Ayutthaya or to use the more formal name – Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is one of Thailand’s historical and majestic highlights. Serving as the Thai capital for over 400 years until 1767, it was one of the largest centres in Southeast Asia. It is located just over 80 kilometres to the North of todays capital Bangkok.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya once stretched beyond todays borders of Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar. It was a major centre for trade and the military in the region. It was regularly visited by Dutch, Portuguese, English, Chinese and Japanese merchants.
The old city is today a World Heritage site with many of the original buildings still standing and able to be explored. Visitors to Ayutthaya will appreciate the grandeur of magnificent structures and ruins concentrated in and around the city island surrounded by Maenam Chao Phraya, Maenam Pa Sak
Today, there are only crumbling ruins and rows of headless Buddhas where once an empire thrived. The temple compounds are still awe-inspiring even in disrepair and will provide a memorable visit especially for those drawn to the relics of history.
The architecture of Ayutthaya is a fascinating mix of Khmer (ancient Cambodian style) and early Sukhothai style. Some cactus-shaped obelisks, called prangs, denote Khmer influence and look something like the famous towers of Angkor Wat. The more pointed stupas are ascribed to the Sukhothai influence. For new arrivals who had limited their visit to Bangkok, similarities may be noted with the riverside Wat Arun, an 18th-century structure that was built in the so-called Ayutthaya style, a melding of Sukhothai Buddhist influences and Hindu-inspired Khmer motifs.
Ayutthaya is administratively divided into 16 districts: Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ban Phraek, Bang Ban, Bang Pahan, Bang Pa-in, Amphoe Bang Sai, Bang Sai, Lat Bua Luang, Maha Rat, Nakhon Luang, Phachi, Phak-Hai, Sena, Tha Rua, Uthai and Wang Noi.
The Ayutthaya temples will surely give anyone who visits a better understanding of the true sophistication of Thailand’s past.