The ancient city of Ayutthaya, or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, the Thai capital for 417 years, is one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions. Many ancient ruins and art works can be seen in a city that was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong when the Thais were forced southwards by northern neighbors. During the period of Ayutthaya being the Thai capital, 33 Kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767. Ayutthaya is 76 kilometers north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. Such ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indo – China’s most prosperous cities. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya a Historical Park, a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO’s list of world heritage since 13 December ,1991. Ayutthaya covers 2,556 square kilometers, and is administratively divided into 16 districts (Amphoes). It is conveniently accessible due to good roads and a short distance from Bangkok.
Featured Image: Image: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a7/WatChaiwatthanaram.jpg
Ayutthaya is an ancient city, founded by “King U- Thong or Ramathibodi I ” in 1350. It was used as the capital of Thailand for 417, during the Ayutthaya period, 33 Kings of 5 Dynasties reigned over the Kingdom.
During the first 180 years , the city was peaceful. The main activity then was about the state affair and trading which made Ayutthaya one of the most prosperous city in ASIA. But nine years after King Ramathibodi ll’s death in 1529 Ayutthaya became involved, for the first time, in a war with MYANMAR which led to many wars after that.
Ayutthaya was first defeated by the Burmese in 1569, but 15 years later it was back to its glory again by “King Naresuan the Great”. Ayutthaya was peaceful again and enjoyed the activities in foreign affairs for about 118 years. It came to its peak until it was invaded and destroyed beyond repair by the Burmese in 1767.
The capital was moved to Thonburi by “King Taksin the Great” who had fought against the Burmese and defeated them. After 15 years of King Taksin’s reign. The capital was again moved to Bangkok by “King Rama the first”. The founder of the present Chakri Dynasty.
Ayutthaya Historical Study Center
Located on Rochana Road, this is a national research institute devoted to the study of Ayutthaya, especially during the period when it was the capital of Thailand. The centre also exhibits reconstructions of Ayutthaya from the past with modern illustrating techniques, and supports an information service and a library. It is open daily from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
Located on Rochana Road, opposite the city wall, this museum houses various antique bronze Buddha images, famous carved panels and local artifacts. A receptacle at the Thai pavilion contains relics of Lord Buddha and objects of art more than 500 years old. It is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
Khun Phan House
This Thai style house near Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit conforms to descriptions in a popular Thai literary work.
Ancient Forts and Fortresses
There are many forts along the city wall and fortresses around the outer circle. As found in historical records, these include Pom Mahachai, Pom Phet Pom Ho Ratchakhru, Pom Chidkop, Pom Chompaphon and Pom Yai. Most of them are situated at waterway intersections.
Currently called “Ancient Palace”, this residential palace of every Ayutthayan king is located close to the city wall. The palace was originally built by King U-Thong. During the reign of King Borom Trailokkanat and the later kings, several buildings were added. Most pavilions were completely destroyed in 1767, leaving only brick foundations, porticoes and walls. The Tri Muk Pavilion, a wooden structure with a brick foundation, was rebuilt in its original style at the command of King Rama V in 1907.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet
This is the most important temple within the Royal Palace compound and the original from which the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok has been copied. Three outstanding Ceylonese style pagodas were built during the 15th century to enshrine the ashes of three Ayutthayan kings.
Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
Phra Mongkhon Bophit, a large bronze cast Buddha image was originally enshrined in the open area outside the Grand Palace and later covered by a building in the reign of king Songtham. During the fall of Ayutthaya, the building was badly destroyed by fire. The one currently seen was reconstructed, but does not have as beautiful craftmanship as the previous one. The open area east of the sanctuary was where the royal cremation ceremonies took place.
Wat Phra Ram
This temple is situated outside the grand palace compound to the east. King Ramesuan commanded that it be built on the ground where the royal cremation ceremony for his father, King U-Thong, took place. Only a pagoda and a big lagoon called “Bung Phra Ram” remain. The area is currently used as a public park.
Wat Phra Mahathat
This temple is on the corner of Chi Kun Road and Naresuan Road. A tall pagoda was built by King Ramkesuan in 1384. A buried treasure chest containing valuables including a relic of Lord Buddha, several golden Buddha images and many other objects in gold, ruby and crystal was found during the excavation in 1956.
This temple is opposite Wat Mahathat. King Borom Rachathirat ll (Chao Sam Phaya) commanded two pagodas built on the ground where his brothers namely Chao Ai and Chao Yi engaged in single-handed combat on elephant back, and both were killed.
This public park is situated on U-Thong Road to the southwest of the city. The area, full of plants referred to in Thai literature, houses many archaeological ruins.
Chankasem or Front Palace
On the bank of the Pasak River, this palace was built during the reign of King Maha Thammaraja, the 17th Ayutthayan monarch, for his son’s residence [King Naresuan]. Like other ruins, the palace was destroyed by the Burmese and left unrepaired for a long time. King Rama IV of the present Chakri dynasty ordered reconstruction of this palace for use as a residence during his occasional visits to Ayutthaya. The palace is now a national museum displaying chinaware, ancient weapons, King Rama lV’s personal belongings for daily life, Buddha images, sculptures and votive tablets of different times. It is open from Wednesdays to Sundays from 9.00 a.m. – 4.00 p.m.
This ancient temple is behind the Chankasem Palace and houses two Buddha images that were transferred from Vientiane
Wat Suwandraram Ratchawarawihan
This temple located on U-Thong Road, southeast of the city. The mural paintings in The Ubosot depict the gathering deities and Jataka stories. The mural on the front wall shows a picture of Buddha subduing evil. Within the Wihara, there is a picture of the bravery of King Naresuan the Great, which is a masterpiece of several copies found in many places.
Chedi Phra Si Suriyothai
This pagoda is situated at the original site of the Rear Palace in the west of the city. It is a memorial to Somdet Phra Suriyothai, who was the royal consort of Phra Mahachakkraphat and the first heroine in Thai history. When the Burmese army intruded into the kingdom in 1548, Somdet Phra Suriyothai, clad in a warrior’s suit, interrupted the fighting between the king and Phrachao Prae of Burma and was cut to death.
This temple is adjacent to Wat Wora-Chettharam in the west of the city. It houses a large reclining Buddha image, made of brick and covered with plaster, approximately 29 metres long. Many large hexagonal pillar ruins near the image are believed to be the ruins of the ubosot.
Wat Na Phra Men
This temple is located on the bank of Sa Bua Canal opposite the grand palace. The date of construction is unknown. The ubosot has been designed in a very old typical Thai style. The most interesting objects are the principal Buddha image, fully decorated in regal attire, and another image made of black stone in the small vihara.
King Prasat Thong commanded it to be built outside the city island on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. Great beauty has been reflected from the main stupa and its satellite stupas along the gallery, influenced by Khmer architecture.
This riverside temple was built in the area called “Wiang Lek” to the south of the town. It is the site where King U-thong first established his city. The temple houses a huge principal Buddha image of the early Ayutthaya Period.
This is located in Tambon Samphao Lom, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River to the south of the city. The Portuguese were the first Europeans that dealt with Ayutthaya in 1151. The ancient remains of San Petro Dominican Church, human skeletons, and some antique objects such as tobacco pipes, coins, and accessories for a religious ceremony have been found at the site.
Chedi Phukhao Thong
This 80-metre tall pagoda is located 2 kms. northeast of the town. It was originally built in Mon style by King Burengnong of Burma to commemorate the Burmese victory over Ayutthaya in 1569. When Ayutthaya’s independence was restored by King Naresuan in 1584, the pagoda was remodelled in the Thai style.
Elephant Kraal Pavilion
This pavilion was utilized as the royal seat to witness the elephant round up. It is located 4 kms. northeast of the town along Highway No. 309. The outlook is a big cage surrounded with logs having, from the front centre, fencing lines of 45 degrees spread out to both sides far away into the jungle area.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon
This temple is located outside the city to the southeast in the same direction as the railway station. It was build by King U-thong in 1357 for meditation. In 1592, when King Naresuan defeated the Burmese by killing the Burmese Crown Prince in single-handed combat on elephant, he commanded a large pagoda build at this temple to match the high pagoda at Wat Phukhao Thong. This massive pagoda, in ruinous state at the present, is visible from a distance.
This temple, south of the town, has no record about its construction. It had been build before Ayutthaya was founded as the capital. The principal image called “Phrachao Phananchoeng” in the wihara was built in 1325. The golden Buddha image is 19 metres tall, made of trucco in the attitude of subduing evil. It is most revered by the inhabitants of Ayutthaya.
This is ancient site is located 1.5 kms. south of Wat Phananchoeng in Tambon Ko Rein. There is an additional building of the Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre, where the foreign affairs of the Ayutthaya Period are on exhibition.
Prasart Nakhon Luang
Situated on the east bank of the Pa Sak River, Amphoe Nakhon Luang, this palace was a royal residence for Ayutthayan kings during their trips to Lop Buri and the Buddha’s Footprint Shrine in Saraburi. It is assumed to have been constructed during the reign of King Songtham, but was improved to be a brick and plaster building during the reign of King Prasat Thong.
Bang Pa-In Palace
This famous attraction is located 18 kms. south of Ayutthaya. At km. 35 of Highway No. 1, there is an 7 km. access road to the palace. A daily train from Bangkok stops at the Bang Pa-In Station and visitors can continue by local transport for another 4 kms. Originally, the palace and Wat Chumphon Nikayaram was built by King Prasat Thong on a riverine island. The palace was used as a country residence for the later Ayutthayan kings.
After being abandoned for 80 years during the early Bangkok period, King Rama V commanded several more buildings constructed in the compound as seen today. These include pavilions and halls constructed in Thai, Chinese, and European architectural styles, a theatre, temples, and monuments. Most buildings were named in rhymes: Aisa-wanthipphaya – at, Warophatphiman, Utthayan Phumisathian, Hemmonthian Thewarat, Saphakhan Ratchaorayun, Withunthatsana, Keng Buppha Praphat, and Wehat Chamrun.
Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre
This centre occupies an area of 14 acres in Amphoe Bang Sai which can be visited either by road or river. It was established under royal patronage in 1976. Farmers from rural areas undergo training in folk arts and crafts here. Visitors will have a glimpse of various different Thai houses in regional styles and see how the rural people produce exquisite handicrafts including fern vien basketry, weaving basketry, artificial flowers, hand-woven silk and cotton, silk dyeing, wood-carving, miniature hand-modelled Thai dolls, furniture making, and cloth-made products.
Major Events :
Bang Sai Loi Krathong Festival
This is held at the Bang Sai Royal Arts and Craft Centre in October or November. Celebrations include traditional float (Krathong) and beuaty contest, international boat races, handicraft demonstrations and exhibitions, and Krathong launching beneath the full moon.
Ayutthaya Word Heritage Site
This is held in October or November to celebrate the glorious past of Ayutthaya. Celebrations include a historical exhibition, traditional cultural processions and performances, light and sound presentations around the city ruins, and numerous forms of entertainment.