Lying North of Bangkok encircled by three rivers, Ayutthaya was the second Capital of the ancient Siam Kingdom and a thriving Port City. Founded in 1350, Ayutthaya was ruled by Thai royalty for over four centuries until its defeat to Burmese soldiers in 1767. Once dubbed ‘The Venice of the East’, this densely populated city at its peak boasted 1500 Buddhist temples. Anantara Cruises promises to take its guests to the mouth of this acclaimed UNESCO World Heritage Site that is Ayutthaya Historical Park.
Bangkok cruises around the Park will offer glimpses of some of Ayutthaya Historical Park’s main attractions including ‘Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol’ which has a collection of mid-14th century stupas and Buddha statues and a 62 meter tall building sheltering an underground well facing ‘Wat Lokayasutharam’, a reclining Buddha statue measuring 37 meters in length. The better preserved monuments of ‘Wat Yai Chaya Mongkol’ stand in contrast to the ruins of ‘Wat Mahathat’, the residence of the Leader of Thai Buddhist Priests, where its ruined buildings and decapitated Buddha statues bear witness to the brunt of the Burmese invasion. Amidst the destructive beauty of the temple, is a 40 centimeter tall head sculpture of Lord Buddha half-hidden among the roots of a large a tree which has become one of the Park’s most photographed sites.
Nearby is ‘Wat Ratchaburana’, an early 15th century structure incorporating two towers and Angkor-inspired divine figurines that was built in the location where two princes died in a battle against each other for the throne. Inside the towers lies a crypt that once held the remains of the two royal princes and housed thousands of Buddhist tablets among other treasures within walls painted with murals that depict Buddha’s past lives.
To the West of the ancient royal cremation ground is ‘Viharn Phra Mongkol Bophit’, a restored building which was once built for Buddhist Priests of the Pa Kaeo sect and which houses one of Thailand’s largest Buddha statues, a mid-Ayutthaya period golden statue with a height of over 12 meters. Among the three palaces in the former royal palace grounds is ‘Wat Phra Si Sanphet’, a 15th century temple which was used for royal religious ceremonies and three stupas that contain the ashes of three of the city’s kings among Buddha relics.
Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe.