Southeast Asia Natural Adventures
nature travel, wildlife tours, adventure travel and general travel to Thailand, Indonesia and Southeast Asia
Thailand: Sukhothai & Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was the capital of the Thai people for over 400 years, beginning in the mid 14th C. It took over from the Sukhothai reign, due in part to its strategic position, and became one of Asia's premier trading and economic centers. During the time of Ayutthaya power Thai arts and architecture slowly evolved from the Khmer style to a more Thai style, and many believe this period to be the height of Thai artistic endeavors. At its peak there were over 1500 temples and thousands of gold or gilt Buddha images. Eventually in 1767 it was sacked by the Burmese, who in savage ferocity decimated its possibly one million citizens, taking scores of thousands as slaves and killing many more. The city was then burned to the ground, and the temples destroyed, including the Buddha images for their gold, a surprising desecration considering that the Burmese were also Buddhists. The remains of the old city can now be seen both as scattered ruins, as well as on-going reconstruction of many of the temples; there are also excellent museums.
Sukhothai was Thailand's first independent kingdom, wresting political power from the Khmer rulers. Over its 100-year reign other small kingdoms joined, developing what was the first independent Thai state,a nd one that was never ruled by outsiders. Gradually losing power as the kings and princes of Ayuthaya gained power, it ceased as a kingdom, to be controlled by Ayuthaya, around 1440. Despite it premier position in the arts, letters and sciences of Thailand, with King Ramkamheng promoting Buddhism and developing the Thai script, the city fell into disrepair, but was not sacked. Today it represents the best examples of a wide variety of older architectural styles and influences.