Ayutthaya Already Welcoming Back First Tourists

November 12, 2011

When I drove up to Ayutthaya today I wasn’t really sure what to expect. But what I found was a very dry Asian Highway and the majority of the inner part of Ayutthaya city bone dry and dusty. However, I did see some communities along the river where they were still flooded very deep up to the roof in some places. There is also a lot of farmland under water. But, I didn’t expect to see Phra Si Sanphet in such good condition. As you can see it suffered very little damage and the grass has already recovered. Hardly any muddy patches. I was also surprised to see a coach party of German tourists leaving as I was parking my car. I was told that there was also a group of French tourists earlier.  In addition there were a Japanese couple who were cycling around the city.

In front of Phra Si Sanphet there was this group of souvenir sellers desperate to sell me something. They said they hadn’t seen any tourists for a long time. The tour groups only started to come during the last three days. Nearby Phra Mongkhon Bophit with the big seated Buddha looks alright though the doors were locked. I was told it might not open for another month or so. The market area where they sell souvenirs was devastated in the flood but they were hard at work cleaning today. I was told that there will be a 1,000 people here tomorrow to help clean up all the rubbish. So, I would think that this particular area would be in pretty good condition by next weekend. Incidentally, there was no-one collecting money on the gate here.

Nearby there is an elephant center where tourists can pay to go on an elephant back ride around the main tourist attractions here. However, today there were no tourists and the site was still dirty after the floods. However, the elephants were busy helping to clean up and there were also workers giving the place a new coat of paint. I was told that they will be open again on Monday 15th November to give any tourists that come a ride around this part of the city. It was reported in the newspaper that the Elephant Kraal was opening on Monday. However, that is a mistake as it is still under water. It is this place that is opening on Monday.

If you have been to Ayutthaya then you will know that there are quite a few ruins scattered around the old city on both sides of the river. I found some of them were dry already while others, like this one at Wat Mahathat is still flooded in some areas of the temple. There was no-one there today apart from a few keen photographers. I had to wade through 30 cms of water to get this picture of the famous Buddha head surrounded by a tree. Normally it takes a long time to get a picture as there are so many tourists. Not so today! You can just see the water line for the floods at the top of this picture. So, you can see it has come down far. Again they are not charging for you to visit this temple.

The two floating markets in Ayutthaya are still deeply flooded. The one I tried to visit is reported to be under 2-3 meters of water. Locals tell me that it could be several months before the floating market re-opens. One major temple in Ayutthaya that didn’t see any flooding despite being next to the river is Wat Phanan Choeng. This has a massive seated Buddha which is popular with both Thai worshippers and foreign tourists. But the car park was practically empty. As I was leaving two foreign tourists arrived with a Thai guide. Again, this is a Buddha image that takes a long time to take a picture because so many people in the way trying to take their own picture. But not today.

My last stop was another famous temple. This one called Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon. This one also looked like it was saved from the floods but the guy I bought an ice cream from told me it was flooded to nearly waist height for nearly a month. However, it had been dry for about ten days. The local district office had already organized a big clean-up at this temple last week so it looked good as new. This is a great temple to come and visit if you have never been before. There are other temples that you can also visit now but I ran out of time. I will try and go again in a couple of weeks.

I drove to Ayutthaya on the tollway from Don Muang to Rangsit. It was practically dry all the way to the Asian Highway but the traffic was very slow moving. The picture above was the only wet section. It took me nearly four hours. Coming back I turned off at Khlong Luang and headed for the Outer Ring Road on the Eastern side. I had heard that the northern section was impassable for small cars so I was hoping for the best to start halfway down. However, at KM25 there was also a short section of flooded road with potholes that was causing tailbacks. But I passed in my car alright. Coming back took nearly 3 hours. On the elevated tollway, be careful of parked cars, pedestrians and motorcycles going the wrong way!

I also stopped at the train station not expecting any activity. However, it was very busy. All trains running north to places like Lop Buri and Chiang Mai were running normally. There was even this train going to Bangkok though the trip is Train > Bus > Train. I found plenty of food today around the city as well as bottled water. Some shops had big piles of bottled water. A bowl of noodles was only 30 baht which is the normal price. I told them to keep the change every time as they were being honest. If you decide to come here, don’t bring a packed lunch. Help the locals by buying from them. In summary, Ayutthaya is ready for adventurous tourists or ones on package tours. In a week or two it will be even better. But, don’t expect everything to be back to normal until the end of the year at the earliest.

9 Responses to Ayutthaya Already Welcoming Back First Tourists

  1. Margaret on November 12, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Brilliant update. I’m taking notes from your blog for our day trip up there. I’m still deciding which temples to visit this time…we usually mange 5-6 with car/driver. Wat Chai Watthanaram, Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Thammikarat are our faves but I thought we might try Wat KudiDao for something new. Your blog is a great help as we were afraid we’d have to cancel this day trip.

    BTW. Have you heard if Muang Boran(sp?)/Ancient CIty has been affected by floods? That’s another of our day trips.

    • Richard Barrow on November 15, 2011 at 3:25 pm

      That is down the road from me here in Samut Prakan. No flooding here at all.

  2. Jeff Pychel on November 14, 2011 at 12:16 am

    Richard thank you!

    I’m a small tour operator from the Ottawa, Canada and I’ve been monitoring your blog twice a day, very very helpful and informative indeed! Thank you for keeping calm in a time that I’m sure was and still is very difficult for Thais.

    I’m arriving tomorrow morning for a total of 6 glorious weeks in the “Land of Smiles”. I’m visiting beautiful Koh Jum for 5 days before heading to Bangkok to greet my tour guests on Sun Nov 20 and we’ll be staying at the Sofitel Silom (Nov 20 – 23). Then its off to Kanchanaburi (Nov 23 – 25), before heading north by air to Sukhothai (Nov 25 – 27), Chiang Rai (Nov 27 – 29), Mae Hong Son (Nov 29 – Dec 1), Chiang Mai (Dec 1 – 4) then heading to Bang Tao Beach on Phuket (Dec 4 – 9). I had originally planned on staying in Ayutthaya for 2 nights (Baan Thai Hotel) but due to the extreme flooded had switched to Sukhothai.

    I am so glad that things are getting better in Ayutthaya, was there last year and it was just so beautiful, glad to see the community lending a hand to help with the general clean-up. I do believe I’ll be able to squeeze in a visit now to the Ancient Capital!

    So keep up the good work. And for al those who were or still planning to visit Bangkok, “Looks good on ya”! I would absolutely had veered away from visiting Thailand if I felt the Thai government and its wonderful people felt it was best to stay away.

    My own personal opinion was that all Thai people need our help right now, and the last thing that’s good for them is a massive reduction in travellers to this wonderful destination!

    Once again Richard thank you for all your info!

    • Richard Barrow on November 14, 2011 at 7:07 am

      Thanks for your feedback. If you didn’t see my earlier tweet, I mentioned that tour groups are already back in Ayutthaya city!

  3. shani on November 17, 2011 at 6:51 pm

    Dear Richard,

    thanks so much for your website, it is so useful!! I am planning on going to Chiang Mai around december 10th, do you think it’s already dry? or maybe should I go in another city or at another time?
    thanks!!

    • Richard Barrow on November 17, 2011 at 7:36 pm

      Chiang Mai has been long dry. I will be flying there on Sunday and you can follow my tour of the city live on Twitter @RichardBarrow.

  4. Rob on November 18, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    Such and improvement from last time I was there chest high in water! I am glad your getting the word out that places are doing better now!

  5. Tarik on November 23, 2011 at 7:42 pm

    Dear Richard, thank you alot for your helpful feeds. They helped us alot on our 1st trip to Thailand.
    On Saturday we are planning a trip to Ayuthaya by train. Do you think that the trains to Ayuthaya operate normaly?
    Thanks,
    Tarik

    • Richard Barrow on November 23, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      The last I heard was that it was train, bus, train to Ayutthaya. Not sure if it is better yet or not. If you go, maybe you can post a report here to help others.

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