Hey again. Pam and I were in Ayutthaya in early July -06. We wanted to go there because it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and visiting the ruins was a good run up before heading over to Angkor Wat later in the month.
The town of Ayutthaya is just okay - nothing special really. But between the ruins and the great riverside restaurants, I'd call it a must see for almost anyone visiting Thailand.
You can do Ayutthaya as a day trip out of Bangkok and still have enough time to see it properly. An overnight stay is more than enough time for most folks, and should give you enough time to visit the ruins a few times, including at night when they are all beautifully lit up. Something inbetween those two options is a day trip to Ayutthaya where you then catch the overnight train up to Chiang Mai. That gives you a few more hours than the standard day trips out of Bangkok, including a chance to see the ruins at night.
We stayed at the PU Guesthouse. It is located near the center of town and the local bus station in a cluster of guesthouses, restaurants, travel agents and internet cafes. It is a fun area to hang out and chat with other travellers. I wrote a review of the guesthouse in the accomodation listings if anyone is interested.
Getting around in Ayutthaya isn't that hard, although because of the distance between the new city and most of the ruins, and the distances between the ruins themselves, you'll likely want some kind of transport. Push bikes are available for hire everywhere for cheap, and if you can take the heat and humidity, are a fun way to get around. Tuk tuks (we call them fish heads in Ayutthaya because that is what they look like) cost a uniform price of 200 baht per vehicle per hour as set by the local government. Or, you can rent a motor scooter like we did for about 150 to 200 baht per day (plus gas). Make sure you really know what you are doing before you hire a motor bike though, because the traffic there moves pretty quickly and doesn't exactly follow normal road rules.
Out at the ruins, Pam did an elephant ride, which she really enjoyed. It cost about 400 baht for 15 minutes, and she had an elephant all to herself.
Other than that, the activity we highly recommend is the boat trip around the island in the afternoon being offered by most guesthouses and travel agents around town. It costs between 150 and 200 baht per person, typically departs and about 3 pm, and lasts about 2 hours. This boat trip is a fab way to have a look around.
The trip we were on had three scheduled stops, but as we were the only ones on the tour that day, we opted to skip the first two stops so we could have extra time at the last stop of Wat Chai Wattanaram. It is my absolute favorite of all the temples in Ayutthaya, and the layout approaches some of the grandure of the Angkor-era temples. Wat Chai Wattanaram is located off the island, on the west bank of the river. If you go, try to get there during the cool of the late afternoon when most of the day trippers have already headed back to Bangers and when the light is perfect for photographs.
Visiting Ayutthaya doesn't require much time, but you get a lot for the effort. I'd think that any trip to Thailand should at least pass through there. Regards.