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Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya (pronounced eye-you-TEE-a) is a city at the confluence of the Chao Phraya, Lopburi and Pasak rivers in Thailand, 76 km north of Bangkok. Its full Thai name is Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, which means City of Ayutthaya. The name Ayutthaya derives from the Ayodhya of the Ramayana epic.

King Ramathibodi I (Uthong) founded the capital of his kingdom here in 1350 and absorbed Sukhothai, 640 km to the north, in 1376. Over the next four centuries the kingdom expanded to become the nation of Siam, whose borders were roughly those of modern Thailand. Ayutthaya was friendly towards foreign traders, including the Chinese, Indians, Japanese and Persians, and later the Portuguese, Spanish, Dutch, British and French, permitting them to set up villages outside the city walls. The court of King Narai (1656-1688) had strong links with that of King Louis XIV of France, whose ambassadors compared the city in size and wealth to Paris.

Buddha head overgrown by fig tree in Wat Mahatat, Ayutthaya historical park

In 1767 Ayutthaya was invaded and destroyed by Burma. All that remains of the old city are some impressive ruins of the royal palace. King Taksin established a capital at Thonburi, across the Chao Phraya from the present capital, Bangkok.

The modern city of Ayutthaya is the centre of a province, or changwat, with a population of about 742,000 (2002), with 288 inhabitants per km². It is divided into sixteen districts (ampohes), 209 tambons and 1,706 villages. The city's slogan can be translated as "ancient city of plenty, poetry and patriotism".

The historic city of Ayutthaya and "associated historic towns" have been listed by the UNESCO as World Heritage Sites.

The Ayutthaya Dynasty



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