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Visit the ruined city of Ayutthaya for a glimpse of Thailand history

Vistors stroll the grounds of Ayutthaya historical park outside Bangkok. Once the capital of Siam, Ayuthaya was reduced to ruins by a Burmese invasion in the 18th century.

Vistors stroll the grounds of Ayutthaya historical park outside Bangkok. Once the capital of Siam, Ayuthaya was reduced to ruins by a Burmese invasion in the 18th century.

(Rosemary McClure / For The Times)

If Bangkok’s gritty streets and modern high-rises begin to close in on you, the best place to escape to is Ayutthaya, about an hour’s drive.

Centuries ago, this fallen city was one of the largest in the world, ideally situated between China, India and the Malay archipelago. It was a trading capital, and its 400 opulent temples and palaces glowed in the sunlight. Today they take on an ethereal glow — at least at night, when they are illuminated.

But the best time to visit the historical park is during the day, when you can stroll or bike among the ruins, many of which have been restored.

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At one time, Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam, home to 33 kings and numerous dynasties between 1350 and 1767, when the Burmese sacked it and left it in ruins. During the height of its power, its kings ruled an area the size of England and France.

Much of the capital had deteriorated when restoration work began. Today there are several functioning temples, and more than a dozen restored ruins can be found within the heart of the park. In 1991 the area was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The architecture is a mix of styles, some of which are similar to those in Cambodia’s Angkor Wat.

Visit the area on a half-day or full-day trip by bus, private car or lunch cruise from Bangkok. Traveling by boat to or from Ayutthaya gives visitors an opportunity to see how people live along the Chao Phraya River, considered the lifeblood of Bangkok and the surrounding region.

travel@latimes.com


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