The ancient city of Ayutthaya, Thai capital for 417 years, is one of Thailand's major tourist attractions. Many ancient ruins and art works can be seen in a city that was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong when the Thais were forced Southwards by northern neighbours. During the period of Ayutthaya being the Thai capital, 33 kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767.
Ayutthaya is 72 kilometers north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. Such ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indochina's most prosperous cities. The Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, avast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO list of World Heritage since December 13, 1991.
PHRA NAKHON SI AYUTTHAYA's ATTRACTIONS
Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre This centre is located on Rochana Road. It is a national research institute devoted to the study of Ayutthaya, especially during the period when Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand. The Centre is responsible for the Museum of the history of Ayutthaya, which exhibits reconstructions from Ayutthaya's past. The centre also supports an information service, and a library containing historical materials about Ayutthaya.
The Centre is open everyday except Monday and Tuesday from 9.00 a.m.-4.30 p.m., Saturday and Sunday from 9.00 a.m.- 5.00 p.m.
Chao Sam Phraya National Museum This is on Rochana Road, opposite the city wall. It houses various antique bronze Buddha images and famous carved panels and different kings of Buddhist altars. A receptacle at the Thai Pavilion contains relics of Lord Buddha and objects of art more than 500 years old. The museum also has a substantial collection of local artifacts.
The museum is open everyday except Monday and Tuesday and National Holidays from 9.00 a.m.- 4.00 p.m.
Wihan Phra Monglzhon Bophit The principal Buddha image is one of Thailand's largest bronze images. Many small Buddha images were also discovered. The Vihara was destroyed when the Burmese sacked Ayutthaya in 1767 and was rebuilt in 1956 in its original style.
Ancient Palace This was originally built by King U-Thong. During the reign of King Barom Trailokkanat and later kings, several new buildings were added, including Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Notable buildings are Wihan Somdet Pavilion, Sanphet Prasat Pavilion, Suriyat Amarin Pavilion , Chakkrawat Phaichayon Pavilion, Banyon Ratanat Pavilion and The Tri Muk Building. These pavilions were completely destroyed in 1767, leaving only brick foundations, porticoes and walls. The Tri Muk Building, a wooden structure with a brick foundation, was rebuilt in its original style at the command of King Chulalongkorn in 1907.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet This is the most important temple within the Royal Palace compound and corresponds to The Emerald Buddha Temple in Bangkok's Grand Palace. In 1500 a 16-meters high standing Buddha was cast by King Ramathipodi II. The image was covered with gold weighing some 170 kilogrammes. In 1767, the Burmese set fire to the image to melt off the gold, completely destroying the image and the temple.
Nearby are three Ceylonese-style chedis built during the 15th century to enshrine the ashes of three Ayutthayan kings. These were renovated in 1956.
Khun Phaen House Khun Phaen's Thai-style house conforms to descriptions in a popular Thai literary work. Khun Phaen's house is near Wihan Phra Monkhon Bophit.
Wat Na Phramen This recently-restored temple is situated opposite the Ancient Palace and is an important 13th century temple. The most interesting objects are the principal Buddha image, fully decorated in regal attire, and another image made of black stone in the small Vihara.
Wat Phra Maha That This temple is on the corner of Chi Kun Road and Naresuan Road. It was built by King Ramesuan in 1384. The major consturction was the high pagoda, or prang, which was destroyed by Burmese invaders. When the government undertook to restore all Ayutthaya ruins in 1956, the Fine Arts Department excavated the pagoda and found a buried treasure chest containing many valuables. Among objects discovered were a relic of Lord Buddha, placed inside a golden casket, several golden Buddha images in different sizes, and many other objects in gold, ruby and crystal. These are now housed in Bangkok's National Museum.
Wat Ratburana This temple is situated opposite the Maha That temple and should he considered its twin. It is the most important temple built by King Boromraja II, the seventh Ayutthayan King, at his brother's cremation site. During restoration in 1958, many ancient valuables were found, including Royal Regalia made of gold and jewels, rare and antique jewel and gold pieces of superb craftsmanship, and golden Buddha images.
Chankasem Palace This palace was built during the reign of King Maha Thammaraja, the 17th Ayutthayan monarch, for his son's residence (King Naresuan). Like other ruins, the palace was destroyed by the Burmese and left unrepaired for a long time. King Mongkut of the present Chakri dynasty ordered reconstruction of this palace for use as a residence during his occasional visits to Ayutthaya.
It is now used as a national museum and opens everyday, except Monday and Tuesday, from 9.00 a.m. to 4.00 p.m. Chedi Phu Khao Thong This temple is generally called "Golden Mount Pagoda". It is some 80 meters high and is located on Ayutthaya's northern outskirts. Purportedly, this pagoda was built in Mon (Burmese) style by King Burengnong of Burma to commemorate Burmese victory during the 1569 invasion of Ayutthaya. When Ayutthaya's independence was restored by King Naresuan in 1584, the pagoda was remodelled in Thai style. In 1956, the government placed a golden ball, weighing 2, 500 grammes, on top of the pagoda to celebrate the Buddhist religion's 25th century.
The Elephant Kraal The Kraal, locally called "Phaniat", was used for the capture of wild elephants in ancient times. It is a spacious enclosure made of massive teak logs. Behind the Kraal is the pavilion housing the royal seat. The last capture of elephants in the Kraal occured in May 1903, during King Chulalongkorn's reign, as a demonstration for royal guests.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon This temple is also called "Wat Chao Phraya Thai". It is located a few minutes outside of Ayutthaya. It was built by King U-Thong in 1357 for meditation. In 1592, when King Naresuan defeated Burmese by killing the Burmese Crown Prince in single-handed combat on elephants, he constructed the temple's large pagoda to match the high pagoda at Chedi Phu Khao Thong which had purportedly been built by the Burmese. This massive pagoda, in ruinous state at the present, is visible from a great distance.
Wat Phrachao Phananchoeng This monastery located south of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya has no record as to its date of construction or the person causing its construction. It existed before Ayutthaya was founded as the capital. The principal image in the Wihan called "Phrachao Phananchoeng" was built in A.D. 1325; it is a golden Buddha of 19 metres high made of stucco in the attitude of Subduing Evil; considered beautiful, it is most revered by the inhabitants of Ayutthaya.
Wat Suwandaram This is a chakri dynasty royal temple, an Ayutthaya period temple which had been beautifully restored and preserved. The walls of the main chapel have foundations that dip in the centre, typical architecture of that time. Delicately carved columns support the roof. Inside walls are decorated with brilliantly coloured frescoes. It remains muse as a temple today.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram This monastery is located on the bank of the Chao Phraya river to the west of the city island. It was built by the royal command of King Prasat Thong. The existing main Prang and pagodas around the corners are still in good shape.
Bang Pa-In Palace Tel: (035)261044 Bang Pa-In Palace is located in Tambon Ban Len, Amphoe Bang Pa-In, 18 kilometers south of Ayutthaya township. It lies 58 kilometers north of Bangkok by rail, 61 kilometers by road. To access to Barry Pa-In from Ayutthaya one can go by Phahonyothin road and make a right turn at Km.35 for another distance of 7 kilometers to the Bang Pa-In Palace. The palace is open to the public everyday from 8.30-16.00 hrs. Admission fee is 50 Baht per person.
Originally, there was a riverine island. When Prasat Thong became the Ayutthayan King (1630-1655), he had the Chumphor Nikayaram Temple built on his family estate. Later, he had a palace built on a lake in the middle of the island where he could periodically reside. The palace, surrounded by a lake 400 meters wide, and the Chumphon Nikayaram Temple, are all that remain of King Prasat Thong'; construction work at Bang Pa-In.
Bang Pa-In was used as a country residence by every Ayutthayar monarch after King Prasat Thong. But when the new capital was established in Bangkok, Bang Pa-In ceased to be used and was left unoccupied for 80 years. It was only during King Mongkut's reign (18511868) that Bang Pa-In was again visited by kings. King Mongkut stayed there and had a house built in the old palace's compound.
His son, King Chulalongkorn (1868-1910) liked the place, stayed there every year and constructed the royal palace as it is now seen today The palace contains five important buildings as follows :
- Phra Thinang Aisawan Thippa-at Thai design castle pavilion stands in the middle of the lake, replacing a former building of the same name erected by King Prasat Thong.
- Phra Thinang Warophat Phiman to the north of "Saphan Sadet"(the royal path to the river landing), occupies the original site of the Pavilion built during King Mongkut's reign. It was two storeyed. One used as the King's apartments, the other as a reception hall When the court was transferred to another building, the decaying pavilion was demolished and replaced by the new European design building which now serves as a hall for state ceremonies.
- Phra Thinang Uthayan Phumisathian was almost totally destroyed by fire in 1938. Formerly used as a highwater season residence, only a few bricks remain.
- Phra Thinang Wehat Chamrun is a Chinese-style building where the court generally resided during the rainy and cool seasons.
- Phra Thinang Withun Thatsana is an observatory standing on a small island between Phra Thinang Uthayan and Phra Thinang Wehat Chamrun from which a commanding view of surrounding countryside can be enjoyed.
Other interesting buildings include :
The King Prasat Thong Shrine erected during King Chulalongkorn's reign stands on the edge of the lake.
Wat Niwet Thammaprawat a remarkable building constructed during King Chulalongkorn's time on the outer island, south of the royal palace. The temple was built in Gothic style, resembling a Christian church. Tourists may cross the Chao Phraya river from Bang Pa-In to visit this temple.
Wat Chumphon Nikayaram is by the bridge on the way from the railway station. It was built by King Prasat Thong and subsequently restored. The two Phra Chedis (relic shrines) in this temple are considered to be very beautiful.
Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre at Bang Sai Tel: (035) 366092 or Tel: 2258165-8 (Bangkok) With an area of 285 rai (or 14 acres), the Centre is located in Tambon Bung Yai, Amphoe Bang Sai. Farmers from Ayutthaya as well as from other provinces undergo training in folk arts and crafts here. At this centre you will have a glimpse of how farmers in the four regions live and work, how their products of arts and crafts are produced. The centre is under the Promotion of Supplementary Occupations and Related Techniques (SUPPORT) which was established under Royal Patronage on the 21 st July 1976. Products and activities which can be seen here are such as Fern Vine basketry, weaving basketry, artificial flowers, handwoven silk and cotton, silk dyeing, wood carving, miniature handmodelled Thai dolls, Furniture making, cloth-made product, etc. All the products are sold at the Centre and in every branch of Chitralada Stores.
In order to get to Bang Sai, one can take a boat along the Chao Phraya River or take Bang Sai-Sam Khok road which branches off about 24 kilometers from Bang Pa-In Intersection or take bus from the Northern Bus terminal on Phaholyothin Road.
- Aranyik Village Hand-made knives : Mu 6,Ban Aranyik,Tambon Tha Chang Amphoe Nakhon Luang
- Rattan-Woven Village : Mu 2,Ban Yai,Tambon Ban Krathun, Amphoe Sena
- Palm-leaves Hats and other products : Mu 5,Ban Yai, Tambon Bang Nangra, Amphoe Bang Pahan
- Palm-leaves Carp : Mu 4,Ban Yai,Tambon Tha Wasukri, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
- Wood-Carving Products : Mu 4,Ban Yai,Tambon Ban Mai, Amphoe Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya.