September – Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the second capitol of Thailand and was sacked by the Burmese army two times, being destroyed both times. The second was the most devastating. The final fall was 1763 and the new capital became Thornburi – close to where I reside now. Ayutthaya was considered the Grandest capital in the history of Thailand (siam). The reason for this grandeaur was the numerous number of temples. Ayutthaya was the capitol for some 400 years and the number of temples during that time is somewhere between 500 and 1500 temples. The interesting thing about Ayutthaya is that it is surrounded by water on all sides. This was a defense mechanism. It was believed that being surrounded would protect the city. Ayutthaya was bordered on two sides by rivers and on the third side was bordered by a hand made canal. The city was traversed by canals that since the time has been replaced by paved roadways. The funniest story by the tour guide had to be, “This road use to be a canal where boats would come park and go to temple.”
The temples and the palace ruins were beautiful despite the destruction. As we all know I am a history person and the history of the ruins was the most fascinating thing ever. During this 400 year period changes in the architecture occured and there were many changes during that time. The changes are so evident in the buildings.
While touring the grounds of the temples one thing that is a common sight is the decapitated buddha images. Why you may ask? The head of the buddha is the most sacred part and of the cast idols that were dipped in gold ended with a lot of gold in the head. In addition the head usually has jewels. While walking around Ayutthaya the buddhas are missing their heads because the burmese stole them. They were sold for a high price. The story goes that many of these buddha heads were found in a market in New York City. They were demanded back by the Thai Government. (These are not the only things that were found in the USA and demanded back.)
Ayutthaya is known for its temples but also some of the largest buddha images in Thailand. We visited two temples that have the largest buddhas. The largest sitting buddha in Thailand is located near a royal palace. The temple unfortunately was struck by lightening and burned down leaving only the image and the columns standing. Since then it has been rebuilt. It also houses many of the buddha heads that were returned from the USA.
In addition, Ayutthaya is a sanctuary for elephants and many elephant areas allow tourists to ride them. :) I did not have time to ride the elephant.
Sadly there was a very bad flood in 2011 which damaged a lot of the temples and important structures. The last temple we saw was so badly damaged that it has been closed to the public and will continue to be until the structure is stabalized. It could take 5 years until the temple/palace is opened to the public.
For photos you will have to visit my vast collection of pictures at the following link.