Our exploration of the central area of Thailand began in Ayutthaya, visiting the former capitol’s most important ruins and historical attractions.
The historic city of Ayutthaya, founded in 1350, was the second capitol of the Siamese Kingdom. It flourished from the 14th-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 the 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. Ayutthaya now is characterized by the remains of tall rang (reliquary towers) and Buddhist monasteries of monumental proportions, which give an idea of the city’s past size and the splendor of its architecture.
WAT MAHA THAT
Wat Maha That is the royal temple that houses Buddha’s relics. The temple is located on the city island in the central part of Ayutthaya. It is stated in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya that the construction of this temple’s main pagoda (Prang) was started by King Borommaracha I in 1374 and completed in King Ramesuan’s reign. The pagoda collapsed during King Songtham’s reign and was renovated in 1633, after King Prasat Thong ascended to the throne. After the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, the monastery was set on fire in the Burmese attack. The abandoned pagoda fell in decay during the reign of King Rama VI. Only the symmetrical base with staircases remain.
Oung-in in the reign of King Ramathibodee II, the 10th king of Ayutthaya had ordered to construct this temple in 1499 A.D. In 1569 A.D. Thailand was defeated by Burma for the first time. This temple became the place where the king of Thailand and king of Burma discussed peace issues and as witnesses they brought the Buddha image, the Holy book, and monks here (according to the peace agreement). After that in 1760 A.D., the king of Burma had invaded Thailand and used this temple to place cannons in and fire them into the royal palace. One of the shells hit a part of the royal palace and destroyed it. It is said that the Burmese king was wounded in the cannon blasts and died with his army on his way back to Burma. This temple has importance in art and holiness.
PHRA BUDDHA SAI YAT (THE RECLINING BUDDHA)
The Reclining Buddha of Wat Lokaya Sutha underwent major restoration in 1954 until it had the final form of today. The Reclining Buddha image is aligned to a north-south axis, where its head is pointing to the north while its face is facing west. The Buddha image from head to toes is 42m in length. There are lotus flowers supporting the Buddha’s head. The Buddha’s one foot is positioned on top of the other foot in a perfect right angle. All of the Buddha’s toes are of equal lengths.
In the areas in front of the Buddha image, there are traces of 24 octagon-shaped brick pillars surrounding the Buddha image, suggesting that the Buddha image was once encased by a Vihara.
BANG PA-IN PALACE (SUMMER PALACE)
The Royal Palace at Bang Pa-In has a history dating back to the 17th century. According to a chronicle of Ayutthaya, King Prasat Thong (1629-1656) had a palace constructed on Bang Pa-In Island in the Chao Phraya River. A contemporary dutch merchant, Jeremias van Vliet, reported that King Prasat Thong was an illegitimate son of King Ekathotsarot, who in his youth was shipwrecked on that island and had a son by a woman who befriended him. The boy grew up to become the Chief Minister. After having usurped the throne, he became known as King Prasat Thong.
The King founded a monastery, Wat Chumphon Nikayaram, on the land belonging to his mother on Bang Pa-In Island, and then had a pond dug and a palace built to the south of that monastery. The chronicle records the name of only one building, the Aisawan Thiphaya-art Royal Residence, which was constructed in 1632, the year of the birth of his son, the future King Narai (1656-1688). It is not known whether the palace was in use till the fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. However, by 1807, when the kingdom’s best poet, Sunthon Phu, sailed past Bang Pa-In, only a memory of the palace remained, for the site was neglected and overgrown. The palace was revived by King Rama IV of Chakridynasty, better known in the West as King Mongkut (1851-1868), who had a temporary residence constructed on the outer island of the Neo-Gothic style monastery. Named Wat Niwet Thammaprawat, it was built by his son and heir, King Chulalongkorn (Rama V).
The present-day royal palace dated from the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910), especially during the time 1872-1889, when most of the buildings standing today were constructed. Today the palace is used occasionally by Their Majesties King Bhumibol Adulyadej (Rama IX) and Queen Sirikit as a residence and for holding receptions and banquets.
Similar to most Thai royal palaces, the compound is divided into two sections, the Outer and the Inner Palace. Whereas the Outer Palace consists of buildings for public and ceremonial uses, the Inner Palace is reserved for the the King and his immediate family.
Our roots will forever be from here, America, born and raised. Yet, life requires us to move more frequently than we care to count. Whether living stateside or abroad, you can always find us traveling somewhere. We scout out places that you only think you can dream of one day seeing and we seek out those that aren’t found in guidebooks. We then bring them to life here in our travel memos, so hopefully, one day you too can visit them or at least be able to live vicariously through us. This blog isn’t just about crossing off places from a bucket list. It’s about absorbing and learning how other cultures grow and fit into the same world that we do. Life is short and the world is big. Enjoy and get out there!