Ayutthaya Part 1

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Sawasdee Krab,

Ancient capital of Thailand.

Ayutthaya (city)

Ayutthaya (full name Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, also spelled “Ayudhya”) city is the capital of Ayutthaya province in Thailand. Located in the valley of the Chao Phraya River, the city was founded in 1350 by King U Thong, who went there to escape a smallpox outbreak in Lop Buri and proclaimed it the capital of his kingdom, often referred to as the Ayutthaya kingdom or Siam. Ayutthaya became the second Siamese capital after Sukhothai. Its remains, characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and gigantic monasteries, give an idea of its past splendour. It is estimated that Ayutthaya by the year 1600 CE had a population of about 300,000, with the population perhaps reaching 1,000,000 around 1700 CE, making it one of the world’s largest cities at that time. In 1767, the city was destroyed by the Burmese army, resulting in the collapse of the kingdom. The Ayutthaya historical park is the ruins of the former capital of the Kingdom of Siam. It is the site of sacked and destruction of the Ayutthaya city, its art and buildings by the Burmese in 1767, which is recognized internationally as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The city was refounded a few kilometers to the east. The city is sometimes called “Venice of the East”.

Ayutthaya is named after the city of Ayodhya in India, the birthplaceof Rama in the

Naresuan Road Ayutthaya

Naresuan Road Ayutthaya

Ramayana (Thai, Ramakien); Phra is a Thai royal and noble title; Nakhon designates an important or capital city; Thai honorific Sri or Si is from the Indian term of veneration Sri.

Ayutthaya Town Center

• Ayutthaya Historical Study Center
• Ayutthaya Rajabhat University (ARU)
• Chan Kasem Palace
• Chao Sam Phraya National Museum
• Wang Luang
• Wat Chai Watthanaram
• Wat Lokaya Sutharam
• Wat Mahathat
• Wat Na Phra Men
• Wat Phanan Choeng
• Wat Phra Ram
• Wat Phra Si Sanphet
• Wat Phutthaisawan
• Wat Phuttai Sawan
• Wat Ratchaburana
• Wat Suwan Dararam
• Wat Thammikarat
• Wihan Phra Mongkhon Bophit
• St. Joseph’s Church
• Baan Hollanda Information Center
The city is located at the junction of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pa Sak rivers, and on the main north-south railway linking Chiang Mai to Bangkok. The old city is on an island formed by a bend of the Chao Phraya on the west and south sides, the Pa Sak on the east side and the Klong Muang canal on the northern side.

Ayutthaya Historical Park

The Ayutthaya historical park covers the ruins of the old city of Ayutthaya, Thailand. The city of Ayutthaya was founded by King Ramathibodi I in 1350 and was the capital of the Ayuthistparkmapcountry until its destruction by the Burmese army in 1767.
In 1969 the Fine Arts Department began with renovations of the ruins, which became more serious after it was declared a historical park in 1976. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1981. Thirty-five kings ruled the Ayutthaya kingdom during its existence. King Narai (1656 CE to 1688 CE) not only held court in Ayutthaya but also from his palace in the nearby city of Lopburi, from where he ruled 8–9 months in the year.

Park sites
• Wat Ratchaburana
• Wat Mahathat
• Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
• Wat Phra Ram
• Wat Lokayasutha
• Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit
• Wat Yai Chai Mongkon
• Phra Chedi Suriyothai
• Wat Phanan Choeng
• Wat Chaiwatthanaram
• Ayutthaya historical Study Centre
• Japanese Settlement
• Wat Phu Khao Thong
• Elephant Camp

Ayutthaya travel to

Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, the ideal location between China, India and the Malay Archipelago made Ayutthaya the trading capital of Asia and even the world. By 1700 Ayutthaya had become the largest city in the world with a total of 1 million inhabitants. Many international merchants set sail for Ayutthaya, from diverse regions as the Arab world, China, India, Japan, Portugal, the Netherlands and France. Merchants from Europe proclaimed Ayutthaya as the finest city they had ever seen. Dutch and French maps of the city show grandeur with gold-laden palaces, large ceremonies and a huge float of trading vessels from all over the world. All this came to a quick end when the Burmese invaded Ayutthaya in 1767 and almost completely burnt the city down to the ground.
Today, only a few remains might give a glimpse of the impressive city they must have seen. Its remains are characterized by the prang (reliquary towers) and big monasteries. Most of the remains are temples and palaces, as those were the only buildings made of stone at that time. The great cultural values of Ayutthaya’s ruins were officially recognized in 1991, when the Historic City became an UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok make it a popular day-trip destination for travelers from Bangkok.

Orientation

Ayutthaya is an island at the confluence of three rivers: the Chao Phraya River, the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River. As the train station is at the east side off the island, most visitors will need to cross the river by ferry boat. Navigating your way around the island is not particularly hard: U Thong Rd is a ring road that circumvents the island completely. Most temple ruins can be found at the northwest of the island, while accommodation and night life is clustered around the northeast. As non-Siamese peoples were not allowed to live inside the city walls, things foreign are found off the island.

Get there

By car
From Bangkok, one can get to Ayutthaya by various routes:
• Take Highway 1 (Phahon Yothin) via Pratu Nam Phra In and turn into Hwy 32, and then turn left to Hwy 309 to Ayutthaya.
• Take Hwy 304 (Chaeng Watthana) or Hwy 302 (Ngam Wong Wan), turn right into Hwy 306 (Tiwanon), cross Nonthaburi or Nuanchawi Bridge to Pathum Thani, continue on Hwy 3111 (Pathum Thani–Sam Khok–Sena) and turn right at Amphoe Sena into Hwy 3263 to Ayutthaya.
• Take Hwy 306 (Bangkok–Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani), at Pathum Thani Bridge Intersection, turn into Hwy 347 and Hwy 3309 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, Amphoe Bang Pa-in, to Ayutthaya.
• Take Expressway No.9 (Si Rat Expressway) via Nonthaburi–Pathum Thani and down to Hwt 1 via Bang Sai Royal Folk Arts and Crafts Centre, turn left onto Hwy 3469 towards Bang Pahan and turn right at Worachet Intersection to Ayutthaya.
One can also contact a taxi for pick up at Bangkok’s airports. Advance booking possible about 1,200 baht one-way.
By train
The cheapest and most scenic way of reaching Ayutthaya is by train. It regularly departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station and stops in Ayutthaya. The trip takes about 2

Ayutthaya Railway Station

Ayutthaya Railway Station

– 2.5 hrs depending on the type of service. Second-class seats (A/C); third-class, no reservations and seats are not guaranteed.
Although in the past railway employees preferred not to sell 3rd-class tickets to foreigners, as of 2011 the employees were explicitly offering 3rd-class seats to western tourists as a standard option.
The railway station is not on the island but across the river a short ferry ride away. Walk across the main road and down the small street straight ahead. Ferry boats run every few minutes and cost 4 baht.
By bus
Buses operate every 20 minutes or so from Bangkok’s Northern Bus Terminal Moh Chit directly to Ayutthaya. First-class air-con buses, this trip is scheduled to be around an hour and a half, but allow at least two hours for the trip since the buses stop rather frequently and there are often jams on the roads out of and into Bangkok.
• To get to the Northern Bus Terminal, go to Mo Chit BTS Station. Upon exiting the gate, cross the bridge on the right to go to the bus stop, and take bus service 3 or bus service 77. Bus ride is about 10-15 minutes and the Northern Bus Terminal destination is the last stop for the bus services. However, buses do not stop in the Northern Bus Terminal, but at the bus stop across the street. Cross the bridge to get to the bus terminal.
• Bus service 3 runs also near Khao San. It goes by Chakrabongse Rd which is a street on the western end of Khao San. The trip to the Northern Bus Terminal from here takes around 1 hour. Getting back in the evening can take longer due to traffic.
Also you can take a minivan from the Victory Monument direct to Ayutthaya. Takes. Minivans depart every 20 minutes or so.
In Ayutthaya, the central BKS bus station is on the south side of Naresuan Rd next to the Chao Phrom Market. Some 1st-class buses to Bangkok, however, leave from the north side of the road some 500 m to the west, on the other side of the khlong (canal); the queue for air-con buses is easy to spot.
From Kanchanaburi, take a local bus of horrible quality from the main bus station to Suphanburi, 2.5 hours + long waiting for bus and departing and then official airconditioned “minibus”nr. 703 to Ayutthaya takes 1 hour. Big bus from Suphanburi to Ayutthaya was cancelled and replaced by minivan service nr. 703 even according timetable on bus station, although there is no price mentioned on timetable.
By boat
Cruise boats run up the river from Bangkok, often stopping at Ko Kret and Bang Pa-In along the way. You’ll need to book in advance as there are no scheduled services, just trips for tourists. It’s a fairly lengthy trip at least one whole day and some of the larger boats offer pricy overnight tours.
Travelling by boat to Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya is popular among foreigners since it does not only reveal the beauty as well as lifestyle of the people on both sides of the Chao Phraya River, but also reflects the life in history at the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom when the Chao Phraya River served as a channel of transportation in trading with foreign countries.

Get around

By bicycle
Bicycling around the ruins is the most enjoyable and fun way to spend the day. The archaeological park is easily reachable and manageable on bike even if you aren’t very fit. The paths are paved and the distances between temples are small.
The bicycles are not necessarily well maintained, so be sure that they work properly wheels are firm and inflated, seats adjusted to your height and well attached, handlebars don’t slip, and good shops will give you a free bike lock as well. There is a good bike shop directly opposite the train station.
Free map of the city is widely available in all hotels.
The park opens at 07:30. It is recommended that you begin your tour early, before the tour groups arrive from Bangkok. Take a big bottle of water with you.
Bicycle rentals: Soi 2 (where the majority of tourist hotels and restaurants are located) have numerous bike rental facilities. They are all next to each other so it will be easy to shop around and find the one with the best bike for you.
At T.W.T (TourWithThai) (before Tony’s guest house which not far from minibus stop at Soi 2) has bicycles big and small size and seat for small child for rent. If you short of time maybe you can go around by motorcycle which you can rent in the same area.
By tuk-tuk
Alternatively, you can get around town by tuk-tuk. Ayutthaya’s tuk-tuks are larger than the Bangkok variety and you can easily squeeze six people in on facing benches. Only “official” tuk-tuk drivers or tourist “helpers” can pick up passengers from the train station. You can verify their status by looking for their photos/name on a “Tourist Officials” board displayed at the southern end of the platform. These people are required to charge and work for fixed charges, You can also flag down tuk-tuks from the street and try to hire them, most drivers carry with them a stack of postcards featuring the famous sites of the city to ease communication, they also are used to the standard temple hopping circuit. If you have a map you can point out any of the destinations that you wish to see and they’ll often quote a trip price and will wait for you at each stop.

By boat
Boat trips to enjoy the beautiful scenery and Thai lifestyle along the Chao Phraya River, the Pa Sak River and around the town island of Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya are available. A long-tailed boat can be chartered at the pier in front of Chanthara Kasem National Museum, Pom Phet Pier, and Wat Phananchoeng Pier. The fare depends on the route and duration. Rice barges are also available for groups that offer a relaxed way to see Ayutthaya.

By Songteow
There are dark blue ones which circle the inner city. Flag one down and hop aboard. Once you arrive at your destination, press the buzzer. VERY cheap!
Things to See
Ayutthaya is 76 kilometres north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. The ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia’s and probably the world’s most prosperous cities in the 17th Century and beyond. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since December 13, 1991.
There were three palaces in Ayutthaya: Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace (the Front Palace) and Wang Lang (the Rear Palace). In addition, there were many other palaces and buildings for royal visits located outside Ayutthaya, such as the palace at Bang Pa-In and Nakhon Luang Building at Nakhon Luang.
It seems there is a scam, but not against tourists, but against the government. Ladies selling tickets take the money from you and allow you to enter, but will not give you a paper ticket and probably take the money to their own pocket. If you want your money to go for temple renovation and conservation instead of going into private pockets, insist a paper ticket.
On the island
The temples with entry charges are usually in ruins, so there is no dress code, although visitors are still requested to refrain from blatant stupidity like clambering up the Buddha statues. Working temples tend to charge no fees and there are often no officials to check that a dress is appropriate (though it is advised to follow these customs to show respect for sacred places).
• Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Sri Sanphet Rd. 08:00-18:00, daily. The largest temple in Ayutthaya, known for its distinctive row of restored chedis (Thai-style stupas) found on many images of the city. Housed within the grounds of the former royal palace, the temple was used only for royal religious ceremonies. It once housed a 16 m high Buddha covered with 340 kg of gold, but the Burmese set fire to the statue to melt the gold and destroyed the temple in the process. The royal palace can also be accessed from the same entrance at Wat Phra Si Sanphet, but it only has a few free standing buildings remaining. 50 baht

• Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit, Sri Sanphet Rd (Next to Wat Phra Si Sanphet). An impressive building that houses a large bronze cast Buddha image. It was originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east, but it was later transferred to the current location and covered with a Mondop. During the second fall of Ayutthaya, the building and the image were badly destroyed by fire. The building currently seen was renovated but does not have as beautiful craftsmanship as the previous ones. The open area east of the sanctuary (wihan) was formerly Sanam Luang, where the royal cremation ceremony took place. Free.

• Wat Phra Mahathat, Naresuan Rd (Across the road from Wat Ratburana). A large temple that was quite thoroughly ransacked by the Burmese. Several leaning prangs of Ayutthaya are still feebly defying gravity though, and the rows of headless Buddhas are atmospheric. This is also where you can spot the famous tree that has grown around a Buddha head. When taking pictures of you and the Buddha head, make sure you kneel to show respect, as it is considered holy by Thais.
• Wat Ratchaburana, Naresuan Rd. This temple stands out for having a large prang recently restored to its original condition, clearly visible if you come in from the east. A major find of golden statues and other paraphernalia was made here in 1958, although much was subsequently stolen by robbers — the remnants are now in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum. You can climb inside the prang for nice views and a little exhibit. The mysterious staircase down, leads to two unrestored rooms with original paintings still visible on the walls.

• Wat Thammikarat, U-Thong Rd. A working wat, but also contains the ruins of a large chedi and a huge roofless viharn which has tall brick columns leaning at alarming angles and a large tree growing picturesquely out of the side of one wall. It was already constructed before the establishment of Ayutthaya. The Wihan Luang once enshrined an enormous bronze head of the Buddha of the U Thong period, now exhibited at the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The temple also houses a Reclining Buddha hall called Wihan Phra Phutthasaiyat, built by his queen consort following her wish made for her daughter’s recovery from an ailment. The wihan is located to the north of Phra Chedi with a base of 52 surrounding singha or lions, and houses a north-facing reclining Buddha image measuring 12 m in length, with both feet gilded and inlaid with glass mosaic. Free.
• Wat Suwan Dararam, (Southeast Island). This modern wat with no ruins can be accessed by side streets off U-thong Rd. The wat contains a few small spires, and some nicely decorated modern buildings.
• Phet Fortress, (Southeast Island). This fortress was the city’s most important defensive structure in the 15th century. Originally built of wood in 1350 by King Mahachakraphat, the fortress was later rebuilt with bricks. A few walls still remain and the grounds have a nice view of the river. The fortress is close to Wat Suwan Dararam, and is right beside a ferry that can take you to Wat Phanan Choeng.
• Wat Phra Ram, Sri Sanphet Road. 08:00-18:00, daily. This temple consists of one huge prang and some smaller chedi and outbuildings, all in disrepair though the top of the prang is complete. Staircases to the side of the prang give views of Ayutthaya. This monastery was located outside the grand palace compound to the east. King Ramesuan commanded it built on ground where the royal cremation ceremony for his father, King U-Thong, took place. A big lagoon is in front of this monastery. Its original name was “Nong Sano”. It was changed to “Bueng Phraram” and currently is Phraram Public Park.

• Phra Chedi Suriyothai, U-Thong Rd. A white and gold coloured chedi built as a memorial to a previous queen. Set in small, well-kept gardens, it is the memorial for the first heroine in Siamese history. It’s of some interest as a proof of the honour that ancient Siamese society gave to women. It was renovated in 1990, and during the renovations some antique objects were found such as a white rock crystal Buddha image in the posture of subduing Mara, a chedi replica, and a golden reliquary. These ancient objects were brought to be under the care of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. Free.
• Wat Borom Phuttharam, (inside Rajabhat University). Built some time during 1688–1703 during the reign of King Phetracha on the grounds of his former residence near the main gate of the southern city wall. Its location and area plan was confined to a north-south orientation by ancient communication routes. Unlike other temples, the king had all buildings roofed with yellow glazed tiles and the temple became known as “Wat Krabueang Khlueap” or the “glazed tile temple”. The construction took 2 years and the temple underwent a major renovation in the reign of King Borommakot, who had 3 pairs of door panels decorated with fine mother-of-pearl inlays. One pair of them is currently at Ho Phra Monthian Tham inside the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the second is at Wat Benchamabophit (The Marble Temple), and the third was turned into cabinets and is now exhibited at the Bangkok National Museum.
Museums
• Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre, Rojana Rd (Rotchana Rd), Interesting museum about the history of Ayutthaya. It’s best to visit this museum before heading out elsewhere, as it places the remains into a historical perspective. A big part of the museum is dedicated to Siam’s relations with other peoples, but village life, art and culture are also dealt with.

• Baan Hollanda, Soi Kan Rua, 09.00-17.00. This Information center was donated to King Bhumibol and the Thai people by former Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. It is situated on the east bank of the Chao Phaya River, at the site of the Dutch Lodge which was first built there in the 1608. It aims at telling about the Dutch settlement, how the Dutch worked, lived, and interacted with Siamese society and court. The museum provides informal learning by combining education with pleasure.
• Chantharakasem National Museum, Uthong Rd, 09:00-16:00. Former residence of King Naresuan the Great, built in 1577.
• Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. Most treasures of Ayutthaya were stolen, burnt and melted by armies or treasure hunters. Some pieces survived though and are exhibited at this museum. Most of the riches are golden statues found at Wat Ratchaburana and Wat Phra Mahathat.
Off the island
Much of Ayutthaya’s history revolves around trade with other nations, but these nations were not allowed to set up camp inside the city walls. Thus, surrounding Ayutthaya’s waters are plenty of remains from the countries that once set sail here, such as the settlements of Japan, the Netherlands and Portugal, as well as the interesting Thai-Chinese temple of Wat Phanan Choeng.
• Wat Chaiwatthanaram, Southwest off the island on Rt 3413 (take Rt 3263 off the island and turn left onto Rt 3413.). 08:30-17:00 daily. Due to flood damage, this temple is currently closed. However you can still walk around the outside (for free) and take pictures. The temple that graces the official tourist pamphlet for Ayutthaya, this wat is a must see. Many intact pagodas surround a central chedi that you can climb from all sides. A nice view of the city can be had from the top. Very photogenic.
• Wat Na Phra Mane. This Wat offers a mix of old and modern buildings. It is unique because it survived the destruction of the city in the 18th century. Of interest are the vaulted ceilings and a Buddha made of black stone
• Wat Phanan Choeng, Bang Pa-in Rd (About 2 km southeast of town, turn south at the road 309 roundabout). 8:30-17:00, daily. A working monastery located south of Ayutthaya, no one knows how old it is, but it existed before Ayutthaya was founded as the capital. It contains the oldest large cast bronze Buddha image in Ayutthaya, called “Phrachao Phananchoeng”, built in A.D. 1325; it is made of stucco in the attitude of subduing evil. A small room to the right of the main hall contains a nice collection of Buddha images and the room is painted with many individual unique pictures, in bright colours offset with gold. 20 baht obligatory donation if entering from river side.

• Wat Phu Khao Thong, (About 3 km north of town, west off the Ang Thong Rd). Impressive and huge white, and slightly wonky, chedi set in a big field. You can climb to the top for extensive views over the countryside surrounding Ayutthaya, although the modern town and power lines obscure much of the historic city on the horizon. The actual nearby temple is still working and has small grounds with a smiling fat Buddha image set in the ruins of a small viharn. You will see the ‘Monument of King Naresuan the Great’ on the way. Free.
• Wat Yai Chaimongkon, Bang Pa-in Rd (1 km east of Wat Phananchoeng). 8:00-18:00, daily. The large pagoda from far away and some its ruins appear on well known photos of temples in Thailand. Constructed in the reign of King U-Thong, the temple features a large reclining Buddha in saffron robes in its own ruined wiharn, and, most spectacularly, a huge chedi swathed in golden cloth set in a courtyard which is lined by Buddha images all wearing saffron robes. Very photogenic.
Foreign Settlements
• Dutch Settlement, Soi Kan Rua . The Dutch East India Company (VOC) founded in 1602 was the largest and most impressive of the early modern trading companies operating in Asia. The Dutch established their first trading post in Ayutthaya in 1608. By the 1630s the Dutch received land and permission to build a lodge on the east bank of the Chaophraya River. The two-storey brick building was known to the Dutch as de logie and the settlement developed into a separate village. This building was destroyed by the invading Burmese armies in 1767. After being archaeologically excavated, the brick foundation of the building was found and during the celebrations of 400 years of Thai-Dutch relations, H.M. Queen Beatrix donated a royal gift to establish an information centre near the site of the Dutch lodge. The Thai Fine Arts Department excavated the site and found many artifacts, such as Chinese porcelain, Dutch pipes and a coin. The construction of the museum began in 2010 and was finished in april 2011, but got flooded during the floods in 2011. ‘Baan Hollanda Museum’ is opened as of the 3rd of April 2013. For more information, see museums section.
• Japanese Settlement. There’s nothing left of the Japanese Settlement, so instead, the Japanese government decided to create a Japanese-style park at the location of where the Japanese Settlement probably must have been. The Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre started a branch here, a museum about Ayutthaya’s foreign relations with Japan and other countries. It starts with an interesting film lasting about 15 minutes and then you can explore the museum on your own: very interesting and definitely gives a good background of the city’s history.
• Portuguese Settlement, south of the island, access via route 3413 after turning south from the bridge connecting the island, past Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Phutthai Sawan. A scattering of ruins, highlighted by the Dominican church. Inside the church are the excavated remains of members of the settlement. It is kind of an eerie sight, but interesting. The skeletons of those inside the church apparently belong to those who were of higher status within the settlement, like priests. It was said to be the largest community of Westerners after it was settled in the early 1500s. The settlement was destroyed in 1767 after the fall of Ayutthaya. Free, donation suggested.
Other places
• Chao Phrom Market. Located next to the Pasak River on U-Thong Rd., this market offers food, clothing, and day to day necessities at a variety of shops and stalls. More for locals, the market lacks the usually touristy trinkets; however, the food is fantastic, good clothing deals can be found, and the visit may be of interest for those who wish to experience a more authentic Thai marketplace. There are several night markets with many street hawkers selling a range of food and some stalls with clothing, phones and more.

• Elephant stay, 74/1 Moo 3 Tumbol Suanpik, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Ayutthaya 13000. Is a not for profit program located at the Royal Elephant Kraal and village. Live, work and play with Elephants! Elephant stay is a fantastic way for you to get hands on experience & make a real difference to the lives of our old elephants. Stay in the most exciting, innovative, working elephant village in Asia, dedicated to conserving elephants, just 1 hour from Bangkok.

That’s all for now, until next time,Tuk-Tuk

Choak Dee Krab

Laew Phop Kan Mai Na Krab

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