Continuing on from the Wat Mahathat (or perhaps preceding it, depending on what order you visit in) is Wat Phra Si Sanpeth and the ancient Royal Palace. Simply put, the temple (also called Wat Phra Sri Sanphet) makes the trip to Ayutthata worth it on its own — it’s big, it’s beautiful, and it’s entirely photogenic.
Since the temple was on the grounds of the royal palace itself, it was meant for use by the kings of Ayutthaya only — even the monks didn’t live in the temple itself. Other people were only allowed in on special occasions, such as swearing allegiances and such.
This is one big Buddha. Call it Phra Mongkhon Bophit if you like, or just call the Big Buddha Inside The Royal Temple. He’s 12.45 meters tall (not counting the 4.5 meter tall base) 9.55 meters at his widest (just across his lap), and was constructed sometime before 1448 and 1602 A.D. Just walking around him takes a few minutes (it should go without saying, but take off your shoes before you enter! Believe me, the plush red carpet feels great under your feet):
The shadows of the metal back gate against the aforementioned red carpet. It was rather odd, actually — most poked their head in, or meandered either way around the front, but few walked around all the way. There wasn’t much to see… but it was still quite peaceful.
Another view of the image. While you wouldn’t know from looking at it, the roof of the Vihara (the building protecting the Buddha) was damaged during the Burmese takeover in 1767, but was completely restored in 1956. More recently, the image was covered in gold leaf.
Gaining entry to the temple is free, but the royal palace itself requires an admission fee.
Honestly, I was a little disappointed in the palace. In my previous post, I mentioned Ayutthaya was much like Gyeongju in South Korea — an ancient capital with plenty of remnants. Where Gyeongju has been restored to some extent, Ayutthaya has instead aimed to preserve what remains rather than restore things to how they once looked.
On one level, those ancient remnants are still very much enjoyable, including three chedi (like a stupa) holding the ashes of three kings. A few signs are around, but it doesn’t take long to discover the edge of the royal palace — and the great grand land behind it. There was a palace there at one point, but there’s so little of it left now that it looks more like a grand park.
Keep going, though, and you’ll discover plenty of other temples around the area. Hypothetically, you could spend the rest of the day meandering through the other temples within walking distance.
Wat Tummickarat / Thummickarat. It’s a small temple, but seems nice enough.
Also by the temple’s entrance, a friendly monkey.
Don’t ride the elephants, people.
After a fair bit of walking around (including another small temple, not pictured here), we needed to move on. The whole area is mainstream and touristy, but offers plenty to see in a fairly compact space.
Name: Wat Phra Si Sanpeth and the Ancient Royal Palace
Address: Pratu Chai, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000 (GPS: 14.35593,100.558757)
Directions: Tuk-tuk is the fastest, and the drivers are used to the temple-hopping tourists. If you’re up for a bike ride, it’s about 4 kilometers west of the Ayutthaya Railway Station.
Admission: 50 baht for the palace; free for the temple.