The Historic Ayutthaya
Once considered one of the most elaborate empires of the east, the ancient city of Ayutthaya was Thailand’s capital for 417 years. The kingdom prospered as the major trade and culture center of the region. 33 Kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom.
Ayutthaya was one the largest and most powerful kingdoms the world had ever seen. In its peak in the 16th century Ayutthaya’s realm included a significant part of Burma, the Lanna Kingdom, the Yunnan & Shan Sri provices of China, Laos and Cambodia (completely), South Vietnam and all of Malaya. It had diplomatic relationship with Louis XIV of France and was frequented by Portuguese, Dutch, English, Japanese and Chinese merchants. During the 17th century, many of its foreign visitors, traders and diplomats alike, claimed Ayutthaya to be the most glittering and illustrious city that they had ever visited.
The map of Ayutthaya by Simon de la Loubere
in Du Royaume De Siam (published in 1691) can be perhaps one of the proofs of such recognition. But all good things come to an end and Ayutthaya met its demise in 1767, 417 years after its founding, when the city was seized, burnt, and almost completely destroyed by Burmese invaders.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991,
Ayutthaya's historic park
houses temples and ruins scattered throughout this once magnificent city and along the encircling rivers. At its peak Ayutthaya was home to 3 palaces and over 400 temples which is amazing for the city’s relatively small size. Upon visiting, you only need to see a few ruins to get a glimpse of the city’s past magnificence. The key temple ruins are Wat Mahathat (the one with the iconic Buddha head wrapped in the roots of a Bodhi tree
), Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Mongkhon Bophit, and Wat Chaiwattanaram. Ayutthaya is only about 100 kilometers from Bangkok and can be visited on a day trip. However an overnight stay will allow for more leisure pace, and perhaps a dinner cruise on the Chao Phraya, past the illuminated temple ruins.
Did you know?: Ayutthaya’s population was well over a million in the mid-17th century, in a time when other world city like London had mere 500,000.