Friday, March 24, 2017

Thailand's ancient capital of Ayutthaya is a triple treat

Ancient Buddha surveys the ruins of Thailand's former capital (wikipedia)
AYUTTHAYA, THAILAND Ayutthaya may not be a household destination in most homes, but it was good enough to be the capital of Thailand on three occasions and that fact  alone gives it plenty of history. On the other hand, Burma, now known as Myanmar, is opening its doors to the world after years of isolation, and Ayutthaya was important enough to be the capital of the region on at least three occasions.
Nature finds a way
Once known as "the pearl of the east," Ayutthaya was the artistic, spiritual and military hub of Southeast Asia off and on from 1351 until 1767. In the 18th century the city was destroyed so completely by Burmese marauders that the king relocated his capital in Bangkok, 50 miles north on the Chao Phraya River rather than attempt to rebuild.
At its peak, in the 16th century, Ayutthaya was often described by foreign traders as one of the largest and wealthiest cities in the East thanks to an abundance of rice and teak.
Accounts of the 15th and 16th centuries called Ayutthaya "Siam" but other sources claim the people of the region referred to themselves as "Tai" and their kingdom was known as "Krung Tai" or "The Tai Country." Today we know it as "Thailand."
Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a must-see site in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Ayutthaya came to power by conquering northern kingdoms and city states in the region and along the river. Kamphaeng, Phet and Phitsanulok were among places that fell under Ayutthayan rule before the end of the 15th century.
Not long afterward, Ayutthaya attacked Angkor which was regarded as the central power in the region. When Angkor fell, Ayutthaya became the dominant power in the region controlling most of the territory along the shores of the Chao Phraya river plain.
Life along Bangkok's klongs

Even today, the best way to approach and visit Ayutthaya is along the river. Also known as the River of Kings, it meanders its way from the Northern Highlands of Thailand through the Gulf of Siam. Make no mistake, the Chao Phraya still serves today as Bangkok's lifeline.

No visit to Bangkok, or the Ayutthaya region, is complete without a cruise on the Chao Phraya aboard the Manohra Song, a lovingly restored 50-year old , 50-foot rice boat that cruises past exotic temples and the alluring klongs of the river.
Ayutthaya has been the capital three times in a thousand years
Comprised of teak and other rare woods, the Manohra Song features just four staterooms and provides outstanding culinary delights. Appointed with fabulous antiques, exquisite tapestries and weaving and stunning local crafts, the Manohra Song is considered the most luxurious craft operating on the river today.

Fortunately for the Thais, the rich food supply from the planting of rice was used to pay taxes and to support religious institutions for two hundred years between the 13th and 15th centuries.
Manohra Song is an elegant excursion on the Chao Phraya River
In northern Thailand, minimal rainfall had to be supplemented by an irrigation system that controlled water levels and flooded paddies where the rice crop was glutinous.

In the river basin region however, so-called "floating rice" had been introduced by Bengal and the thin, non-glutinous crop grew fast enough to maintain the pace of water levels in lowland fields.

Consequently, the new strain of rice produced a surplus that allowed Ayutthaya to prosper thanks to its location in the southern floodplain.

Geographically, the river delta, which was considered uninhabitable, was reclaimed for rice cultivation and the region thrived thanks to its newfound crop.
Thailand is country filled with wats, stupas and temples  (
Ayutthayan kings were monarchs with absolute as well as semi-religious status. In addition to their natural leadership they derived authority from Hinduism and Buddhism, which, under what was known as "The Cirlce of Power," or "mandala system" forced allegiance to the king even though Ayutthaya itself was not a unified state.
Ayutthaya is exotic, mysterious and alluring  (wikipedia)
While contemporary reconstruction continues to restore Ayutthaya to its once grand status, the ruins of the historic city and other associated historic towns are now listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Ancient Ayutthaya is being
rediscovered (wikipedia)
The ancient city of Ayutthaya has been refound near the old city and is, today, the capital of Ayutthaya province.
Thailand is a destination that must be explored and absorbed through the pores. Its ancient cities, temples, traditions and religions speak of cultures we can only imagine in our minds, and perhaps that is where we can truly discover "the Thais that bind."