Things to do
Take a leisurely cruise up the Chao Phraya River from Bangkok and step back in time at the former Thai capital of Ayutthaya. Whilst also accessible by road and train, two-hour day trips on historic barges offer a unique view of this ancient city.
Boats often make a first morning stop at the 17th-century European-style Bang Pa-In Royal Palace, inspired by the French Palace of Versailles. Across the river, Rama V ordered the building of Wat Niwet Thammaprawat in 1878 to resemble an English Gothic cathedral, complete with ornate stained-glass windows. This active Buddhist temple can be reached by a cable car manned by temple monks and strung across the river.
Continue onwards for the short boat ride to the UNESCO Heritage Site of Ayutthaya. The ruins of soaring reliquary towers and monumentally proportioned Buddhist monasteries are all that remains of its past glory. Sadly, the vast majority of Ayutthaya's treasures were stolen, burned or melted down in ages past. Those that survive are on display at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. These include a trove of Buddha images found at Wat Ratchaburana that originate from Sri Lanka, Nepal and Java, as well as gem-encrusted gold statues.