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Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, more commonly known as Ayutthaya, is a striking example of a once-prosperous kingdom. This city was the capital of Siam from 1350, with vast Buddhist monasteries and skyline-defining prang (reliquary towers) highlighting its importance. In 1767, it was destroyed by the Burmese, and today its beauty lies in its ruins. This UNESCO-listed archaeological site sits on an island surrounded by three rivers, once part of a defensive strategy and now an additional way to explore.
Most Ayutthaya hostels are within walking distance of the UNESCO site, and many have free breakfasts. You can meet fellow travellers in hostels in Ayutthaya with outdoor terraces or gardens, or grab a drink in a place with an on-site bar. Stay in a 100-year-old building at the water's edge, a 50-year-old building renovated in a modern style, or a brand-new Ayutthaya hostel built for the modern traveller.
The island city of Ayutthaya and its magnificent ruins is the place you'll want to spend the majority of your time. The ruins are lit up at night, giving you a different perspective on the place, and its bars and restaurants make for a relaxing way to spend an evening. The nearby neighbourhood of Hantra has a working monastery, Wat Hantra, where you can see monks going about their daily business. The Japanese village in Ko Rein is where Japanese traders settled in the 16th century and shows a different side to Ayutthaya's past.
Ayutthaya's main attractions are its ruins, including those in the UNESCO World Heritage Site Ayutthaya Historical Park. You can walk among the dilapidated palaces, towers and monasteries, including the imposing Wat Chaiwatthanaram, built in traditional Khmer style. Other ancient sites include the reclining Buddha at Wat Lokaya Sutha, the Buddha head ensnared in tree roots at Wat Mahathat, and the region's most important temple at Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The Ayothaya Floating Market has street food stalls and handicrafts, traditional performances and costumes, and an upbeat atmosphere.
In Ayutthaya, nearly all of the attractions are close together but cover a large area. You can get around on foot, but you can also rent a bike for a quicker ride. Bangkok is just 80km away, so flying into Suvarnabhumi Airport will land you nearby. From the city, you can take a train from Hualamphong Station, and it's about 2 hours from there to Ayutthaya railway station.