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Ayutthaya, Thailand

Statue surrounded by a living tree, Ayutthaya, Thailand
Robed Buddha statues in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Wat Chai Wattanaram temple, Ayutthaya, Thailand
Above: Statue surrounded by a living tree, Ayutthaya, Thailand
  • Statue surrounded by a living tree, Ayutthaya, Thailand
  • Robed Buddha statues in Ayutthaya, Thailand
  • Wat Chai Wattanaram temple, Ayutthaya, Thailand

The Kingdom of Ayutthaya existed from 1351 until 1767 when the Burmese invaded it. The city was extremely friendly towards foreign traders and permitted the Chinese, Vietnamese, Indians, Japanese, Persians, Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch and French to set up villages outside of the city walls.

During the sixteenth century, foreign traders described the city as 'one of the biggest and wealthiest cities in the East'. King Narai ruled Ayutthaya from 1656 to 1688 and had strong links with King Louis XIV of France. Ayutthaya's ruling stretched from Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand to Myanmar, Laos, parts of China and the Malay Peninsula until the city fell to the Burmese invasion in 1767.

Today, only ruins of the formal capital remain and it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has been so since 1991. Ayutthaya was once home to three palaces - The Grand Palace, Chantharakasem Palace and Wang Lang Palace. There any many temples scattered through-out the once magnificent city and along the river banks, some of the more central temples can be visited on foot.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet
At it's time, this was the largest temple in Ayutthaya and was used as a palace and temple by several Ayutthayan Kings. The temple was built in the 14th Century and the compound once contained a 16m high standing Buddha that was covered in 250kg of gold. The temple is now known mostly for its line of three Chedis (stupas) that were erected in the distinctive Ayutthayan style.

Wat Mongkhon Bophit
This monastery, located near to Si Sanphet contains one of Thailand's largest Buddha images, a bronze casting dating back to the 15th Century.

Wat Phra Mahathat
The Wat dates back to the 14th Century and was built during the reign of King Ramesuan. The Wat received extensive damage during the Burmese invasion, but it still remains one of Ayutthaya's most impressive sights. The site is also home to one of Ayutthaya's most photographed sights - a Buddha head around which tree roots have grown.

Wat Thammikarat
Wat Thammikarat is located east of the Old Palace grounds. The Wat features lion sculptures and overgrown Chedi ruins.

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