Long Tuyen

Surrounded by the rivers of Chao Phraya, Mae Nam Lop Buri, and Pa Sak, the ancient capital of Ayutthaya wins visitors’ hearts with its poignant and nostalgic charm.

Today, Ayutthaya hopes to become a major tourist center, welcoming thousands of visitors every day.

Just over an hour’s drive from Bangkok, Thailand’s ancient capital Ayutthaya offers a peaceful atmosphere, dotted with remnants of old royal palaces and ancient temples. Built in the 14th century, Ayutthaya was the capital of Thailand for over 400 years. It was a thriving political, cultural and commercial center before being ravaged by warfare. Thirty-three kings of five dynasties reigned here. It was home to 300 temples with sparkling gold spires. A source of pride long ago, Ayutthaya remains loved by Thai people today, although most of its main buildings lie in ruins.

Encircled by the rivers of Chao Phraya, Mae Nam Lop Buri, and Pa Sak, the ancient capital of Ayutthaya wins visitors’ hearts with its poignant and nostalgic charm. Visitors like to travel down the river and gaze at the city as the sun sets. Walking around clusters of temples, visitors may find their hearts filled with indescribable feelings. Scattered all over lie old foundations and ruined temples that still exude ancient beauty. The central park, where buses drop tourists, leaves a strong impression as mighty elephants carry one or two people around the ruins of the old royal palace. The elephants are very friendly and eager to eat sugar cane and fruit presented by visitors. An elephant ride around the ancient capital is an experience you can not have in many other places. Alternatively, visitors can rent bicycles to freely explore the small paths and find famous tourist sites on a map.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

The most precious gem in this heritage cluster is Wat Chai Watthanaram, which the locals call Wat Chai. Considered an architectural masterpiece, it was built in 1630 during the reign of King Prasat Thong. Wat Chai bears many similarities to Angkor Wat. It is a complex of prangs (tall spires) erected in a harmonious way, with the tallest, central spire symbolizing Mount Meru (the centre of the traditional world), surrounded by chapels and smaller prangs. The long corridor linking the prangs is lined with 120 sandstone Buddha statues in calm and solemn poses. Not far from here lies Wat Yai Chaimongkhon, a monumental architectural complex of monasteries, tombs, and temples, overseen by a group of giant Buddha statues with golden robes and benevolent faces. The largest tomb here was built on high ground, accompanied by a pair of small tombs and two huge Buddha statues. This architectural complex is the only structure in the park visible from afar.

Sandstone Buddha statues in Wat Yai Chaimongkhon

One can’t miss Wat Phra Si Sanphet, which boasts beautiful architecture and was the most important temple during the era of Ayutthaya. The temple consists of three large stupas and several smaller ones, collectively known as the King’s Temple. If you have more time, consider visiting Wat Ratchaburana, Wat Mahathat and the like. Scattered here and there are Buddha statues made from marble or sandstone that look compassionate and meditative despite the ravages of time.

It is unfortunate that warfare led to this ancient city’s decay, but that is already in the past, which cannot be changed. Today, Ayutthaya hopes to be a major tourist center, welcoming thousands of visitors per day while maintaining the tranquility of a land once forgotten. Visitors enjoy the narrow streets, shady trees, and lovely homestays near the relics. Life here is nothing like that in bustling Bangkok or vibrant Pattaya. After 7 p.m., when the sun disappears over the tops of the tall stupas, all sounds evaporate, leaving Ayutthaya to meditate and reminisce about its golden history.