Ayutthaya, the Ancient Capital of Thailand (Siam)
Ayutthaya is an ancient capital and modern
city in the Central Plains of Thailand, 85 km north of Bangkok. Founded around 1350, Ayutthaya became the
second capital of Siam after Sukhothai. Throughout the centuries, an 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.
In foreign accounts, Ayutthaya was called Siam, but many sources say the people of Ayutthaya
called themselves Tai, and their kingdom Krung Tai, ‘Tai Kingdom’. 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 visiting flotilla 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 to the ground. Today, only a few remains 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. 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 great cultural value of Ayutthaya’s ruins was officially recognized
in 1991, when the historic city became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its proximity to Bangkok
make it a popular day-trip destination for travellers from that city.