Kingdom of Ayutthaya

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By Jojie Alcantara

Witerary

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


THE historic City of Ayutthaya (1351-1767), was the second capital of a flourishing Siamese Kingdom. From the 14th to the 18th centuries, it grew to be one of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban areas and a most important center of global diplomacy and commerce during its time. It was said to be beautiful, luxurious and fabulous, rivaling that of Paris.

Ayutthaya was strategically located on an island in the midst of three rivers connecting to the sea. Based on ancient maps and historical records, the prosperous kingdom was laid out according to a systematic and rigid city planning grid, consisting of roads, canals, and moats around all its principal structures. It had a technologically advanced hydraulic system for water management which was unique in the world. Located upstream at the head of the Gulf of Siam, it protected the city from attacks of seafaring warships and seasonal flooding. Eventually, it gave in to consistent invasion from the Burmese armies.

The city was finally burned down by the Burmese army in 1767 forcing the inhabitants to abandon it. Art treasures, libraries of literature and archives of historical records were almost totally destroyed. Most of its statues were decapitated, leaving headless Buddha statues everywhere. What remained were ruins of the royal palace. At present, it is located in PhraNakhon Si Ayutthaya District, PhraNakhon Si Ayutthaya Province.

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Today, Ayutthaya is now a most impressive archaeological ruin, characterized by the remains of tall prangs (towers) and vast Buddhist monasteries in splendid art and architecture, attesting to its excellent period impressive Thai art and culture development.

Once a powerful global center of politics, economics, religion and economic trade and an important connecting point between the East and the West, the former capital is now managed as a historical park.

The ruins of the historic city of Ayutthaya have been listed by the Unesco as a World Heritage Site, a site of outstanding value to humanity. The total area of the World Heritage property is 289 hectares.

A Master Plan to commit legal protection for its protection, restoration and development has been established. A budget for the conservation of the Historic City of Ayutthaya is allocated by the government, private sector, and heritage conservation groups. New regulations for control of construction within the ancient property’s extended boundaries are being tasked to ensure that the values of the once splendid city are protected.

A day tour to the legendary city from Bangkok only takes less than an hour, and is a must visit destination during your stay, particularly for photographers and artists looking for inspiration from ancient legacies of mankind. Look for the most iconic scene in WatMahathat, that of the Head of Buddha which is embedded and entwined in a vine overgrowth of a mammoth banyan tree, cradling it protectively and sacredly from further harm and vandalism. Pay proper respects while doing your selfie, but brace yourself for goose pimples as well.

Special thanks to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and Thai Airways for this significant trip.

Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on August 21, 2014.

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