As a Thai native, I am always eager to share the beauty of my country's traditions and landmarks with the rest of the world. One such place that I am excited to write about is the Ayutthaya Historical Park, which has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991.
Located just a few hours north of Bangkok, Ayutthaya was the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam and a major center of regional trade and politics from the 14th to 18th centuries. Today, the ruins of ancient temples, palaces, and fortresses scattered throughout the city stand as a testament to Thailand's rich history and cultural heritage.
One of the most striking features of Ayutthaya is the abundance of Buddhist temples and statues. For centuries, Buddhism has been an intrinsic part of Thai culture, influencing everything from architecture to art to everyday life. Visitors to the park can expect to see stylized Buddha images, intricately carved pillars, and towering pagodas that once served as centers of worship for the Thai people.
In this article, I will be highlighting some of the most fascinating Buddhist gems of the Ayutthaya Historical Park. From magnificent monasteries to hidden shrines, each site offers a unique insight into the history and spirituality of Thailand's people. Join me on this journey of discovery as we delve into the wonders of Ayutthaya's Buddhist heritage.
Wat Chaiwatthanaram: A serene riverside temple
One of the most famous temples in Ayutthaya, Wat Chaiwatthanaram exudes tranquility and peace with its serene riverside location. This beautiful temple was built in 1630 by King Prasat Thong to honor his mother, and quickly became one of the most important temples of the Ayutthaya kingdom.
The temple's impressive architecture showcases the Khmer influence that permeates throughout the ancient capital. The magnificent prang (tower) and pagodas are adorned with intricate carvings of mythical creatures and Buddha images, while the courtyard is lined with impressive Buddha statues in various poses.
The highlight of Wat Chaiwatthanaram is undoubtedly the sunset view from the temple grounds. As the sun sets over the Chao Phraya River, the temple's golden spires glow a warm amber and the entire temple complex is bathed in a serene golden light.
Visitors to Wat Chaiwatthanaram can also take a boat ride along the river, which provides an excellent vantage point to view the temple from the water.
Wat Phra Si Sanphet: The majestic former royal temple
Wat Phra Si Sanphet is a former royal temple that was once the most important temple in Ayutthaya. Built in the 15th century by King Borommatrailokanat, it served as the main temple of the Ayutthaya kingdom and was home to the famous Emerald Buddha before it was moved to Bangkok.
The temple's impressive three chedis (stupas) served as the royal mausoleums for three of Ayutthaya's kings. The chedis are magnificent examples of Ayutthaya architecture, with their elegant shapes and towering heights. Inside each chedi, visitors can see beautiful murals depicting the life of the Buddha and various other religious scenes.
Visitors to Wat Phra Si Sanphet can also explore the temple's expansive grounds and admire the beautiful ruins of the former palace and surrounding buildings.
Wat Mahathat: The iconic temple with a Buddha head in a tree
Wat Mahathat is one of the most iconic temples in Ayutthaya, famous for the Buddha head that is entwined in a tree's roots. The temple was built in the 14th century and served as the headquarters of the Mahanikaya school of Buddhism in Thailand.
The temple's central prang is the tallest in Ayutthaya and can be seen from miles away. Visitors can climb the stairs to the top and admire the stunning views of the surrounding area. The temple also features numerous historically significant structures, including a vihara (monastery) and a large assembly hall.
The Buddha head in a tree is one of the most photographed sights in Ayutthaya. The tree's roots have grown around the head, which is believed to have fallen off a statue during the sacking of Ayutthaya. This unique sight serves as a powerful reminder of Ayutthaya's rich history and the enduring power of faith.
Wat Ratchaburana: The mysterious underground temple
Wat Ratchaburana is a fascinating temple with a mysterious underground chamber. The temple was built in the 15th century by King Boromma Racha II as a memorial to his two brothers, who fought to the death over the right to the throne. The temple is located near Wat Mahathat, making it easy to visit both temples in one trip.
The temple's main prang is a stunning example of Ayutthaya architecture, with its elegant shape and intricate carvings. Visitors can climb the stairs to reach the top and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area.
The temple's most unique feature, however, is the mysterious underground chamber. Visitors can descend stairs into the dark and narrow chamber, where they will see splendid murals depicting the life of the Buddha and scenes from Jataka tales.
Wat Phra Ram: The peaceful temple surrounded by nature
Wat Phra Ram is a tranquil temple surrounded by lush green gardens and trees. The temple was built in the 14th century and was home to the ashes of King Ramesuan, one of Ayutthaya's early monarchs.
The temple's central prang and surrounding buildings showcase the exquisite architectural style of the Ayutthaya period, with intricate carvings and ornate designs. The temple's peaceful location, surrounded by the beauty of nature, makes it a perfect spot to relax and meditate.
Visitors to Wat Phra Ram can also take a leisurely walk around the temple's expansive grounds and admire the beautiful ruins of the former palace and surrounding buildings.
Wat Lokayasutharam: The giant reclining Buddha
Wat Lokayasutharam is home to an enormous reclining Buddha that spans over 37 meters in length and 8 meters in height. The statue is one of the largest Buddha images in Ayutthaya and is truly a sight to behold.
The statue, which dates back to the 16th century, is made of brick and plaster and is set in a peaceful garden surrounded by trees. The Buddha's serene expression and graceful pose exude tranquility and peace, making it a perfect spot for meditation and reflection.
Visitors to Wat Lokayasutharam can also explore the temple's expansive grounds and admire the beautiful ruins of the former palace and surrounding buildings.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon: The impressive stupa and ordination hall
Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon is a beautiful temple with a stunning central stupa and ordination hall on either side. The temple was built by King Naresuan the Great in the 16th century to celebrate his victory over the Burmese army.
The temple's central stupa is one of the tallest in Ayutthaya and features a gorgeous golden spire that glistens in the sunlight. The ordination halls on either side are lined with numerous Buddha statues, each with its unique expression and posture.
Visitors to Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon can also climb the stairs to the top of the central stupa and enjoy beautiful views of the surrounding area, including the famous reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam.
Ayutthaya's historical park is a treasure trove of magnificent temples, stunning architecture, and compelling history. Visitors to Ayutthaya can spend days exploring the ancient capital's beautiful ruins and unique sights, soaking up the region's rich cultural heritage.
Each temple brings its unique character and charm, providing visitors with something different to explore and discover. Whether you're interested in Buddhist art and architecture, history, or just want to relax and enjoy the tranquil surroundings, Ayutthaya's historical park is a must-visit destination.