Ayutthaya is 76km north of Bangkok & boasts numerous magnificent ruins. These ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia’s (and probably the world’s) most prosperous cities in the 17th century & has been a UNESCO World Heritage site since December 1991. Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam (Thailand) & was considered an ideal location between China, India & Burma.
By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1-million inhabitants. Merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands, & France proclaiming it as the finest city they had ever seen.
Unfortunately this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 & almost completely burned the city to the ground. After a 2-year war the city fell & the Thai’s re-established their power center to what we now know as Bangkok. The Burmese looted the city & beheaded or defaced, many of the statues & carvings in the Wats & temples, however the few remains gave us a glimpse of the impressive city it must have been.
The city is on an island surrounded by a river that serves as transport, bath & kitchen for the residents. The ruins are scattered into two geographical regions, “on the island” or “off the island” & best seen by bicycle. Navigating our way through the city on bikes rented from our B&B, aided by a small map & our trusted ‘Maps.me’ iPad app (an absolute life-saver) we managed to see many of the more popular sites. It’s amazing how some of these structures are still upright, feebly defying gravity. Restoration work has begun on only a small number.
Perhaps in a former life I was an architect, hence my interest & many photos of all the temples shared. I am intrigued & amazed at the various building designs & structures, only imagining how these magnificent buildings were built using the most rudimentary of tools.
The following may help you understand the whats Wat of a temple complex:
Chedi or Stupa- large bell shaped structure symbolizing (from bottom to top) earth, water, fire, & void;
Prang – towering phallic spire of Khmer origin, the same religious purpose as a Chedi;
Wihaan – main temple (assembly hall), location of Buddha & area where people come to make offerings. Typically the building has a 3-tiered roof representing the triple gems-Buddha the teacher, Dharma the teaching & brotherhood the followers.
Heading back to Bangkok via train, we had a short time to connect with our overnight train to Chumphon, a jumping off point for the 3-islands of Ko Tao, Ko Sumui & Ko Pha-Ngan on the southern gulf coast. We are staying 3-nights on each island & may even get to partake of a half-moon party….that is if we can stay up late enough!