Thursday, January 21, 2010

Exploring the ruins of Ayutthaya

January 15, 2010
Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, Thailand

First stop is - Ayutthaya. The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was born out of the gradual demise of the Sukhothai kingdom, which was the foundation of the Thai nation, as little was known about the kingdoms prior to the Sukhothai Period. Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam (Thailand) from the 14th century until the latter part of the 18th century. The “Ayutthaya Historical Park” contains the ruins of ancient Buddhist temples and royal palaces in a well-organized city plan. Although a shadow of its former glory, the magnificent ruins of the old city can still be admired.

Attractions include the ruins of the former Royal Palace, the recently restored Royal Elephant Kraal & Village and many ancient temples, which form a complex spread over the vast area of the historical park. If you want to get a much better understanding of Thailand’s roots & culture then a visit to Ayutthaya is a “must”. The city is around 90 kilometers north of Bangkok and about an hour’s drive away.

The city does not have the hurly-burly of fast-paced Bangkok or the tourist-infested beaches of the Andaman Coast. The city is quite relaxing in its old-world splendor and unhurried pace. Ayutthaya has a lot to offer in terms of Thai culture and heritage, as there are numerous temples, though some are in ruins, which are Still Worth Visiting.

The Wat Mahathat was a royal monastery during the reign of King Borommarachathirat 1. It was the seat of the Sangaraja, the figurehead of the Kamavasi Buddhist monks. Its famous for the Buddha image head intertwined in the roots of a tree.

Wat Phra Ram is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya. It was built in the site where King U Thong was cremated. The high entrances to the temple were built to accommodate ceremonial elephants.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet is the largest temple in Ayutthaya used by royalties for their religious ceremonies. A 16-foot golden Buddha once graced the temple but the Burmese melted it in the 18th century because it was covered with 340 kilogram of gold. Wat Ratchaburana stands out because of its newly renovated prang. Visitors can climb up the prang for a better view.
Other temples are the Wat Phra Ram, Wat Phu Khao Thong, Wat Phanancherng, just to name a few. The Chao Sam Phraya National Museum is worth visiting to see displays of relics of Lord Buddha and 500 year-old arts.

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