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Ayutthaya used to be one of Southeast Asia most powerful capitals with many ruins reminding travellers of this glorious past.
Just 60 km away from Bangkok, tourists can discover one of the grandest archeological and spiritual sites of Southeast Asia in Ayutthaya. Historically the second capital of Siam, Ayutthaya was one of the most brilliant civilizations in the region. The ruins of its temples are a powerful testimony of the magnificence of the former capital while the near-by palace of Bang Pa-In is the European dreams of Siamese kings some 150 years ago.
Ayutthaya prosperity came from its location, upstream the Chao Praya River. Being away from the sea and from attacks from pirates, Ayutthaya appeared as the perfect peaceful place for trading, especially with China.
The rise of the old capital occurred with the beginning of the 15th century. According to Ayutthaya history specialist Chris Baker, some 10,000 elephants were living in Ayutthaya next to the population by 1550, a real sign of opulence and power. War and then trade made Ayutthaya opulence in such a way that in the 17th century saw the establishment of the first diplomatic relations with countries around the world, such as with France.
Ayutthaya lost its economic preponderance in the 18th century with new trading centres emerging but kept its cultural influence in Asia until 1767. That year, Burmese troops attacked the capital, ransacked it and then burnt it to the ground. It would take 100 years before Ayutthaya started recovering with its chedis, prangs (towers), temples and monasteries being restored. The city is since 1991 a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This article first appeared on www.baolau.com
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