Ayutthaya in central Thailand is now a modest town of 55,000 people, but a few centuries ago it was Thailand's bustling capital city, with a million residents and many foreign delegations. The major draws of Ayutthaya now are the picturesque ruins of elaborate temples commissioned by Thai kings, mainly in the 15th and 16th centuries. To imagine how they looked in their heyday, see our photos galleries of Wat Pho and the Grand Palace in Bangkok, later buildings that were constructed in the style of Ayutthaya.
Ruins of temples at Ayutthaya, 80 km north of Bangkok, which was Thailand’s capital from the mid-1300s to the mid-1700s
The city was sacked by a Burmese army in 1767. The wooden houses and palaces were burned, leaving only the ruins of brick and stone temples.
The temples were covered in plaster and whitewash, gold leaf, bright paint, and glittering tiles, like the ones we photographed at Wat Pho in Bangkok
A famous banyan tree whose roots have surrounded an old Buddha head
Tourists getting an elephant ride past one of Ayutthaya's 14th-century ruins
A restored vihara (preaching hall)
A memorial to the King and Queen of Thailand in front of the vihara
The vihara houses a large Buddha sculpted in 1538
An old photo of the ruined vihara and its Buddha before their restoration
Wat Phra Si Sanphet, from 1351, was the holiest temple in the former royal palace
Monks admiring a giant reclining Buddha
A smaller image in front of the Buddha gives worshipers a place to apply squares of gold leaf as a pious act
The ordination all at Wat Na Phra Men next to the reclining Buddha
An image of the Earth goddess Thorani, who wrung the water from her hair to create a flood that washed away a demon called Mara, who was trying to tempt the Buddha
The large crowned Buddha in Wat Na Phra Men
An unusual Indian-style Buddha from the 700s in Wat Na Phra Men
Chris with our driver in Ayutthaya. We were happy to find a female driver to hire, as they're rare.
Carved door panel in the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum, which displays artifacts found in Ayutthaya
This centuries-old model of a vihara looks like ones we saw around Ayutthaya
A statue of a 17th-century Dutch trader. In its heyday, Ayutthaya was home to merchants from as far away as Arabia, Persia, and Europe.
A reconstructed wooden palace
Schoolgirls enjoy a picnic on the palace lawn