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Ayutthaya, Thailand (Image by Sasin Tipchai from Pixabay)

Ayutthaya, Thailand

In Thailand, even today, the panorama of the medieval city of Ayutthaya brings to mind a stage set from "The King and I" with its magnificent temple complexes, massive Buddha statues and 'chedis' (temple towers) soaring as much as 80 metres high. For more than 400 years the kings of Ayutthaya- there were 35 of them in all- ruled the great land of Siam from its confines. The city grew into one of the largest and most prosperous in all of South East Asia, with a population of around one million at its height. The glory days of the city of Ayutthaya came to an end in the eighteenth century, when it was invaded by Burmese troops. Around 65,000 people still live in what is today a small provincial capital.

During its golden age, Ayutthaya boasted there royal palaces, 375 temples, 94 city gates and 29 forts. The most beautiful of these temples is without a doubt Wat Phra Sri Sanphet, which was built in the fifteenth century with three soaring chedis. The ashes of King Ramathibodi 2 as well as those of his father, Ramathibodi 1, the first two king of Ayutthaya, were kept here in this most visible symbol of the city.

The ruins of Ayutthaya are a magnificent legacy of this once marvelous city and its tremendous cultural achievements. The aesthetic influences of the Khmer, India and Ceylon met here in a glorious celebration of form and richness of style. The world would never know anything like it again. 

At the end of the seventeenth century, the city began to crumble as the kings of Ayutthaya involved themselves in a series of costly military conflicts with neighboring Burma (Now Myanmar). The massive city wall, built of well-fired mud-brick in the sixteenth century, held off numerous sieges by Burmese troops. But, finally, on 7 April 1767, Ayutthaya fell. The Burmese breached the wall, plundered the temple treasuries and demolished most of the beautiful city. According to legend, the very eyes of the great Buddha statues flowed with tears as Ayutthaya was destroyed. 

  • 1991: Ayutthaya was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.