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Introducing Ayuthaya

The sacred city, the sacked city, Ayuthaya is complexly intertwined with Thai nationalism and religion. As the former royal capital, Ayuthaya earned the emerging Thai nation a place among the great empires of Southeast Asia, and placement on the map used by the international merchants sailing between India and China during the era of the trade winds. As a city that was destroyed by an invading army, Ayuthaya is eulogised like a slain hero.

But what is recounted in history and legend is not easily recognisable today. The ancient monuments retain little of their bygone majesty, with only a handful in recognisable forms. The modern city that grew among the rubble is busy and provincial, adding a distracting element of chaos to the meditative mood of crumbled kingdoms.

Still, the city is a necessary stop on the culture trail, because of its position in the historical hierarchy and because its story as a kingdom is more approachable and better recorded than Thailand’s other ancient capital, Sukhothai. Ayuthaya’s proximity to Bangkok also makes it an alternative base for recent arrivals who find the modern capital just plain crummy.