Early the next morning we caught a train to Ayutthaya. Contrary to what our guidebooks said, it only takes one hour 20 minutes on the train to get to Ayuthaya from Bangkok - faster than the bus. (We travelled in non-AC, but clean, third class. There are no assigned seats, but we got to sit down most of the way. Second class is twice the price, but AC with reserved seating).
We walked straight out of the train station onto a short boat ride which took us in to the city. (Ayutthaya is surrounded by a moat). We then got pretty lost stepping over fish guts and unknown liquids walking through a food market, and eventually somehow popped out pretty close to our hotel, the PU Guest House (no joke!).
The hotel was very clean, although we stayed on the top floor and the A/C could not keep up with the heat outside - we had it blasting the whole night and it was still pretty sticky in the morning. There was also a fan, but it was one of those fans that rotates in a circular fashion and we couldn't figure out how to get it to blow directly on us.
Anyways, we headed out straight away to check out some wats. The first one, Wihan Phra Mongkhon, was the only non-ruined one we saw, and was typically spectacular. Next door is the ruins of the Old Palace, which are simply the most amazing ruins we saw in all of Thailand. It was very pleasant to wander around exploring the ruins, and we got some great pictures. Visitors pretty much have free reign over the site, although a guard did whistle at some people who scrambled on top of some ruins. There are lots of trees and shady spots, so even in the summer heat at the hottest part of the day, it was manageable. There are plenty of drink and souvenir vendors just outside the site if you need to cool off.
Next up we spent about an hour trying to find the Ancient Palace. We eventually just gave up. In our Let's Go Map, it was shown as being close to the Old Palace, but we couldn't find it, or anyone who knew where it was. For the rest of the day, we Tuk Tuk'ed and walked from ruin to ruin. In about 2 hours, we'd managed to see (at a leisurely pace) most of the ruins in the main city. We tuk-tuk'ed back to our hotel for a quick nap before taking a boat tour of this moated city.
The boat tour ended up being quite a good deal. 200 ($5) baht each got us about 2 hours on a boat. There was no guide or anything, just a boat taxi with one other couple from the hotel. The tour took us to about 4 different wats on the river. The boat would drop us off, we’d explore by ourselves for 20-30 minutes, and then get back on the boat. Eventually we came full circle and got dropped back off where we started, where we connected to a tuk-tuk who gave us an option of dropping us off in the night market or back at the hotel.
We explored the night market, got some great cheap eats and souvenirs. We started to walk into the thick of the stalls but eventually backed out as the stalls were not too interesting (clothing, batteries, etc.). We walked back to the hotel - which was interesting at the beginning, as we got to see some of the ruins lit up beautifully at night - but the last part of the walk dragged on - at least for us!
So, we managed to cover almost everything we wanted to see at a leisurely pace in a day. Next up in the morning was the bus to Sukkhothai.