Pictures of the floating world

8 gems of Ayutthaya, Thailand 

You must visit Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, when you’re in Thailand!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Ayutthaya, the ancient capital of Siam, was founded in 1350 (more ancient Sukhothai with the capital of the same name coexisted with it and later was absorbed by Ayutthaya). It was a prosperous trade centre and is believed to have been the largest city in the world of its time: about one million people lived here!

There were Royal palaces, temples, tombs…But in 1767 it all was burned down by Burmese and the capital was moved to Bangkok. Ayutthaya was abandoned for centuries, many historical landmarks are still in ruins but a few ones are open to tourists.

The historical park of Ayutthaya is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can easily see it on a day trip from Bangkok. 

1. Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

The beginning of Wat Yai Chaimongkhon dates back to 1357 as Wat Pakaew monastery when it was founded by King Ramathibodi I (U – Thong).

In 1593 a large stupa (chedi) was built here to celebrate the victory over the Burmese: at Nong Sarai an epic Battle of Elephants between Burma and Ayutthaya took place, where King Naraesuan the Great managed to kill Phra Maha Uparacha of Burma (both were riding elephants!).

During the reign of the King Naraesuan the Great, the Reclining Buddha was installed here (the one you see now is a modern copy). 

Later on, the place became known as Wat Yai Chaimongkhon. After centuries of lying in ruins, the temple was re-established in 1957 and still operates now – so remember it when visiting the place, it’s not only an architectural landmark but still a religious site!

If you visit a grand chedi, you’ll find a well in the chamber in the centre of it. If you make a wish and throw a coin right inside of it, the legend says, your wish will be granted. 

2. Wat Mahathat

Wat Mahathat was one of the most important temples of Ayutthaya. It was located just outside the Royal Palace and contained important Buddha relics. After an archaeological examination, a casket with temple treasures, precious stones and even the relics of Buddha were found here!

Many parts of this temple including the main prang are now in ruins but you can still walk around it exploring the meaning behind every hall – there are signs in English with all the info there. If you wonder why there are so many destroyed statues of Buddha – they all were decapitated by Burmese, and those are the excavated remains.

Moreover, Wat Mahathat now contains one of the main symbols of Ayutthaya: stone Buddha’s head covered by the roots of a banyan tree – a tree where Buddha found enlightenment. The most trustable explanation is that this is just a natural phenomenon. As I mentioned, the Burmese cut down heads of Buddha statues around the temple, and one of them got trapped in the tree roots and elevated above the ground while the tree was growing. However I must admit that this looks very impressive, and it’s understandable that so many legends are linked to it.

3. Wat Ratchaburana

Wat Ratchaburana is another temple right by the Wat Mahathat, and you’ll notice its main feature from anywhere around.

It has one of the most beautiful prangs in the whole Ayutthaya! It’s well preserved and definitely worth a glance to give you an impression of how beautiful Ayutthaya must’ve been in the past.

4. Wat Phra Si Sanphet 

Next, I’d suggest you go to Wat Phra Si Sanphet. It was the largest and the most important temple of Ayutthaya back in time! The first royal palace of Ayutthaya was built on this site in 1351.

A new palace was built in 1448, and later on this place became a temple with a royal chapel inside – it contained a large gold Buddha! The main royal ceremonies took place here as well.

The main site to explore here now is the three large stupas containing the ashes of three kinds of Ayutthaya: King Borom Trilokanat, King Borom Rachathirat III (both built by King Rama Thibodi II for his father and brother respectively) and King Rama Thibodi II (built by King Borom Rachthirat IV for his father).

The rest of the temple lies in ruins.

5. Wat Mongkhon Bophit

Phra Mongkhon Bophit is a large Buddha statue dating back to around 1538. It’s almost 17 metres tall! Now the large Buddha is under restoration, but you can still visit the site itself with the modern temple around the statue.

The Big Buddha was created in another temple, Wat Chi Chiang, and when it was hit by lighting, the statue was transferred here to Wat Mongkhon Bophit, and the building was erected to surround it (which was rebuilt numerous times as well).

Wat Phra Si Sanphet is literally 1 min walk from it. 

6. Wat Chaiwatthanaram 

Wat Chaiwatthanaram is located a bit away from the rest of the temples but it is one of the most beautiful of them. This royal temple dates to 1630, and you can explore its prangs, walk along the walls and see 120 statues all around.

The restoration of this place started only in 1987 – and you can still see it right under way (you can see part of it in scaffolding right now with sponsorship from World Monument Funds, US Embassy in Thailand and the Fine Arts Department of Thailand.

This site is also movie-famous because many films shot in Ayutthaya like Kickboxer (1989), Mortal Kombat (1995), and Thai movie Bupphaesannivas (Love Destiny) were created right here!

7. Elephant Kraal of Ayutthaya

You might spot elephants walking around Ayutthaya – if you’re interested, you might want to have a glance at Elephant Corral of Ayutthaya.t used to be a site for capturing elephants (a traditional local activity). Now you can still find elephants on the premises of Historical park of Ayutthaya.

You can ride them here and feed them as well. We’re personally against riding elephants just for entertaiment so we just observed those wonderful animals.

8. Lak Mueang

The Lak Mueang, meaning City Pillar, is a gorgeous modern white monument within the premises of the Historical park. No one really knows where the ancient city pillars are but we know for sure that this building was erected in 1982 and is dedicated to spirits.

You might also like my other blogs about Asia.

Hope you liked my blog!
Anna xxx

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