Once the largest city in the world, Ayutthaya was the capital of the Siamese Kingdom and home to approximately one million people. Founded in 1350, the city thrived as a commerce hub for over 400 years, dazzling all those who passed through it. A heavy attack by the Burmese in the 18th century ended Ayutthaya’s glory days and the city was ransacked and stripped of most of its treasures. After that, Ayutthaya was left abandoned until restorations in the 1960s allowed it to become protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Today, the city is filled with tantalizing ruins of its former glory, allowing its visitors just a small glimpse of its prosperous past.
The Ruined City
The main site that draws travelers to Ayutthaya is undoubtedly the ruins of its ancient city. You’ll find plenty to explore: Wat Phra Si Sanphet (which served as the royal monastery for 100 years), Wat Mahathat (believed to be the spiritual center in the Early Ayutthaya Period) and Wat Phuttai Sawan (with its rare and beautiful murals from the 14th century) are just some of your options.
As a buzzing commerce hub, Ayutthaya was visited by people from all over the world – and many decided to stay and call this city their home. Setting up small settlements around the city, these sites are now a part of Ayutthaya and have become its foreign quarters. The European quarters (Portuguese, French, British and Dutch) are all close together so you can easily explore them on two wheels.
An interesting way of seeing the many sites of Ayutthaya is by taking a boat tour of the city. You’ll find that almost every tourism office or guesthouse in the city sells boat tours, so you can easily book yours when you arrive. You will most likely share your boat with other travelers, but this is a great option if you want to see some of Ayutthaya’s more outlying sites.
History buffs can spend one day discovering the ancient ruins of Ayutthaya and the next browsing through its excellent museums. The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum holds all of the latest uncovered treasures and utensils used by Ayutthaya royalty, Chantharakasem National Museum is housed in a splendid former palace, and Krirk Yoonpan’s Million Toys Museum will (re)awaken your inner child.
Photo by MarielosP
As with most places in Thailand, you’ll find that an elephant ride is just minutes away from Ayutthaya. If you’re looking to explore the ruined city on the back of these gentle creatures or want to learn about how they are cared for in a conservation camp, Elephant Stay is your best option. You can choose to spend up to a month there feeding, bathing and caring for your assigned elephant.
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