Ayutthaya (The Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya) , 76km north of Bangkok, was the Thai capital for 417 years rom 1350 until 1767(Kingdom of Ayutthaya) , when the city was vietually destroyed by Burmese invaders. Ayutthaya was one of the biggest cities in the world - a center for civilizations and the major power in Southeast Asia.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya reached its peak in terms of sovereignty, military might, wealth, culture, and international commerce in the 16th century when the Kingdom's territory was extended far beyond present-day Laos , Cambodia , and Myanmar . Ayutthaya even had diplomatic relations with Louis XIV of France and was courted by Dutch, Portuguese, English, Chinese and Japanese merchants.
Visitors to Ayutthaya can admire its former glory days reflected through numerous magnificent structures and ruins concentrated in and around the city island surrounded by Maenam Chao Phraya, Maenam Pa Sak and Maenam Lopburi.
More importantly, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park , an extensive historical site in the heart of Ayutthaya city, has been included in UNESC O 's World Heritage list.
The ancient capital of the Kingdom of Ayutthaya , founded by King U-Thong, had thirty three kings of different dynasties. A great city with three palaces and over 400 magnificent temples on an island threaded by canals Ayutthaya was truly an impressive city that attracted both Europeans and Asians. European traders, in particular' the Portuguese were very impressed by the city's splendor and not surprisingly recorded it as the most beautiful city in all of SE Asia .
Ayuthaya was so splendid that the Burmese tried on several occasions to overthrow the city. During one attempt in 1548 a large Burmese army passed through Kanchanaburi and were halted outside Ayutthaya by a determined Siamese army.
Such was the ferocity of battle at the time that the King's consort, Somdet Phra Suriothai who fought on behalf of her king and people perished in battle however her efforts spurred the Siamese army on to defeat the Burmese invaders and expel them from the country. She became the first Thai heroine and a gold covered chedi in memorial to her is located in the west of the old city. There is also a recreational park dedicated to her, located to the west of the city on highway 347.
The Burmese arrived again in 1569 with a large army and finally took control of Ayutthaya sacking and destroying the city. It was through the determined efforts of the young King Naresuan who defeated the Burmese twice eventually ousting them from Thai soil at the battle of Nong Sorai in 1593. Ayuthoya was rebuilt by King Naresuan and expanded by King Borommakote however after his reign it fell into decline.
Following a long drawn out period of conflict. the Burmese arrived again in 1767 with an enormous force to siege and sack Ayutthaya. The Burmese intended to destroy everything precious to Thais however their control was only short liyed as within a few years the.very determined General Taksin finally expelled them from Thai soil for the last time and reunited the country once again. The capital was then moved briefly to Thonburi and later to Rattanakosin island in Bangkok . Although the old city of Ayuthaya was not rebuilt.
The architecture of Ayutthaya is a fascinating mix of Khmer (ancient Cambodian style) and early Sukhothai style. Some cactus-shaped obelisks, called prangs, denote Khmer influence and look something like the famous towers of Angkor Wat. The more pointed stupas are ascribed to the Sukhothai influence.
For new arrivals who had limited their visit to Bangkok , similarities may be noted with the riverside Wat Arun, an 18th-century structure that was built in the so-called Ayutthaya style, a melding of Sukhothai Buddhist influences and Hindu-inspired Khmer motifs.
Ayutthaya province covers some 2556 square km, and contains several attractions connected mainly with Thai royalty, past and present.