Once an important trading centre, Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin in Thailand. Its vast complex of prangs and giant temples are one of Thailand’s must see sights. Here’s how to get the best out of your first visit to this ancient city.
A Short History
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and became Thailand’s second capital city after the era at Sukhothai. During the 14th to the 18th century Ayutthaya became an important trading centre as well as a cosmopolitan city. Its position above the tidal bore in the Gulf of Siam and the location on an island made it very powerful and linked the city to the sea, but also helped defend it from attack by ships.
By 1700 Ayutthaya was the largest city in the world and has 1 million inhabitants. In 1767 the Burmese invaded and destroyed Ayutthaya. All the inhabitants were forced to leave and the city was abandoned to become the huge archaeological treasure that it is today.
Ayutthaya is a huge complex stretching over a wide area. The Ayutthaya Historical Park is one of Thailand’s biggest tourist attractions and is divided into the sights on the island and those off the island which are best reached by boat.
One of the most important places to visit in Ayutthaya is the Tourist office which has excellent displays of the city and also houses the city museum where a lot of the history and archaeological events can be seen.
Wat Bhuddhaisawan is important architecturally as it was constructed in 1350 and believed to be the first temple built in the Khmer style in Ayutthaya. It was heavily plundered in 1767 but today is known for its reclining Buddha and the two Buddha footprints.
Wat Chai Wattaranam is one of the most photographed sites in Ayutthaya because of its distinctive Khmer style Prangs. These stand 35 metres high and were constructed in 1763 by King Prasat Thong.
Wat Phanang Choeng is another ancient temple built in 1324 and existed before the city of Ayutthaya. It is interesting for its structure and age, and is still in use by locals today.
The city had three palaces and Ban Pa In Palace can still be visited. It is south of the main city and has remains of the palace as well as the Chumphon Kikarayam temple. The Chankarasem Palace is on the banks of the River Prasak and was built during the reign of King Maha Thammaraja. It was destroyed in the Burmese invasion but has been restored and is an interesting national museum.
Phu Khao Thong was constructed by the Burmese and its 76 step chedi is worth a climb for the views across the city and temples. Watching a sunset over the temples is a major attraction here and stunning to watch.
The nearby Elephant Kraal is very popular with visitors to Ayutthaya and is the perfect place to relax after a day viewing temples. Chao Phrom Market is popular with visitors and sells food, clothing and other items.
There are direct trains and buses from Bangkok to Ayutthaya which are inexpensive and easy to navigate. There are also tours operating from Bangkok.