I would really appreciate some advice on a leg of our holiday in October. We will be flying to Chiang Mai for a few days from Laos and then want to make our way down to Bangkok. Thinking about stopping in Ayuthaya for a night and then want to spend time at River Kwai and the Tiger Temple. Need to know firstly if it is worth seeing Ayuthaya, bearing in mind we will also be spending time at Siem Reap. If so, what's the best transport option from Chiang Mai - should we train it to Ayuthaya, stay overnight and then hire a car and driver for a day to take us to River Kwai and the Tiger Temple and then onto Bangkok? It seems most people do these things as day trips from Bangkok. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Many thanks
If you're seeing Angkor Wat before Ayutthaya then bear in mind that the latter isn't a scratch on the former. That's not to say Ayutthaya is not worth seeing, but you're really comparing apples and oranges. Ayutthaya is a good Thai town to explore -- there's lots of scope for hiring a bicycle and riding around the place, muching at the night market, doing boat rides etc -- it's all very low key... which is a large part of the attraction.
In answer to your question, I'd travel by train from CM.
From Ayutthaya to Kanchanaburi -- if you're planning on getting from Ayutthaya to Kan, visiting the Tiger Temple and Bridge over River Kwai and then continuing onto Bangkok, all in a day, that makes for a long long day. If your schedule allows it, I'd factor in an overnight in Kanchanaburi -- the Hellfire Pass Museum alone justifies a visit to Kanchanaburi.
For the mechanics of getting from Ayuttahya to Kanchanaburi, I'm sure you could get a car to take you, otherwise public bus to Suphanburi then onto Kanchanaburi (takes a long time) -- I'd ask around in guesthouses in Ayuthaya, as there may be minibus services between the two.
Wow - a reply already - I'm suitably impressed and the information is exactly what I've been looking for. Yes, I'm not sure that we can achieve visiting the Tiger Temple and River Kwai area in one day (including the travel time) and we may look at trying to factor in staying an extra night in the area. Can you tell me how long it takes from Chaing Mai to Ayutthaya if we caught an early morning train? Would we be better to give Ayutthaya a quick visit and try to spend the night in Kanchanaburi?
Thai railway timetables are here -- you're looking at 10-12 hours depending on the train you take.
If you had to choose between the two, and are already going to Siem Reap, then I'd skip Ayutthaya and instead get a night train from CM to Bangkok then get the bus (or train, though note the train goes from a different train station in Bkk) to Kanchanaburi and overnight there.
We've just updated (yesterday actually) all the Kanchanaburi stuff on the site so give it the once over -- there's stack and stacks to do there, so you'll prob be better served overnighting there.
Hope that helps
I agree that there is not much between places like Ayuthaya (and Sukhothai) and the temples of Angkor. However, what Angkor lacks are Buddha images, and these are, for me, one of the main attractions with regards to Ayuthaya and Sukhothai. So, if you are interested in seeing these large and important images, then you should definitely schedule at least one day in one of those two places. Both are easily reached from CM by train, though for Sukhothai you have to get off the train in Phitsanulok. No problem, though.
You can easily take in Ayuthaya in a day. If you took one of the night trains from CM you'd be in Ayuthaya before 7:30 am, and would have plenty of time to see the major sites and get a bit of a feel for the city. You could then continue to Bangkok on the 3rd. class train, then head to Kanchanaburi early the next morning, or that same evening if you're ambitious. Kanchanaburi is less than 2 hours from Bangkok and buses go between the places all the time. Going by train is better, though.
Thanks for your post Tilapia. I'm starting to think your idea of the overnight train to Ayutthaya from Chiang Mai, spend the day exploring Ayutthaya and then train to Bangkok, spend the night in Bangkok and then heading to Kanchanaburi early next day could be the best option for us. I really appreciate everyone's help in our planning.
Just so you know, the Kanchanaburi train station is quite close to the majority of Guest Houses/Inns. The bus station is close to a couple, but is a hefty walk from the majority. So, if you take the train, you'll get dropped off a short walk from a good selection of places.
Train is slower than the bus, and there are fewer departure options, but it is much more interesting and fun.
Whatever you do will be good.
I'll just add one more thing and then I'll stop typing and go get some fresh air ... the bus station is close to the older part of town. There aren't as many guest houses, and they aren't as new or posh as the ones in the more recently developed area (near the train station), but I think the old part of town is better. The market is there, as is the pedestrian ferry. The area around the newer bunch of guest houses has a lot of bars, shops, travel agents, restaurants, etc.
It's far from the bridge, but if you're on a bike it isn't that big of a difference.
There's a great, very colourful Chinese temple along the riverbank that's worth a visit. A very friendly monk lives there, and he loves getting his photo taken.
Just so you know.