In 1350, King U-Thong, the King of Siam (or Krung Tai as the kingdom called itself), ordered a new capital city built on an island at the confluence of three rivers. He named it Ayutthaya, after the home of Rama in the Indian epic, Ramayana. Over the next 400 years, Ayutthaya rose to greatness, becoming one of Southeast Asia’s most prosperous cities. At its height, it was a cosmopolitan city with a population of a million people, had a bustling trade with not only other kingdoms throughout SE Asia, but also with Europe, and was frequently compared to Paris & Venice.
But in 1564, after 2 years of war, the Burmese army sacked the city and burned it to the ground. It was abandoned by the Thai, who eventually established a new capital near Bangkok. The palaces, wats, and monasteries were left in ruins.
Today, modern day Ayutthaya has grown up in and around these ruins. In 1991, the entire island of Ayutthaya was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site, not only for its amazing architecture (which shows influences from other parts of Asia as well as Europe) but also for its clever planning and use of the natural landscape.
For the past week, we’ve been lucky enough to wander this city. By foot, bicycle, tuk tuk, and boat we have explored massive monasteries, huge palaces, and impressive wats, chedis, and praangs. Even though many of the ruins have been worn down by the effects of war, weather, and gravity (in many instances to their red brick core), they are still incredibly well preserved.
It has been stunning to wander down worn brick paths, past overgrown bodhi trees and headless broken buddhas, to view what remains of this amazing city and the spirit of the Thai people. Everywhere we went we saw offerings to Buddha left on the wihaans (main sanctuaries) of these temples, even the ones that are in ruins with nothing but crumbled remains of Buddha. It was quite inspiring to spend time here. And wow, are our feet tired and dirty. Dozens of kilometers walked and many foot scrubbings.
No more words…just photos.