A rich history and developing modern culture make Ayutthaya a fascinating place to visit. Only 85km north of Bangkok, this special place possesses both the ruins of an ancient city and the feel of a modern one. With its unique history and many great things to see in Ayutthaya, it’s a worthy cultural destination to include on your holiday in Thailand.
King U Thong founded Ayutthaya in 1350 as the second Siamese capital. The island city flourished, experiencing a population increase to 1 million citizens in the 18th century. Ayutthaya island is surrounded by three rivers: Chao Phraya, Lopburi, and Pa Sak. The waters and the ever-increasing population created a thriving trade hub, drawing merchants from many countries to the area. Ayutthaya’s openness was also its downfall: the Burmese destroyed it in 1767, burning most of the city to the ground, ransacking the buildings, and enslaving any remaining citizens.
Ayutthaya Historical Park features the ancient ruins of the original capital city. Stone statues, temples, and palaces that survived the attacks can still be seen within the park. The majority of the ruins are open to the public for a small fee. A small assortment of remaining treasures and other relics are in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
The island is full of interesting temples; some remain functional, but most are in ruins. Although some of the ruins have been renovated or conserved, there aren’t enough monks now to facilitate the upkeep. If your time is limited, don’t miss Wat Phra Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, and Wat Thammikarat.
Wat Phra Mahathat is a must-see, with rows of majestic headless Buddha statues and a very famous tree, the roots twisting and weaving around a Buddha head. Wat Ratchaburana is next door, featuring a fully-restored prang that you can climb (an intricately carved spire resembling a tower), and original temple paintings. Wat Thammikarat is the ruins of one of the most magnificent temples in the world, and features a 12 metre tall Buddha, inlaid with spectacular glass mosaic.
As well as the temple ruins, the museums at Ayutthaya are very popular with visitors. If you can only see one museum, choose the Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre, dedicated to the history of the island and its culture. This fascinating museum gives an idea of what the area was like prior to the devastation by the Burmese. The Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre contributes historical depth and cultural significance of the ruins to the Siamese, helping you to enhance your understanding when you see them for yourself.
The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum holds relics from the original city, mainly intricate golden statues. For a first-hand look at the intriguing contents of the original temples, check this museum out. The Baan Hollanda Museum is focused on the Dutch settlers, their lives, cultures, and relationships with the Siamese. If you're interested in the diverse cultural development of Ayutthaya, you should also check out the Japanese and Portuguese settlements: both of them lie completely in ruins, but the Japanese site has a great museum, and the impressive ruins of the Dominican Church in the Portuguese settlement are definitely worth a trip.
Filled with majestic stone temple ruins, and bursting with stories and precious relics from a bygone era, Ayutthaya is well worth your time in Thailand if you're looking for a historical adventure. Talk to us to include Ayutthaya in your Thailand holiday.