Ayutthaya can be found about 80 km north of Bangkok, Thailand’s capital. This historic city has been considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
First, we can address this site’s history, one that started when, many centuries ago, Thai people migrated to south from China. After the establishment of other kingdoms, the Thai founded in 1350 the Kingdom of Ayutthaya (or Siam) with a homonymous capital (Ayutthaya).
A vast territorial unit was then constituted, one that kept expanding itself for 400 years, almost reaching the total area that today constitutes modern Thailand.
The justification for Ayutthaya being one of the largest and richest cities in Asia has a lot do with its location and seaport. It’s located on an island, amidst the broad and reach plains of the Chao Phraya River (and 2 other rivers), halfway between China, India and Malaysia. This was the place where items such as teak wood, ivory, silk and handicraft were traded.
Back then, the city was splendorous and was inhabited by 1 million people… There’s an estimation that indicates that the city was the home of around 1500 temples and 4000 statues.
But such golden period ended in 1767, when the Burmese army entered the city. The Kingdom’s capital was looted and reduced to ashes, with the Buddhas being beheaded. What once was the hub of the Siamese authority for so many years ended up shattered, to the point where it no longer could house the government. Then, a new capital was established in Thonburi. Only later, in 1782, Bangkok assumed such role, located on the opposite side of the river that baths Thonburi. Due to this, this ancient capital is known by locals as the ancient Bangkok.
Given how historically important it is, I definitely recommend visiting Ayutthaya. It was extremely important for what we know today as Thailand. If you happen to be in Bangkok, you can easily go there by taking the train. It doesn’t take much time and it’s so cheap. I did that way!
Nowadays, a visit to Ayutthaya offers several temples (called wat), museums and an elephant park. Here are some places that you shouldn’t overlook.
Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol
This temple is actually a former royal monastery. During the Ayutthaya kingdom, it was a very important location for the royal family’s education, as well as of several important figures.
It portrays the victory of King Naresuan, whom Thais consider to be a real hero. During the loot of 1767, this temple became a fortress. Much more recently, it was overhauled, and right now is one of the country’s most mesmerising temples.
Climbing its stairs is something interesting, as we are provided with the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful scenery and walk right next to temple itself, side by side with Buddha statues with their yellow mantle, the stupas and the enormous statue of a reclined Buddha.
Wat Maha That
This temple can be found right in the heart of Ayutthaya and was one of the kingdom’s most prominent. This was the spot where Buddha’s relics were consecrated, working as well as the residence of the Supreme Patriarch of the Thai monks and as an important centre of Buddhism.
Currently, we can only see its foundations.
Right next to it, we can spot the immensely famous Buddha head in tree roots. There are records stating that when the Burmese army invaded the city, Buddha images were beheaded and, with time, a tree grew around one of them.
Wat Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Whenever a king died, a place had to be chosen to conduct the cremation process. This palace was built on the spot that held such cremations.
A 12-meter Buddha statue, which was originally located outside, was placed within a roofed structure. That’s the temple we can see today.
This monument is a reclining Buddha statue made of cement, with a width of 37 meters. It used to be encircled by a temple, of which only the foundations remain.
This is a Buddhist temple, built on the spot where 2 brothers passed away (they killed each other) in a fight for the kingdom throne.
Currently, besides the temple’s ruins, it is also possible to visit its 2 towers and some incredible stone engravings. There’s a crypt inside the temple, from where you can catch the murals on the walls.
Wat Phra se Sanphet
This temple was part of the royal palace complex, in which important royal ceremonies were held. The ashes of one of the kings and his 2 sons can be found in its 3 stupas. This is the former capital’s biggest temple.