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Around Bangkok: Ayuthaya

Bangkok Attractions | Attractions around Bangkok

Ayuthaya was the majestic capital of Thailand at one time and is located on a chain of islands on the Chao Phraya river upstream from where present day Bangkok is. It was the peak of its wealth and control during the 17th and 18th century when foreigners first arrived in Siam. Today the ruins of Ayuthaya are a popular day trip or an overnight river cruise from Bangkok.

The Ayuthaya court was highly regarding in Europe. The diplomatic relations reached all the way to the French court and Louis XIV. The other Europe countries courting the Siamese were the English, Portugal, Japan and China. Ayuthaya had become the cultural and financial center of Southeast Asia by the 17th century. Ayuthaya ruled over an empire, which extended from Malaysia to China and included parts of eastern Burma and all of present day Laos and Cambodia.

Ayuthaya was known as Thailand's capital city for 417 years. Ayuthaya is evidence to the cunning and the self-indulgence of King U-Thong court. Ayuthaya was founded in 1350 and grew at an amazing rate, mainly to the incredible trade opportunities offered in this productive basin of the Chao Phraya river.

The legacy remains at Ayuthaya is mostly located within the Phra Nakhon Historical Park. An ox-bow and man-made canals formed Ayuthaya and the city island is where the largest concentration of ruins are located. The original city was much larger and included a much larger area, which is the present day Ayuthaya, some of the ruins can be found dotting parts of the suburb.

Originally, Ayuthaya had 16 districts, which reflected some of Thailand's more highly crafted, and superb architecture. There is a blend of the Cambodian style architecture dating as far back as the original building date. The construction of the buildings of Ayuthaya is a combination of concrete, brick, laterite and sandstone, which makes the building extremely durable. They are mixed with the graceful and proportioned designs of the Sukhothai influence.

Amongst the ruins of Ayuthaya there are many temples and palace ruins to visit, but some of the best ones include Wat Phra si Sanphet, which you may recognize from postcards because of the three aligned chedis. Wat Phra Mahathat was another important structure on Ayuthaya. The structure was almost leveled when Ayuthaya was invaded by Burmese, however it is still worth seeing for it Khmer Phrang tower. Wat Phanan Choeng is southwest of the main ruins. The only way to reach it is by boat; it predates the main ruins of Ayuthaya's kingdom and has a sacred Buddha inside. Wat Na Phra Meru is only reached by crossing a bridge, which you will find by the old Royal palace grounds. It miraculously managed to escape any damage or destruction during the wars of the time. It remains one of Ayuthaya's best-preserved buildings, which is an example of the workmanship of the time and contains some impressive Buddhas.

Ayuthaya over the centuries went through an astonishing period of wealth. More and more palaces and temples were being built and foreign merchants came from different parts of the world to trade at the main city of Siam.

The death of King Ramathibodi II in1529 was the precursor of the start of the violent time for Ayuthaya the war with Myanmar began. After the conflict with Myanmar many more followed and in 1569 the Burmese invaded the country. The Thai King managed to thwart the ivasion and continued to reign in Ayuthaya for 118 years. When the Burmese army reappeared, it was during the reign of King Rama I the city of Ayuthaya was abandoned as the capital because of the preference of Bangkok as the Thai capital.

New findings are still being discovered amongst the ruins of Ayuthaya. Usually there is a dig taking place somewhere in the city. You still have the opportunity to wander through the streets and ruined temples, past the Buddhas whose head were removed during the raiding of Ayuthaya. Gaze at the suburb obelisks and pagodas. Culture fanatics might also want to head to the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum which has many of the artifacts saved from the sites. They will give insightful information on the areas history.

One of the best ways to see Ayuthaya is to take one of the cruises up the river for a couple of days.

Last Updated: 27 Feb 2008