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Ayutthaya was the capital of ancient Siam for a period of more than 400 years. The city was razed several times by Burmese invaders during the 1700s, leading to the country's capital being relocated to Bangkok. The ruins of ancient Ayutthaya still stand and are one of the major tourist attractions in Thailand.
As most of Ayutthaya was destroyed when the city was looted and burned by the invading Burmese in 1767, the remains of several settlements off the island were built by foreign countries to demonstrate the importance of Ayutthaya’s intensive trade with many foreign nations in its glorious days.
The Ayutthaya Historical Park consists of the ruins of temples and palaces of the capital of the ancient Ayutthaya Kingdom. The park is located on an island, surrounded by three rivers, where the old capital of Thailand used to be.
During the more than 400 years of its existence, the Ayutthaya Kingdom built a great number of temples in various styles. Many have been restored by the Thai Fine Arts Department.
The Historic City of Ayutthaya is well-known from historical records. As one of the world’s largest cities of its time and a major political, economic and religious center, many visitors recorded facts about the city and their experiences there.
This park rests on the island, framed by three significant rivers: Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak. The architectural remains of the temples and palaces of the ancient kingdom of Ayutthaya make up one of Thailand’s most precious historical sites. The 715-acre area has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, as it portrays the heyday of one of the largest kingdoms in IndoChina history.
Ayutthaya was established by King Ramathibodi I on Friday, 4 March 1351, in the vicinity of an ancient settlement dating back to the Dvaravati era (6th to the 11th centuries). The city state expanded its boundaries over the centuries. A magnificent city in the 17th and 18th century, with a cosmopolitan character, it became one of the most important trading hubs of Asia.
Ayutthaya was the capital of the Siamese for 417 years. The city fell to the Burmese in the night of Tuesday, 7 April 1767. Sacked and plundered by the Burmese, it was later dismantled during the reigns of King Rama I and Rama III to reconstruct the Siamese capital of Bangkok.
Ayutthaya remained the capital for so long for a number of reasons. For one, it was home to an extensive trading port that welcomed international merchants, many of whom were from Europe.
The income of the city came from agricultural products, and from duties levied on foreign trade. From the 16th century, European visitors from Portugal, France, Holland and England were received in Ayutthaya. The Europeans were very impressed by the wealth they encountered.
At its height, Ayutthaya was one of the most important trading centers in the area. The city was so memorable to these travelers because of its many temples and palaces.
All of the ruined buildings found in Ayutthaya today had taken about 150 years to complete in total. Many of the palaces were made of wood. The temples have their own Siamese style, but a lot of the temples’ architecture drew inspiration from other influences, including Sri Lanka.
One of Ayutthaya’s most impressive temples, the Khmer style Wat Chaiwatthanaram, is a royal temple that was used by the king and other members of the royal family. The monastery is located opposite the southwest corner of the historical island, on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. A boat trip around the historical island provides for very nice views of this large, well preserved temple.
At the center of the Wat Chaiwatthanaram, there is a 35 meter tall Khmer style prang (a corncob shaped tower), standing on a raised brick platform. At each of its corners stands a much smaller tower. The prang represents Mount Meru, a mountain in Hindu and Buddhist cosmology which is the center of the universe, surrounded by oceans.
Wat Phra Sri Sanphet is the royal monastery and therefore no monk was allowed to reside at it. However, the temple served to conduct ceremonies within the royal court, such as a drinking ritual as an oath of allegiance. It is also regarded as an equivalence of Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai and a model for Wat Phra Sri Ratana Sasadaram (the royal temple of the Emerald Buddha) or Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok.
This royal monastery plays an important role in history of art and archeology. The remaining debris still evidently portray how glorious the country was. At the heart of the temple, there are three adjacent Ceylonese (or bell-shaped) pagodas, situated on rectangular platforms. It is believed that these platforms were the base of royal houses in the Ayutthaya period.
The monastery is located in the southeastern area at the confluence of the Chao Phraya and the Pa Sak Rivers. The monastery has four principal buildings in its sangkha area: an ordination hall, a vihara, the large vihara and a small Chinese building.
The ordination hall contains three Buddha images, all in the posture of subduing Mara. Two images are assumed to have been built during the Sukhothai period, around 1357. They were covered with stucco, lacquer and gilt, probably to hide their value from the Burmese invaders in 1767.
Wat Ratchaburana was built by King Borom Ratchathirat II, at the place where both his brothers died (they killed each other) during a fight for the vacant throne of Ayutthaya. After both his brother had died, King Borom Ratchathirat II became king. As such, Wat Ratchaburana was built during the early Ayutthaya period.
A large amount of the golden artefacts and treasures that were found at Wat Ratchaburana, are currently stored in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Another big temple, located to the east of the city, outside the island of Ayutthaya, Wat Kudi Dao consists of a large ubosot, a viharn and a chedi. Outside the wall is another building, which served as a pavilion for the King.
All is in ruins today, and in this temple the collapsing of the chedi can almost be seen in the way the remains are scattered around the temple ground. This temple is said to be from the early Ayutthaya period and was reconstructed in A.D. 1711.
The Ayutthaya Experience takes you through the historical wonders of Thailand's ancient capital. Ayutthaya is dotted with ruins and grand temples, surrounded by the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers, and filled with the aura of mystique and grandeur that truly reflects ancient Thailand.
Located 80 kilometers north of Bangkok, although Ayutthaya isn’t hard to get to, it is recommended to use a guided tour in order to get the most out of this historical area. You will be picked up at your hotel and head straight to the area with a comfortable car. You will be accompanied by a tour guide so that you can understand the history behind all that you see in the area.
Looking for an unforgettable visit to Ayutthaya Park? Do you want to create wow-moments with your loved ones, as well as learn about the history of the area? Travel with Asia Highlights and you will be guaranteed to get the most out of this place. Please contact us if you have any questions.