Thailand

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Ayutthaya (Part 1)

Before Bangkok was the Capital of Thailand, formerly called Siam, Ayutthaya was the Capital of the Kingdom. This was in the period between -say- the 14th Century and 1782.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya was very prosperous. It was a Kingdom of 34 reigns, covering about 400 years. The period ended when General Taksin built a new Capital in Thonburi, after Ayutthaya has been destroyed by the Burmese in 1768. Taksin became King, but he was removed by General Chao Phraya Chakri, the later King Rama I in 1782. This King Rama I was the founder of the Chakri dynasty, of which the present King Bhumibol Adulyadej is a descendent. Therefore you might also say that the Ayutthaya period ended with the founding of the Chakri dynasty.



During the Ayutthaya Period, from the 16th Century on, European missions visited the Kingdom. First the Portuguese, then the Dutch, the English, the French. They were welcomed, but it was made clear to them that Siam was not interested in being colonialized. An important, and well-known, King from this period is King Narai, about whom there is a separate page on this site. It is the page about Lopburi and King Narai. He was a man who saw the importance of being befriended with Western Nations, although he knew to keep his independence. And not only he. Until the present day Thailand has never been colonialized or been under any foreign influence of importance. By the way, the word "Thai" means "free"!

Elephants in AyutthayaWat Mongkol Bopitr

When you ride into Ayutthaya you will probably see some elephants with tourists on them first. Ayutthaya is not only famous for its ancient buildings, but also for its elephants. Make a ride on one of them, if you like. Many elephants in Thailand are not treated well by their owners, because they don't have enough money to take care of the elephants properly. For that reason I stimulate you to make a ride, for the sake of the elephant! When the owner earns well, he will feed his animal well.

But of course you did not come for the elephants in the first place, but for the antique buildings. I expect that your (guided) tour will start at Wat Mongkol Bopitr (it may be spelled differently in different guidebooks!). This is a usual starting point for tours. This Temple was destroyed completely by the Burmese in one of the wars between Burma and Thailand. It has been rebuilt in 1956 and therefore looks modern. It was rebuilt -though- in its original style and so it gives you an impression of how an antique Wat in old Ayutthaya (might have) looked.

Buddha in Wat Mongkol Bopitr

Be sure to enter Wat Mongkol Bopitr and to pay respect to its beautiful Buddha. It is one of the largest bronze Buddha Images in Thailand. It dates from the 15th Century, but because it has been damaged more than once during the wars with Burma, it has been restored several times.

Chedi

In our further "virtual" tour around Ayutthaya we will not follow the most likely path. Every tour-leader probably has his own order.
The picture above shows you remains of a chedi. It belonged to a Temple of which I am not certain about the name, but it probably is Wat Phra Ram. Anyway, it is one of the ancient Temples in Ayutthaya of which little is left over!

Buddha images in chedi

However, this particular Temple is interesting because of its Buddha Images within (or on, if you like) the chedi. They can clearly be seen from the picture above. A Reclining Buddha and a Standing Buddha together.

Reclining BuddhaHead of Reclining Buddha

Before we visit the most famous Temples of Ayutthaya, I want to show a large reclining Buddha, that is located outside the center of ancient Ayutthaya and was difficult to find. It is quite impressive and worth a visit, as I hope will be clear from the pictures. It is not mentioned in any of my guidebooks!



Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (1)Wat Phra Si Sanphet (2)

Now we come to the really famous Temples of Ayutthaya, where every tour will take you. The two pictures above were taken at Wat Phra Si Sanphet, maybe the mosrt important Temple of ancient Ayutthaya. It was within the Royal Palace and should be compared in importance to present-day Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok. The three large chedis, that have been restored and therefore are in prime condition, contain the ashes of three Kings of the ancient Kingdom. The complex dates from around the year 1500.

Discriminatory fees


This Temple, that is a "must" for every visitor to Ayutthaya, has the very unsympathetic system of charging different entrance fees from foreigners and Thais!
They try to hide this by using the Thai alphabet. The sign (see above) says: "Thais 10 Baht, ADMISSION FEE 30 Baht". You, not being able to read the Thai alphabet, might think that the entrance fee is 30 Baht for everybody, which is not true! This is pure discrimination on the ground of the color of your skin and/or your Nationality.
You will find that on other places in Ayutthaya too. I am strongly opposed to this discrimination by the Thai Fine Arts Department, but you have tio see this one, so the only way to get in is to pay the 30 Baht!

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