The Historic City of Ayutthaya
Ian Robert Knight
Travel Photographer, Canada
About 80 km north of the city of Bangkok, you’ll find the Historic City of Ayutthaya, one of the most important historical sites in Thailand. The City of Ayutthaya (pronounced uh-yoo-tie-yah), much now in ruins, was the second capital city – after Sukhothai – in what was once the Kingdom of Siam. It was founded in 1350 and remained a important trading city until the mid 1700’s.
Siam, which changed its name to Thailand in 1939, was ideally located in the center between China, India and the Malay Peninsula. And Ayutthaya was the capital of a large trading empire. The city itself is located on an island surrounded by the confluence of three rivers. Because it was far enough from the sea, it was difficult for foreign fleets to invade. But not impossible. In 1767, Burma (now modern day Myanmar) invaded and burnt the city to the ground.
Massive chedis remain mostly intact.
At one point, Ayutthaya was considered the largest city in the world, by population. Over 1 million people resided in the capital, including the royal family of King Taksin. There were temples covered in gold, a well-planned layout of canals and a grid pattern for city streets (still visible today). All that remains now are the structures that were made from stone, although they are not completely intact. After the fall of Ayutthaya, the capital city was moved south to Thonburi, which is now part of Bangkok.
At one point, Ayutthaya was considered the largest city in the world, by population.
The Historical City of Ayutthaya, formally known as Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This honor brings a level of notoriety to the city, and provides some protection of its historical nature. A day trip from Bangkok is usually on the list for most tourists, and well worth their time.
Wat Mongkhon Bophit temple
There are quite a lot of ruins to see when you visit. Most of them are easy to walk around, and even climb upon. The massive chedis in the ruins of the royal palace are significant structures, even today. At the time, the palace was only used for religious ceremonies for the royal family. Today, the chedis are the most commonly used images for marketing the modern city of Ayutthaya.
There is a working temple on the grounds as well. If you time it right, you’ll have a chance to see hundreds of saffron-robed monks praying and chanting in and around the temple. The current temple building houses a massive bronze sculpture of Buddha, said to have been created in the early 1500’s. Be sure to check that out.
Tips for photographing the Historic City of Ayutthaya:
- If you can get there in the morning, you’ll enjoy your time better, as the day can get quite hot and there is very little shelter available.
- I’d recommend that you bring a wide lens for your camera if you have one. The structures can be quite large, and it will be challenging to capture them completely with a normal or telephoto lens.
- Most of the structures are the same tones, so inject some colour into the scene when you can. Often, monks in colourful robes will be around, so that can help a lot.
- There are elephants in the area, and although I don’t recommend that you ride them, I encourage you to include them in your photographs.
- Take your time, and let the crowds walk past your frame. Set up a tripod and wait for the right moment when the scene is clear. Patience and a tripod help a lot.
- A polarizer filter will contribute a lot to your images too. Especially if you’re lucky enough to get some clouds in the sky.
Ian Robert Knight Photography
Ian is a professional photographer, specializing in travel editorial and street photography. Find out more about Ian's background and experiences in the bio page here.
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