia. Wat Na Phra Men is very popular with merit-making Thais but has few foreign visitors. Wat Choeng Tha Less than 1km from Wat Na Phra Men, is the 17th-century Wat Choeng Tha which was once situated in front of the royal boatyard, directly across the Lopburi River from the Royal Palace. To get there, come out of the south-west exit side of the wat and on to the main road. You should pass Q Zone Boutique resort and 300m down the road you will see Wat Choeng Tha on your left. Established before the founding of Ayutthaya, the centrepiece is a medium-size Khmer-style prang built in the early Ayutthaya period and is adorned with white-stucco standing Buddha images in the 'Halting of Evil' posture. To the west of the prang are some small chedis and an ordination hall guarded by lion images. Wat Phu Khao Thong Your next stop is about 3km away. From Wat Choeng Tha, take the lane for about 100m in a westerly direction to the T-Junction with Route 309 (Ang Thong Rd). Turn right (north) and about 100m further, then take a left (west). Follow this road for 2km as it heads first south-west, then takes a sharp 90-degree bend to the right, 1km down the road make a right turn just before the Phu Khao Thong Administration building with all the flags outside it. The entrance to the wat is 400m along on the left. It will be easy to spot from a distance as it rises high above the rice paddies. If you skip this, it shaves over 5km off the loop. Just head to Route 309 and turn left instead of right, then follow the directions to the next place. The temple is an impressive chedi, and the name translates as “Golden Mount” even though it is blazing white. This is probably because it was originally gold when it was established in 1569 but was later replaced by a white chedi. Its slender spire on top of a massive, four-sided base, makes it quite an imposing image. Visitors can climb the base for a good view of the surrounding countryside. Wat Phutthaisawan Your final stop on your route is the most challenging - a distance of 10.3km - which takes you from the north-west side of town to the south side. Retrace your steps from Wat Phu Khao Thong back to Route 309, turn right on to 309 and head south back over the Muang River on to Uthong Road. Turn right onto Uthong Road, and ride in a southerly direction down this road until you reach the main bridge over the Chao Phraya River (1.6km). Cross the bridge on Route 3263, and then take the first left onto Route 3469. You will pass Chai Watthanaram, keep going until you get to a crossroads with the 3469 (yes the same number) and turn left. You will cross the Chao Phraya River and bear left at the fork. Keep following the road and you will see signs for Wat Phutthaisawan. There’s a big red sign on the road to the entrance of the wat. This is one of the best sites in Ayutthaya. The temple was built in 1353 by King U Thong and was established in memory of the campsite where he lived while he waited for his new city to be finished on the nearby island. The temple and the surrounding grounds are a feast for the eyes and include: five Thai king statues facing across the Chao Phraya; an ancient building that served as the head monk’s residence; a late-Ayutthaya period ordination hall with a bronze seated Buddha image; and a white stucco Khmer-style prang in superb condition downstairs. If you walk upstairs to the crypt, you will find a pair of ancient Buddha footprint images and a reclining Buddha, along with the main reliquary and some badly faded murals. Then walk out into the square-shaped cloister that surrounds the prang. The cloister contains 105 seated Buddha images under a ceramic roof held up by ancient wooden rafters. There are some great photo-shots here of the Buddha line-up. If you are feeling fatigued from your day's exertions, you can relax beside the river, before heading back to your lodgings (see next). Muslim Quarter If you come out of the wat back to the main road and continue along it (east) you will pass through the Muslim Quarter. It’s an ancient settlement of Ayutthaya, where you will see a few mosques and notice Muslim life in the surrounding streets. If you keep going along the 3469, on the left you will come to a red sign in Thai with a small white sign underneath with ‘TO FERRY’ on. You can head down here and cross over on to the south of the island on Uthong Rd. While they will let you take a bicycle on we are unsure if they will let a motorbike on. If you are on a motorbike and you can’t get it on the ferry (or just like cycling!), you can either backtrack the way you came, or carry on Route 3469 passing the Portuguese Settlement and continuing until you hit the crossroads with Route 356, then turn left to cross over the Chao Phraya River and take the first left on the other side. This road takes you past the Japanese Village, Baan Hollanda and back to Wat Phanan Choeng where you started. Portuguese Settlement The Portuguese are another one of Ayutthaya’s ancient settlers. There’s not a great deal here, the main ‘highlight’ as and excavated grave with exposed skeletons at the rather lacking museum.

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