Ayutthaya: The Old Capital of Splendor

Ayutthaya

Before Bangkok was the capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya bore the title. It was the Siamese Kingdom’s seat of power between 1351 and 1767, and was known to the world as one of the strongest and most beautiful capitals of South-East Asia and beyond. Citizens of Ayutthaya called themselves Tai and their kingdom was known as Krung Tai (Tai Kingdom). At its peak it included territories all the way into Sukhotai and today’s Malaysia and Cambodia. It traded with Europe, the Middle East and East Asia. As with every expansionistic empire, wars were inevitable. So when in 1767 the Burmese attacked yet again, they burnt the city to the ground and most of the treasures and cultural gems were destroyed. Still, this ancient city located 76 kilometers north of Bangkok should be visited whilst in Thailand, for its historical charm and dozens of magnificent remains.

 

Wat Phanan Choeng Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya is an island on the confluence of three rivers. Some of the main attractions include:

-          Wat Phanan Choeng, which is actually located off the island and is a working monastery and popular pilgrimage site. It contains Ayutthaya’s oldest image of Buddha, cast in bronze.

-          Wat Na Phra Meru (or Wat Na Phra Mane) escaped the destruction as it served as headquarters to the Burmese army and the refuge for their wounded king who died there. It houses a Buddha statute made of black stone.

-          Wat Phra Mahathat . Here you can photograph Ayutthaya’s most iconic and famous image: the Buddha head entangled in branches of a tree grown around it. Kneel when you take the photo’ as the head is considered holy.

-          Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the largest temple in Ayutthaya, located in the grounds of the Royal Palace. It contained a 16-metre Buddha covered with 340 kilograms of gold, which was melted down during the Burmese invasion.

-          Wat Maheyong is for those who want to escape the crowds. It is a collection of ruins off the island, and an active temple where you can join meditation retreats.

 

Before exploring the city you can also visit Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre to learn about the history of Ayutthaya.

Ayutthaya Boat

Ayutthaya can be reached from Bangkok by car, train, bus, minibus or boat.  Regular trains leave from Hualamphong train station and take 2 to 2.5 hours. For buses, head to Northern Bus Terminal, while minibuses depart from Victory Monument. However, if you want to arrive in style, take the boat cruise and enjoy the Chao Phraya River.