Video Tour of the Historical Park
History of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya is 80 km north of Bangkok. The city was founded in 1350 as the second capital after Sukhothai. By 1700 the city had become the largest in the world and a destination for merchants from around the world. The glory of Ayutthaya was cut short by a Burmese army that sacked the city in 1767. Many of the temple were left as ruins from this time onward.
The biggest concentration of things to see in Ayutthaya is in the Historical Park on Ayutthaya Island, which is bordered by 3 rivers. The historical park is a fairly compact area which you can walk around in an afternoon, although many people choose to rent bicycles which is a pleasant way to get around the park.
Three Main Temples in the Historical Park
There are several temples to visit in the historical park. The best three are Wat Maha Tat, Wat Phra Ram and Wat Phra Si Samphet. All the temples are in fairly bad condition partly because they are very old, partly because they were damaged during earlier wars, and partly because until recently they have been neglected. When you visit you need to look carefully at the temples as there are some great things which take some time and imagination to fully appreciate. Entrance fees to each of the temples is very cheap, at 50 THB per person as standard.
Wat Maha Tat
The closest temple to the city centre, this marks the start of the historical park. The big attraction here is the head of a Buddha statue around which the roots of a tree have grown. Throughout the historical park the heads have been cut off all the statues – an act of desecration by the invading Burmese and more likely than not some act of theft through the centuries.
Wat Phra Ram
Temple with a large central Prang (tower) and lots of decapitated statues. This is a classic temple of a kind that existed all over Thailand hundreds of years ago. What makes this one special is that it is still standing. Elsewhere in Thailand temples from this period have all been knocked down entirely. It may not be on a scale of Angkor Wat but it is unique. Search around at the rear of the temple and you will find one of the heads of the Buddha statues which has been placed a wall.
Wat Phra Si Samphet
The best of the temples in the historical park. Wat Phra Si Samphet covers a large area and features three large Prang in a row. Around the main three Prang lots of smaller Prang have been constructed in geometric patterns. This careful observance of geometry is reminiscent of other great temples and cultures around the world such as Angkor Wat in Cambodia or the Mayan temples of Mexico. Wat Phra Si Samphet is a ruin now, but with a little imagination you can see how magnificent the temple must have looked 600 years ago with the Prang towering over a city of single storey structures.