The Venerable Kingdom Of Ayutthaya

Background

The city-state of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by King Ramathibodi I (also know as King U-Thong). Over the next four centuries this city-state expanded to become the one of the most powerful and influential kingdoms in the Southeast Asian mainland, with the city of Ayutthaya serving as the kingdom's capital. In the course of those four centuries from 1350 to 1767 CE, 33 monarchs ascended to Ayutthaya's royal throne (a few of them for several decades, while a few others for only a couple of months). And although most of those years saw peace and prosperity in Ayutthaya, there were many episodes of wars with neighboring kingdoms, as well as several internal power struggles. Both types of these episodes are characterised by intrigues, conspiracies, treacheries, as well as, chivalry, sacrifices, and courage, and, as can be expected, ended in the bloodshed and tragedy for many.

The main reason for Ayutthaya's eminence is the kingdom's strategic position on the trading routes between East and West, as well as its abundance of natural resources (especially in agricultural and forest products). Both advantages were wisely exploited, and earned much wealth for the kingdom, with the kings being the principle trading executive under the absolute monarchic rules of law.

The kingdom's ideal location between China to the east, India to the west and the Southeast Asian Archipelago to the south, made Ayutthaya one of the leading trade centers of Asia. Ayutthaya was friendly towards all foreign traders, permitting them to set up respective communities outside the capital's city walls. The court of King Narai the Great (reigned 1656 through 1688 CE) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France. This was unquestionably the most illustrious period of Ayutthaya. Conservative factions in King Narai’s court, however, were suspicious of the foreigners, and after his passing, his successors brought about a 150-year period of relative isolation.
By Nicolas Eynaud - Own work; based on
David K. Wyatt (2004), Thailand: A Short History, 2nd ed. Silkworm Books, Chiang Mai, p. 75 and
Cornell Southeast Asia Program map Ayudhya Empire 1540.
[CC BY-SA 4.0]
The kingdom of Ayutthaya fell twice when its capital city was subjugated by Burmese military forces:

  • The first time was in 1564 CE, which made Ayutthaya as vassal state of Burma's Kingdom of Hamsavati during the rule of the great King Bayinnaung, who conquered much of the mainland Southeast Asia (literally all areas except today's Cambodia and Vietnam). After the passing of King Bayinnaung in 1581, Ayutthaya revolted and successfully regained independence under the leadership of Prince (subsequently King) Naresuan in 1593 CE.
  • The second fall of Ayutthaya in 1767 CE was a permanent one. Ayutthaya capital city was burnt almost completely to the ground after the Burmese of Ava kingdom breached the main wall and devastated the city. However, the Burmese invasion force was able to have a grip on to Ayutthaya for less than one year, because they themselves were invaded by China (Da Qing empire) at their northern borders, and the main contingent had to be withdrawn to protect their motherland. The remaining occupational force was quickly overrun by Thai troops under the command of Phya Taksin, a former general in Ayutthaya court, who escaped just before the capital fell and formed a resistance army to drive back the Burmese. Upon his successful restoration of Thai's independence, Phya Taksin established himself as the new monarch and founded his capital at Thonburi (on the western bank of the Chao Phraya River opposite today's Bangkok city). 
Although over two centuries have past since the final fall of Ayutthaya, its heritage still remains with us today, both in the ruins of the structures from the kingdom's prime period and in Thailand's living cultures, customs and traditions that still resonate those of ancient Ayutthaya.
itinerary options

Option 1: A Two-Day / One-Night Tour To Bang Pa-In, Ayutthaya City And Lopburi City

This tour starts at sunrise on Day-One with a drive from Bangkok heading due north.

After approximately one to one and a half hour's drive, we make our first stop at Bang Pa-In, where there is a Buddhist temple (Wat Niwet Thammaprawat) and a royal palace (Bang Pa-In Palace), both with interesting buildings created in Western European architectures. Spend about two hours strolling around the temple and the palace compounds.

We then continue northwards for another forty-five minutes, arriving in Ayutthaya city. Here we tour the various locations that were important sites when Ayutthaya Kingdom was at its prime, spending about three to four hours and having a lunch break featuring river prawns and other Thai food delicacies at a riverside restaurant.

Depending on the guests' preference, we have choices of spending the evening in either Ayutthaya or Lopburi. Both cities have quaint accommodations that are clean, safe and peaceful.

On Day-Two, we tour the city of Lopburi. The key locations include some very ancient monuments from the Khmer period almost one thousand years ago. Lopburi was also an alternate residence of King Narai The Great in the 17th century CE, and so there are a number of locations which are of interest regarding his contacts with the West. In late November and all of December, we can drive about ten kilometres out of Lopburi city and visit fields of sunflowers that are in full bloom.

After a lunch break, we head back towards Bangkok, making a few more stops along the way, if time allows.


Option 2: A One-Day Excursion To Either Ayutthaya City Or Lopburi City

(1) Bang Pa-In and Ayutthaya as above.

(2) Bang Pa-In and Lopburi as above.


<Please click on this map to view details of each site of interest>
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