Capital of the Ayutthaya Empire, the city was founded in 1350, and was the second major capital of Siam (after Sukhothai). During its most glorious period, from the 14th to the 18th centuries, it was considered one of the largest and most beautiful cities in the world with glinting gilded temples and bustling waterways. The city was a centre of diplomacy and commerce and attracted traders from both Asia and Europe seeking luxury goods and Thai rice, which is valued worldwide for its fragrant quality even today.
Ayutthaya flourished thanks to its strategic position on an island surrounded by three rivers that connected it to the Gulf of Thailand. This made it accessible to peoples; such as, the Portuguese, who first travelled to the city in the 1500s as members of the first official embassy from state-builder Afonso de Albuquerque, to King Ramathibodi II. Within five years, the two nations had a trade treaty in place. Later, other nations; such, as the Dutch were given permission to trade with Ayutthaya and Siamese ambassadors were sent as far afield as France, Japan, China and the Mughal city of Delhi.
To this day, Ayutthaya remains one of the first places beyond Bangkok visited by tourists seeking a taste of Thai culture. As it’s just a short distance from Bangkok, it’s the perfect venue for a day of sightseeing and people often spend a few hours looking around the many temples and monuments before enjoying some of the famous local food and heading back to Bangkok.
But Ayutthaya isn’t just important to Thailand and her people; it is regarded as a vital piece of world culture, too. This is why, in 1991, it was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
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