AYUTTHAYA – THE OLD CAPITAL

505
AYUTTHAYA The Old Capital
AYUTTHAYA The Old Capital

History and Introduction to Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya (พระนครศรีอยุธยา) is a historic city in the north of Bangkok and the capital of the Central Region of Para Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province.

It was the second capital of  the Siamese Kingdom, after Sukootthay and it was founded in 1350 by the king U-Thong. The capital lasted for more than four hundred years, governed by more than  thirty kings and survived  several Burmese invasions, until the last one, in 1767, that destroyed the city. The Burmese army burned the city and forced all the inhabitants to leave the urban center.

Today it is an  extensive archaeological site recognized as a World Heritage of by Unesco  since 1991.

AYUTTHAYA

The beautiful open air ruins of the ancient temples are spread across the city, giving us an idea of its past splendour and imposing size of the center. It is caracterized by the remains of tall prang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions.

Ideally located above the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam (as it was known at that time) and equidistant from both India and China, it was an important connecting point between the east and the west, thus becoming a central place for the regional, commerce, diplomacy and religion.

You can still notice the foreign influence on the surviving art and  on the remaining architecture.

All the buildings were gracefully decorated with the highest quality of crafts and mural paintings representing a fusion between old Sukhothai styles  and 17th and 18th century  artistic styles of Japan, China, India, Persia and Europe, creating a rich and unique expression of art and architectonic styles, that  have contributed and inspired the succeeding eras.

Ayutthaya is undoubtedly an excellent witness to the period of development of a true national Thai Art.

The old city had an extremely advanced  technological hydraulic system of water , unique at the time .This device was also a strategic point for the protection of the town. Roads,  channels and moats surrounded all the main structures, revealing a systematic and rigid  urban planning grid.

When the capital was moved to  Bangkok, there was an attempt to reproduce the unique architectural style from Ayutthaya, bringing the surviving architects and builders that had built the old capital.

Visiting Ayutthaya:

Ayutthaya distinguishes itself from the rest of the frenetic touristic centers in Thailand: its tranquility, calm and safety, contrasts with the massive urban jungle of Bangkok. And the green spaces around the monuments with the bridges between the channels make it ideal to recharge and to relax before leaving to the North of Thailand.

The best and cheapest way to arrive in Ayutthaya is taking a train from Bangkok’s Hua Lamphomg railway station (which is located at MRT subway terminal). It will take around 90 minutes to get there and the price for a 3rd class ticket is   about 20baht.

Due to the large number and great extent of the monuments, the best way to visit the city is by bicycle. They can be rented all over town and the cost is between 40 and 100 baht a day.

Ayutthaya Bicycle

Two days and three nights, will be enough to visit Ayutthaya.

You can enter for free to some temples, others ( the most famous and important ones)  you have to pay an entrance fee of 50 Baht.

Other options are taking a boat ride to see the sunset and visiting museums like Thai Bot Museum or the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The Baan Hollanda and the Portuguese Village are residences that represent the first nations to arrive in Thailand and can be also visited.

In the evening, you can go to the center and have a good soup or beer, while listening to music or you can also take a walk near the illuminate temples.

You can explore as well the night market called the Bang Lan Light Market where you can taste the delicious and traditional coconut ice-cream. If it is Christmas season you can always enjoy the huge Christmas market: thousands of meters of people and lights. Two large aisles with several stalls selling items, from clothes, perfumes and shoes to delicious and typical food! Contests, live music and other shows, gentlemen and ladies provoking the visitors, announcing with loud speakers their amazing prices. I definitely recommend the barbecue stalls: fish, meat, vegetables, fruit and sweets, grilling slowly on your own table: how amazing

Monuments to visit:

Ayutthaya archaeological site has many ruins to visit. The main ones are:

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and Grand Palace: Famous for their three white constructions side by side. The Grand Palace held the giant gold-plated Buddha, melted when the city was abandoned.

Wat Phra Sri Sanphet and Grand Palace

Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit: Distinct from all other monuments, due to its more modern reconstruction. Attracts many devout Buddhists. It guards the seated golden Buddha, which has already been burned twice, once in the last invasion. Its restoration only ended in the 90s

Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bopit

Wat Mahathat: Beautiful and large ruins to visit, get involved and inspired. In this temple is the famous Buddha’s head, intertwined between the roots of a banyan tree. Of the various versions of its story the most famous tells us that a thief had hidden the head in the roots to fetch it later. When he returned, he was unable to cross the gates of Ayutthaya, being forced to leave behind the head.

Wat Mahathat
Wat Mahathat

Wat Ratchaburana: Built by King Chao Sam Phraya in 1424, in honor of his two older brothers who died while fighting each other for the Thai throne after their father’s death.

Wat Ratchaburana
Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Lokkayasutha: Here we find the famous temple with the large statue of the reclining Buddha, surrounded by innumerable flowers and incense, offered in search of protection and  good luck. Most of the time the Buddha is covered with a yellow or orange Buddhist costume.

Wat Lokkayasutha
Wat Lokkayasutha

Wat ChaiWattanaram: Crossing the Chao Phraya River, outside the historic center, is the grand temple complex of Wat Chai Wattanaram, probably the largest in Ayutthaya. The style of the temples was influenced by the culture of the Khmer, the people of Cambodia. For example, it can be seen that some central towers are more rounded. It is possible to find hundreds of headless Buddha statues forming corridors that lead us to imposing sculptures.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram