Exploring Ayutthaya: The Outer Sites



Exploring Ayutthaya: The Outer Sites

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The central island of Ayutthaya stands at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Lop Buri, and Pasak rivers. The town’s most im posing sites are to be found on the central island. However, a short samlor ride by bridge over any of the rivers, which more or less encircle it, will bring you to many more sites of interest. Wat Na Phra Men is one of Ayutthaya’s most beautiful wats, and St. Joseph’s Church offers a glimpse of Ayutthaya’s connections with Western trading powers during the city’s heyday. The main part of modern Ayutthaya sprawls to the east of the island, over the Pasak River and beyond.

Wat Na Phra Men

Across a bridge to the north of the main island is Wat Na Phra Men, one of the most beautiful of Ayutthaya’s monasteries, and one of the few to survive the Burmese sacking of the city in 1767. Thought to date from the reign of Intharacha II (1488–91), it was restored during the reign of King Borommakot (1733–58), and again in the mid-19th century. In the wihan is a Dvaravati seated Buddha image, Phra Kanthararat, that was moved here from Nakhon Pathom in the mid- 16th century. The murals covering the wihan walls have now almost completely disappeared. Its doors are from the early 19th century. In the adjacent bot is a gilded Buddha image, probably from the reign of King Prasat Thong (1629–56).

Elephant Kraal

Farther to the north is the elephant kraal. It is thought that the original structure, built by King Yot Fa (1547–8), stood within the confines of the old city wall. The present kraal, built later, was in use well into the 19th century – wild elephants would be driven here for training as pack animals or war mounts for senior officers. In the middle of the stockade is a shrine where the elephant guardian is thought to live.

Wat Phu Khao Thong

To the west, the original chedi of Phu Khao Thong was constructed by King Bayinnaung of Burma to celebrate his capture of Ayutthaya in 1569. Additions were made in 1744–5 by the Thai King Borommakot.

Wat Chai Watthanaram

This wat was built by King Prasat Thong in 1630. The central prang is surrounded by eight smaller ones, decorated with stucco reliefs depicting images such as the Buddha preaching to his mother in the Tavatimsa Heaven. All the prangs have been restored.

St. Joseph’s Church

St. Joseph’s, overlooking the Chao Phraya River, has been the site of Catholic worship for over 300 years. The original 17th-century structure was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. The present church was built during the 19th century.

Wat Phutthaisawan

East from St. Joseph’s is Wat Phutthaisawan, also located on the riverbank. It has a restored 14th-century prang surrounded by a cloister filled with Buddha images.

Wat Kuti Dao

This wat originally dated from the early Ayutthaya period, but the ruins here today are of an 18th-century renovation by King Phumintharacha. The chedi is flanked by a wihan and a bot with distinctive arched windows and doors.

Wat Pradu Songtham

Inside the wihan of Wat Pradu Songtham are the remains of murals dating from the early Rattanakosin period. These recount the life of the Buddha and also show images of daily life, including one of a performance of the Ramakien at a fair. Outside is a bell tower topped by a small chedi from the late Ayutthaya period.

Wat Maheyong

The partially reconstructed ruins of Wat Maheyong date from the reign of King Borommaracha II (1424–48). The principal, bell-shaped chedi shows a clear stylistic link with earlier Sukhothai chedis, while all around the rectangular base are the remnants of stucco elephants. Other chedis at this site also show Sukhothai influence.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

The chedi here, one of the largest in Ayutthaya, was built by King Naresuan (1590–1605) to celebrate his victory over the Burmese at Nong Sarai in 1593. Flanking steps up to the chedi are two mondops housing seated Buddha images. On the northeast side of the wat is a ruined wihan containing a reclining Buddha.

Wat Phanan Choeng

This wat has been renovated over the years and houses the large, 14th-century, seated image of Phra Chao Phanan Choeng. The wihan was built in the mid-19th century.

Ban Yipun

Once the site of a 17th-century Japanese settlement, today a museum here displays exhibits that explain Ayutthaya’s foreign relations at the time.

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