A Tranquil Day Out of the City
05.08.2011 - 05.08.2011 34 °C
Ayutthaya is about 80 kilometers (50 miles) north of Bangkok and is the old capital of Thailand. The city became Thailand's capital in the mid-14th century and remained the capital until the late 18th century when the Burmese attacked and sacked Ayutthaya.
The Ayutthaya period is looked on by many as the time when much of what is now thought of as "Thai style" was developed. In temples, this is when you see a marked transition from the Khmer style "prangs" to the bell shaped "chedi." While Sukothai further north is seen as the birth of the Thai kingdom, Ayutthaya is seen today as its high point. Around Ayutthaya are signs of the Japanese, French, Dutch and Portuguese traders that came to the Thai court.
Ayutthaya is a relatively low-key site. You can spend a leisurely day here, or a quick stop, all with relatively low pressure compared to many other tourist sites.
The old city itself was founded in 1351 on an island about 4 km wide, formed by the Chaophraya, Lopburi and Pasak Rivers. A wall once surrounded the island, though only a few parts can still be seen today. King Ramathibodi I, is known as the founder of Ayutthaya.
The city grew rich on the produce of the land, as well as by exploiting expanding trade routes between India and China. The empire grew to control most of what is now Thailand, and by the time the first Europeans arrived in the middle of the 17th century, Ayutthaya was a city of more than a million people, twice as big as London at the time. The city sat at the center of a network of nearly 140 km of canals. This Golden Age of Siam came to an end when the Burmese sacked the city, setting fire to the temples, stealing all the gold and destroying important buildings such as the kings palace, in 1767.
What remains today are a few ruins which are a delight to venture round for a full day or two. The main sights are concentrated in the northwest corner of the island, while the modern town hugs the east coast. There are also numerous other attractions spread around the opposite side of the rivers.
Ayutthaya is a great destination for those who want to get out of the city and explore Thai history and culture, but are short on time for grand places like Loei.