The ancient city of Ayutthaya , or Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya , The Thai capital for 417 years, is one of Thailand's major tourist attractions. Many ancient ruins and art works can be seen in a city that was founded in 1350 by King U - Thong when the Thais were forced southwards by northern neighbours. During the period of Ayutthaya being the Thai capital, 33 kings of different dynasties ruled the kingdom until it was sacked by the Burmese in 1767.

Ayutthaya is 76 kilometres north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins. Such ruins indicate that Ayutthaya was one of Indo - China's most prosperous cities. Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, a vast stretch of historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESCO's list of world heritage since 13 December, 1991.

Ayutthayacovers 2,556.6 square kilometres, and is administratively divided into 16 districts (Amphoes). It is conveniently accessible due to good roads and a short distance from Bangkok.

:: Attractions

It was common for a royal temple to be included in the Grand Palace, reserved for royalties only. The important and most outstanding monastery located in the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya is Wat Phra Si Sanphet. Formerly a residential palace, it was later used as a royal chapel, but no monks or novice have ever inhabited this place, as the normal practice of other temples.

Adjacent to that and also located on the palace grounds is the Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit , presently housing a large bronze-cast Buddha image originally enshrined outside the Grand Palace to the east. The original sanctuary (wiharn) and Buddha image was badly destroyed by fire during the second fall of Ayutthaya. Though beautiful, the renovated building paled in comparison to the beautiful craftmanship of the original ones. The open area to the east of the sanctuary was formerly the Royal Fields (Sanam Luang), but has now been converted into a parking lot and souvenir vending stalls.

The Elephant Kraal Pavilion , slightly north of town, was utilised as the royal seat to witness the elephant round-ups. Wild elephants would be driven here for training as pack animals or war mounts. In the middle of the stockade is a shrine to honour the elephant guardian.

Wat Ratchaburana is located opposite Wat Mahathat , located at the eastern entrance of the Grand Palace. Two pagodas were built on the ground where the king's 2 brothers were killed while engaged in single hand combat abreast elephants against the Burmese. Later, a sanctuary (wiharn) was added and the placed was upgraded to a monastery


The Chedi Phra Si Suriyothai , located in the Phra Nakorn Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, is a memorial dedicated to the first heroine in Thai history. It is an important proof that ancient Thai society honoured Thai women. In 1548, Phra Si Suriyothai, a royal consort, went out to battle the Burmese with the Thai army. Clad in a warrior's suit, she fought on elephant back and sacrificed her life to save her husband, Phra Maha Chakkraphat, the present King from danger. The chedi is located at the original cremation site.

On the bank of the Chao Phraya River, on the western side of the city, is another beautiful monastery, Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The magnificent main stupa (tower) and the satellite stupas along the gallery reflect a Khmer influence.

Located slightly south of Ayutthaya, Bang Pa-in Palace was used as a country residence by the Ayutthayan royalties. When the capital was moved to Bangkok, Rama V restored the palace compound, as it now appears with various distinctive buildings, such as the Chinese-style pavilion and the famous Thai pavilion in the middle of the pond.

:: The History of Bang Pa-in Palace part 1

The Royal Palace at Bang Pa-In has a history dating back to the 17 th century. According to chronicle of Ayuttaya, King Prasat Thong (1629-1656) had a palace constructed on Bang Pa-In island in the Chao Praya River. A contemporary Dutch merchant, Jeremais van Vliet, reported that King Prasat Thaong was an illegitimate son of King Ekathotsarot (1605-1610/11), who in his youth was shipwrecked on that Island and had son by a woman who was his friend. The boy grew up to become the Chief Minister. After having usurped the throne, he had become known as King Prasat Thong.

The King founded a monastery, Wat Chumphon Nikayaram, on the land belonging to his mother on Bang Pa-In Island, and then had a pond dug and a palace built to the south of that monastery. The chronicle records the name of only one building, the Aisawan Thiphayaart Royal Residence, which was construct in 1632, the year of the birth of his son, the future King Narai (1656-1688). It is not known whether or not the palace was in use till the fall of Ayuttaya in 1767.

By 1807, however, when the Kingdom's best known poet, Sunthon Phu, sailed past Bang Pa-In, only a memory of the palace remained, for the site was neglected and overgrown. The palace was received by King Rama IV of the Chakri dynasty, better known in the West as King Mongkut (1851-1868), who had a temporary residence constructed on the outer Island that because the site of the Neo-Gothic style monastery, Wat Niwet Thamprawat, which was built by his son and their, King Chulalongkorn (RamaV).