AYUTTHAYA (100 kilometers north of Bangkok) was the capital of Thailand from 1350 until it was ransacked by the Burmese in 1767. For four centuries it was one of Asia's greatest cities. At its height it had perhaps a million people living its general vicinity and 4,000 war elephants. Designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya is laid out among trees, gardens, houses, fields and farms still in use today. Built on island situated between the confluence of the Chao Phraya River and two other rivers, it encompasses elaborately-decorated temples, some of which date back to the 12th century.

Describing his reaction to laying eyes on Ayutthaya the first time, Hou Weiping of Asia News Network wrote: My heart flipped at the sight of an immense wine-coloured brick sea. Each of the solid, rectangular red clay was baked hundreds of years ago to pave roads, pile shrines, construct spires and celebrate grandness. They made every aspect of the old Buddhist steeples exquisite, every line sharp, every detail distinct. They drew up so high as if an invisible magnet was stretching the steeples they built toward the sky. I stood, amazed, amidst the huge constellations of red brick buildings glowing in the sunset.

Some of the temples are little more than heaps of stones and bricks; others are nearly intact. Most of the major temples can be climbed for delightful views of the countryside. The most impressive structures resemble temples at Angkor Wat. They have ornately-carved stone stupas, and domes that look like bells with a javelin points sticking out of the top. Others have squared off bases and elaborate prangs that resemble a headdress on some great Hindu god. Many are made of reddish-colored bricks.

Accommodation: Ayutthaya has a variety of accommodation for visitors on nearly any budget, with options ranging from luxurious resorts to rustic village home stays. Many visitors stay in Bangkok and visit Ayutthaya on a day trip.

Ayutthaya: UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ayutthaya was designated a a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1991. According to UNESCO: It is located in Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Province. The total area of the World Heritage property is 289 hectares. Once an important center of global diplomacy and commerce, Ayutthaya is now an archaeological ruin, characterized by the remains of tall prang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, which give an idea of the city’s past size and the splendor of its architecture. [Source: UNESCO]

“Well-known from contemporary sources and maps, Ayutthaya was laid out according to a systematic and rigid city planning grid, consisting of roads, canals, and moats around all the principal structures. The scheme took maximum advantage of the city’s position in the midst of three rivers and had a hydraulic system for water management which was technologically extremely advanced and unique in the world.

“The integrity of the property as the ruins of the former Siamese capital is found in the preservation of the ruined or reconstructed state of those physical elements which characterized this once great city. These consist of first and foremost the urban morphology, the originality of which is known from contemporary maps of the time prepared by several of the foreign emissaries assigned to the Royal Court. These maps reveal an elaborate, but systematic pattern of streets and canals throughout the entire island and dividing the urban space into strictly controlled zones each with its own characteristic use and therefore architecture. The urban planning template of the entire island remains visible and intact, along with the ruins of all the major temples and monuments identified in the ancient maps. Wherever the ruins of these structures had been built over after the city was abandoned, they are now uncovered. In addition, the ruins of all the most important buildings have been consolidated, repaired and sometimes reconstructed.”

History of Ayutthaya

The Ayutthaya period is considered one of the most glorious eras of Thai history. The realm lasted for 417 years, with 33 kings from five dynasties; Ou-Thong, Supanapoom, Sukothai, Prasatthong, and Baanpluluang. It is the longest-lasting capital in Thai history with King Ou-Thong as the first king of the era. When it was the capital of Thailand, Ayutthaya was protected by six miles of walls. According to a Burmese account the city was defeated when get a great Thai cannon was loaded and lit but didn't fire. The Thai believed their most powerful spirit lived in the cannon and when it didn't go off they gave up. The Burmese destroyed many statues, buildings and works of art. If you see a headless a Buddha the chances are the Burmese—or perhaps looters—did it. See Floods

According to UNESCO: “The Historic City of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capital of the Siamese Kingdom. It flourished from the 14th to the 18th centuries, during which time it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a center of global diplomacy and commerce. Ayutthaya was strategically located on an island surrounded by three rivers connecting the city to the sea. This site was chosen because it was located above the tidal bore of the Gulf of Siam as it existed at that time, thus preventing attack of the city by the sea-going warships of other nations. The location also helped to protect the city from seasonal flooding. “The city was attacked and razed by the Burmese army in 1767 who burned the city to the ground and forced the inhabitants to abandon the city. The city was never rebuilt in the same location and remains known today as an extensive archaeological site. [Source: UNESCO]

“The city was ideally situated at the head of the Gulf of Siam, equi-distant between India and China and well upstream to be protected from Arab and European powers who were expanding their influence in the region even as Ayutthaya was itself consolidating and extending its own power to fill the vacuum left by the fall of Angkor. As a result, Ayutthaya became a center of economics and trade at the regional and global levels, and an important connecting point between the East and the West. The Royal Court of Ayutthaya exchanged ambassadors far and wide, including with the French Court at Versailles and the Mughal Court in Delhi, as well as with imperial courts of Japan and China. Foreigners served in the employ of the government and also lived in the city as private individuals. Downstream from the Ayutthaya Royal Palace there were enclaves of foreign traders and missionaries, each building in their own architectural style. Foreign influences were many in the city and can still be seen in the surviving art and in the architectural ruins.

“The Historic City of Ayutthaya is well-known from historical records. As one of the world’s largest cities of its time and a major political, economic and religious center, many visitors recorded facts about the city and their experiences there. The Siamese Royal Court also kept meticulous records; many were destroyed in the sack of the city, but some have remained and are an important source of authenticity. The same can be said for the testimony of works of art, wall painting, sculpture, and palm leaf manuscripts which survive from the period. Of particular note are the surviving mural paintings in the crypt of Wat Ratchaburana. Careful attention to the accurate interpretation of the ruins to the public for educational purposes also contributes to the property’s authenticity.

“The Ayutthaya school of art showcases the ingenuity and the creativity of the Ayutthaya civilization as well as its ability to assimilate a multitude of foreign influences. The large palaces and the Buddhist monasteries constructed in the capital, for example at Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Sanphet, are testimony to both the economic vitality and technological prowess of their builders, as well as to the appeal of the intellectual tradition they embodied. All buildings were elegantly decorated with the highest quality of crafts and mural paintings, which consisted of an eclectic mixture of traditional styles surviving from Sukhothai, inherited from Angkor, and borrowed from the 17th and 18th century art styles of Japan, China, India, Persia and Europe, creating a rich and unique expression of a cosmopolitan culture and laying the foundation for the fusion of styles of art and architecture popular throughout the succeeding Rattanakosin Era and onwards.

"Indeed, when the capital of the restored kingdom was moved downstream and a new city built at Bangkok, there was a conscious attempt to recreate the urban template and architectural form of Ayutthaya. Many of the surviving architects and builders from Ayutthaya were brought in to work on building the new capital. This pattern of urban replication is in keeping with the urban planning concept in which cities of the world consciously try to emulate the perfection of the mythical city of Ayodhaya. In Thai, the official name for the new capital at Bangkok retains “Ayutthaya” as part of its formal title.”

Getting Around Ayutthaya

Songtaew and tuk-tuk will go anywhere around Ayutthaya for 10 to 30 baht per person depending on the distance, destination. A tuk-tuk from the train station to any point in the old Ayutthaya zone is approximately 30 baht. Note that the trip on the island (old Ayutthaya city) itself costs 20 baht/trip maximum. To tour the ruins, the most economical and ecological option is to rent a bicycle from one of the guesthouses (40 to 50 baht/day). Walking is also an option, but not recommended during the hot or rainy seasons.

It is possible to charter a samlor, tuk tuk or songtaew by the hour or by the day to explore the ruins but the prices are relatively high by Thai standards (150 baht/hour, or 500 baht for the entire day). Another interesting way to explore the area is to charter a boat from Tha Chan Kasem (Chan Kasem Pier, next to Hua Ro Market) for a semicircular tour of the island that allows visitors to see some of the less accessible ruins. A long tailed boat with a capacity of up to 8 people can be hired for 400 baht for a 2 to 3 hour trip with stopovers at Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Phanan Choeng and Wat Chai Wattnaram.

Minibus services operating from the railway station into the city are also available. Hiring a minibus within Ayutthaya costs 250 - 300 baht/day. If you wish to travel between Ayutthaya and Bang Pa - In, minibuses regularly leave Chao Prom Market (on Chao Prom Road). Daily schedules start from 6.30am with a fare of 30 baht. The trip takes approximately 50 minutes.

Getting to Ayutthaya

Like Bangkok, Ayutthaya is located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River and can be reached via car, bus, boat, or train. Once there, visitors can explore the city with standard forms of local transportation, including songtaews, motorbike taxis, and tuk tuks, bicycles, or even elephants. By Train: Trains to Ayutthaya leave Bangkok's Hua Lumphong Station approximately every hour between 4.20am and 10.00pm Train schedules are available from the information booth at Hua Lumphong Station. Alternatively, call 0 2223 7010, 0 2223 7020, or 1690 or visit www.railway.co.th for reservations.

By Car: There are a variety of routes to drive from Bangkok to Ayutthaya.1) Take Highway No. 1 (Phahonyothin Road.) and then Highway No. 32. 2) Take Highway No. 304 (Chaeng Watthana Road.) or Highway No. 302 (Ngamwongwan Road.); turn right onto Highway No. 306 (Tiwanon Road.), then take Highway No. 3111 (Pathum Thani - Samkhok - Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena to Highway No. 3263. 3) Take Highway No. 306 (Bangkok - Nonthaburi - Pathum Thani Road.) and then take Highway No. 347.

By Bus: Ordinary buses depart from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal (Mo Chit 2) for Ayutthaya's main terminal on Naresuan Road every 20 minutes between 5am and 7pm The fare is 30 baht and the trip takes around 2 hours. Air-conditioned buses operate the same route every 20 minutes from 5.40am to 7.20pm (departing every 15 minutes between 7am and 5pm) at around 50 baht; the trip takes 1.5 hours when traffic north of Bangkok is light, otherwise it takes two hours.

By Minibus: There is a public van from Bangkok to Ayutthaya. Route No.1: Take the van at the Victory monument, in front of Robinson Department Store. When approaching the Great Pagoda circle in Ayutthaya, get dropped off and take a motorcycle taxi for about THB10 to Wat Yai Chaimongkol. Route No.2: Take the van at the Southern Bus Terminal (At Q8 Gas Station next to the Barn House Restaurant) to Ayutthaya city centre. Take a local means of transport i.e. bus, tuk tuk or motorcycle taxi to Wat Yai Chaimongkol. The fares are very low.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

Orientation : The modern city of Ayutthaya is situated at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya (which flows south to Bangkok), the Pa Sak and the smaller Lopburi. A canal connects the rivers, encircling the town into kind of makeshift island. Long-tailed boats can be rented from the landing near Chan Kasem Palace. What Phanan, Wat Phutthaisawan, Wat Kasatthirat and War Chai Wattanaram can be seen from the canal.

There are hundreds of ruins in the Ayutthaya area and giving the place its due requires time and determination. The main central ruins can be visited on foot. These and some of the ones that are further away can be visited using a rented bicycle. With a bit of planning a nice day can be spent visiting a several places on foot, by bicycle and on a boat.

Most tourists start off by visiting the places near the centre of the city: Wat Praseesanpet, the ancient royal palace, the root-covered sandstone Buddha’s head and Wat Ratburana, built by King Baromarajadiraj II and place where the Oath of Allegiance Ceremony is assumed to have occurred. Tourists that have time cross the river to the eastern side of the island where the old capital was located. Situated here is Wat Yai Chaimongkol with its prominent chedi and Wat Panancherng with a Buddha statue believed to have been cast twenty years prior to the establishment of the Ayutthaya kingdom.

Wat Samanagotharam, Wat Gudidao, Wat Jakkrawat, Wat Ayothaya and Wat Dusitaram are among the temples open to visitors. The unique architecture of these temples includes huge bell-shaped chedi decorated with lotus-shaped stucco. On the northern side, the chedi of Wat Mae Nang Pluem is surrounded with beautifully carved stucco lions. The last spots tourists on a day tour of Ayutthaya visit are Wat Puttaisawan, a temple built by King Ou-Thong, and Wat Chaiwattanaram, resembling an Angkor Wat structure, on the western side of the island.

Tourist Office and Website: Tourism Authority of Thailand , Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Office. 108/22 Mu 4, Tambon Phratuchai Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, 13000, Tel. +66 3524 6076-7, Fax. +66 3524 6078, E-mail Address: tatyutya@tat.or.th, Website: Website tourismthailand.org Hours Open: Open everyday from 8:00am - 6:00pm. Admission: Many of the temples have their own entrance fees of 10, 20 or 50 baht. A package ticket valid for 30 days is available for 220 baht, covering admission to Wat phra Si Sanphet and the Ancient Palace Complex, Wat Mahathat, Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Phra Ram and Wat Maheyong. Ayutthaya Historical Park provides an audio tour in English describing Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Chai Watthanaram, and Wat Mahathat. Available at Ayutthaya Historical Park ticketing counter. The fee is 150 baht.

Wats at Ayutthaya

Wat Phanan Choeng (on the Chao Phraya River, south of Phra Nakhon Si and southeast of Ayutthaya town) is a riverside temple that predates the establishment of Ayutthaya by 26 years. Founded in 1324, it houses a huge, much-revered 30-meter-high seated Buddha which attracts worshippers from all over Thailand. Other Sukhothai and Ayutthaya style images in the temple include one made from gold alloy and another made of silver. The temple itself is thought to be of Khmer origin. Location: Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra NakhonSi Ayutthaya, Tel. +66 3524 1708.; Hours Open: Open everyday from 8.00am-5.00pm Admission: 20 baht. Getting There: The easiest way to get there is take the ferry from the pier near Phom Phet fortress. A few extra baht will allow you to take a bicycle on the boat.

Wat Ratchaburana (near Pa Than Bridge opposite Wat Mahathat) was built under King Borom Rachathirat II (Chao Sam Phraya). Its two pagodas were built on the ground where Chao Ai and Chao Yi engaged in a one-on-one, elephant-back battle in which both were killed. Later, he established a wihaan combined with the pagodas and upgraded it to be monastery. Nearby are the smaller ruins of Wat Suwannawat, a 400-year-old temple eight chedis, a bot and a wihaan arranged in a circle Admission: 50 baht.

Wat Puttaisawan (Tambol Rasome, Amphur Pachee, PranakornsriAyutthaya) was built by King Oo-Thong. Wat Puttaisawan. One of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya and one of the five main stupas of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, it is a big, well-preserved temple situated in an appealing manner among the villagers on the bank of Chao Praya River. Here, visitors can worship the Buddha image and if they are lucky they can observe sword fight training at the Sword School of Wat Puttaisawan. Inside the temple, there is also a wall painting of Praputta Kosajarn during his visit to Sri Lanka. The wall painting was created by Ayutthaya artists. Beside the temple, there is a star-like shape belfry, which is the invention of the artisans of that time. Wat Puttaisawan is popular for their Jatukam.

Other Temples in Ayutthaya include Wat Lokaya Sutha, which contains a large reclining Buddha; Wat Raj Burana, partially ruined by still impressive; Wat Damrik Raj, simple and dignified, with a crumbling. Wat Phra Maya is a royal palace founded in 1384. It is spread out over a large area and has a huge wall and beautiful columns. Although much of it is ruins it is by still impressive; Kala Temple is a temple complex centered around a 10th-century Khmer “prang” with three huge water-filled urns which are used by a troop of monkeys as swimming pools. Sometimes the monkeys dive into the urns from the branches of overhanging trees.

Wang Lung Royal Palace and the Wats Around It

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (northern end of Si Sanphet Road in Ayutthaya) is one of the grandest-looking temples in Ayutthaya and its original royal temple. Built in the 14th century, it served as the kingdom’s royal chapel, as Wat Phra Kaeo does in Bangkok today. In Ayutthaya's heyday Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the largest temple in the city. The three main chedis, which have been restored, contain the ashes of three Ayutthaya kings.. The royal chapel does not have any monks and novice inhabitants. The temple can be climbed for a nice view of Ayutthaya. Admission 50 baht.

Wang Lung Royal Palace (surrounding Wat Phra Si Sanphet) was a large compound, whose foundations are still visible. This palace was built by King U-Thong upon the founding of the city. Used as a residential palace, it became a monastery in the reign of King Ramathibodi I. When King Borom Trai Lokanat became monarch he commanded the construction of new living quarters, this residential palace was transformed into a temple, and the establishment of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. The compound once contained a 16-meter-high standing Buddha covered with 250 kilograms of gold, which was melted down by Burmese invaders.

Across a road from Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a wonderful garden with a teak pavilion that was used by the Thai kings 500 years ago. The fact the pavilion is still standing will give you some idea of how strong teak is. Next to the garden stands Phra Mangala Bophit, a huge, blackened 15th-century bronze Buddha. It is one of the largest coated bronze Buddha images in Thailand. The structure (“wihaan”) that protects it was built in 1956. East of the old palace grounds, inside the river loop, is Wat Thammikarat, with its overgrown ruins and lion sculptures.

Wat Phra Mahathat (on the corner of Chee Kuri and naresuan Roads) dates to the 14th century and was built during the reign of King Ramesuan. Despite being badly damaged during the Burmese invasion it retains an impressive cambodian-style prang. Across the road is Wat Ratburana, whose chedis contain some murals from the early Ayuuthaya period.

Wat Phra Meru (reached by a bridge across for the royal palace grounds) is worth a look because it escaped destruction by the Burmese in 1767 although it has been periodically restored. The central sanctuary (“bot”) was built in 1546 and features fortress-like walls and pillars. During the Burmese invasion the Burmese king Chao Along Phaya chose the site to fire cannons at the royal palace. He was fattaly injured when one of the cannons exploded, and this eneded the invasion. Inside the bot is an impressive carved wood celing and and six-meter-high, Ayutthaya-style stitting Buddha. In the smaller wihaan is green stone Buddha from Ceylon, sitting European-style in a chair.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram

Wat Chaiwatthanaram (a few kilometers southwest from Ayutthaya town on the banks of the Chao Phraya River, to the west of the city island) is a recently restored temple which will give you some idea of what the Ayutthaya temples were like back in the 15th century. Monks still buzz around and keep the place tidy. Rows and rows of Buddha statues and flowers line the walkway that leads to the main kaiser- helmet-shaped stupa.

The central prang at Wat Chai Wattanaram illustrates the basic features of Ayutthaya-style architecture. At the top of the dome-like prang are pediments, antelix decorations and circular tiers symbolizing the lower heavesn. The base is topped by platforms representing the celestial regions of the Traphum. In the middle are niches with sculpted guardians or Buddha images.

Wat Chai Wattanaram was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother and was conceived as a replica of the Angkor temple. A Royal monastery, the temple features a huge prang which is surrounded by smaller prangs. This symbolizes Mount Meru, the abode of the heavenly gods. Now restored. Getting There: the temple is accessible by bicycle and a long-tailed boat trip from Chankasem Palace Pier. This 1-hour trip to the temple costs approximately 300 to 400 bahts (round-trip).

Wat Yai Chaimongkon (outside of Ayutthaya city to the southeast in the same direction as the railway station) was constructed in the reign of King U-Thong. Its large pagoda is visible from far away. King Naresuan the Great commanded that the pagoda be built to celebrate the victory of his single-handed combat on the elephant back. He also intended a huge construction to match the large pagoda of Wat Phukhao Thong, and named it “Phra Chedi Chaiyamongkhon”. Hours Open: open everyday from 8.00am-6.00pm Admission: 20 baht. For more information Tel: 0 3524 4193. Getting There: By Bus: Frequent services from the North Bus Terminal of Bangkok (Mohchit 2). When approaching the Great Pagoda circle in Ayutthaya, get dropped off and take a motorcycle taxi for about THB10 to Wat Yai Chaimongkol.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon (on Route 3059, near Phanan Choeng Temple, in southeast Ayutthaya town) is one of the most important temples of Ayutthaya. Popular with both Thais and foreign tourists, especially on the weekends, the reconstructed pagoda it is the tallest in Ayutthaya. Behind the temple is the palace of King Naresuan. Around it is a pleasant park. Wat Yai Chai Mongkol also features dozens of life-size sitting Buddhas covered in saffron robes donated by religious supplicants.

According to legend Yai Chai Mongkhon Temple was built in 1087 by King Naresuan. King of Hong Sa and the king of Ayutthaya, King Narai had a competition of constructing pagodas around the site of the present temple. The previous name of this temple was Pha Keaw which was built in 1357 after the deaths from cholera of Chao Keaw and Chao Tai, the sons of King U Thong.

In 1592, Phra Maha Upparacha who was the leader of Myanmar’s army moved his troops to Ayutthaya. King Naresuan and Phra Eka Thotsarot were the leaders of Thai army. In the ensuing battle, the Thai army was not completely victorious because part of the army did not arrive in time. The king was very upset and wanted to execute some of the men. However, Somdej Phra Wannarat (Pa Keaw Temple) asked for the life of those soldiers. Somdej Phra Wannarat also recommended to make the pagoda sixty meters high and gave it the name Chai Mongkhon. Local people always call it Yai Chai Mongkhon Temple because Yai means big. On the pagoda, there are two molded lime Buddha images at the foot of the stairs and a huge Buddha image in front of the pagoda. The left one is called Chao Kaew and the right one is called Chao Tai.

Museums at Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya Historical Study Center (near Chao Sam Praya National Museum) contains models of the royal, religious, commercial and daily activities of people who lived in the Ayutthaya Period. The $6.8 million facility was built with Japanese funding near the area where Japanese lived during the Ayutthaya period.

Bang Pa-In Palace (20 kilometers south of Ayutthaya) served as the summer palace for the Thai kings during the Ayutthaya period. Restored by King Rama IV and extensively renovated by King Rama V, this sprawling complex features an unusual collection of buildings, including a Thai-style pavilion, a neoclassical palace, a Swiss chalet and a Buddhist temple, called Wat Nivet Thammaprawat, that resembles an English Gothic Church.

The main attractions include: 1) Aisawanthipphaya, a pavilion is located in the middle of a pond built by King Rama V, featuring an image of the king in the royal uniform of a field marshal; 2) Hem Monthian Thewarat Tower (Phra Chao Prasat Thong shrine), a Cambodian-style stupa with an image of Phra Chao Prasat Thong; 3) the Varopas Piman Pavilion, a two-storey building with Corinthian columns, a throne and stateroom.

Uthayan Phum Sathian Pavilion is the main pavilion of Bang Pa-In Palace. The original two-storey pavilion made of wood and painted green was lost in a fire. The current building is a concrete reconstruction. Withun Tassana Tower is a three-storey building, round on the top which is used to be a telescope viewpoint.

Chao Samphraya National Museum

Chao Samphraya National Museum (near the intersection of Rojana Road, Ayutthaya city’s main street, Si Sanphet Rd, near the center of town) is the main museum at Ayutthaya. It has an extensive collection of Ayutthaya-period artifacts, including bronze Buddha images, carved wooden doors and panels. The most valuable art objects are the royal gilded ornaments found in 1958 in the crypt of Wat Rajaburana from the early Ayutthaya period.

Objects at Chao Sam Praya National Museum include ancient treasures from Ratburana Temple, Mahatat Temple, and Sri Suriyothai Chedi. In 1956, the treasure of Ratburana Temple was looted. The treasure was recovered and found to contain over a hundred kilograms of gold. Many of the Buddha amulets, found among the gold and other things, were sold to villagers and the profits were used to construct the museum’s first building. The museum was named “Chao Sam Praya” to honour King Sam Praya who built Ratburana Temple. King Bhumibhol and Queen Sirikit opened the museum in 1961.

The gold ornament showroom is located on the second floor of the first building. Over a hundred pieces of gold are displayed in the hall, which is divided into three rooms according to the treasure’s original locations: Ratburana Temple, Mahatat Temple, and Sri Suriyothai Chedi. Each piece is exquisitely adorned with colored gemstones. Various Buddha images are also displayed here with explanations describing the era and the place of discovery.

An Indian cultural influence is manifested in the second building. A map of the route from India to China and Thailand indicates the unique culture of Ayutthaya as shown in marble and bronze Buddha images in different postures. The third building features country life. Folklore, tools, and the lifestyles of Ayutthaya people, many of which have disappeared are exhibited in a well-organized area. Such objects represent how life today has so greatly changed from the past. Location: Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm Admission: 150 baht Getting There: in the center of the historical island at the west end of Rochana road just past the Ayutthaya History Study Center.

Chantharakasem National Museum

Chantharakasem National Museum(Ou-Thong Road, near Hua Ror Market and the river in the northeast corner of Ayutthaya) houses a collection of objects and artifacts, mostly Buddha images found at Ayutthaya. The museum is located in lovely Chandrakasem Palace, an old palace belonging to the viceroy of Ayutthaya and restored under King Rama IV. The palace used to be the front palace and the rersidence of the King’s son, the crown prince of Ayutthaya. Apart from the Front Palace, Ayutthaya also had two more palaces; the Royal Palace and the Back Palace. The Royal Palace was used by the King and the Back Palace was the house of other members of the royal family.

The Front Palace was built by King Thammaracha to be the residence for his son, Prince Naresuan, in 1577. The Front Palace became the residence for crown prince and was occupied by King Baromakote and King Narai. The Front Palace was severely damaged during the Burmese invasion of 1767, partially because of its close proximity to Mahchai Fortress where the city walls were breached. It was later renovated by King Rama IV. Jaturamook Pavillion and Piman Rattanaya Throne-Hall were later added to the palace, which was renamed to Chandrakasem Palace in 1853.

Highlights of the museum include the Jaturamook Pavilion, ahalf-teakwood-half-concrete building decorated in traditional Thai style with a set gable apex decorations. The roof is delicately tiled with the exquisite Chinese carved tiles. This building contains antiques such as old Buddha images, ancient weaponry, and royal utensils. Piman Rattanaya Throne-Hall is a group of 4 buildings constructed in western style. The front of each building faces an open area in the middle. Today, these buildings display antiques such as traditional craftworks, altar tables, and royal thrones.

Pisaisunluck tower is a 4-story tower initially built by King Narai. It was later renovated by King Rama IV to be an observatory tower. Mahat Thai Building, a one-story teakwood structure, was built in the period of Phraya Boran Rachatanin as the government office. Several rooms in this building are used to show celadon utensils and traditional five-colored Thai ceramics. Location: Tumbol huaroe U-tong rd 13000, 13000, Thailand Hours Open: 9:00am-4:00pm Admission: 20 baht

Conservation at Ayutthaya

According to UNESCO: The designated area of the World Heritage property, which is confined to the former Royal Palace precinct and its immediate surrounding and covers the most important sites and monuments and ensures the preservation of the property’s Outstanding Universal Value. Initially it was intended to manage the remaining historic monuments through complementary planning and protection controls, however, present economic and social factors warrant an extension of the historical park to cover the whole of Ayutthaya Island for the protection of all associated ancient monuments and sites as well as to strengthen the integrity of the World Heritage property. Extending the boundaries of the World Heritage property to include the whole of Ayutthaya Island will bring the boundaries of the property into exact conformity with those of the historic city.

”The Historic City of Ayutthaya is managed as a historical park. It is gazetted and protected by Thai law under the Act on Ancient Monuments, Antiques, Objects of Art and National Museums. An extension of the World Heritage property is under preparation which will cover the complete footprint of the city of Ayutthaya as it existed in the 18th century, when it was one of the world’s largest urban areas.

”This will bring other important ancient monuments, some of which are outside of the presently-inscribed area under the same protection and conservation management afforded to the current World heritage property. In addition, new regulations for the control of construction within the property’s extended boundaries are being formulated to ensure that the values and views of the historic city are protected. With these changes, all new developments in the modern city of Ayutthaya will be directed to areas outside of the historic city’s footprint and the inscribed World Heritage property.”

Image Sources:

Text Sources: Tourist Authority of Thailand, Thailand Foreign Office, The Government Public Relations Department, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books and other publications.

Last updated August 2020

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