A Visit to Bang Pa-In Summer Palace and the Island Kingdom of Ayutthaya
The palace of Bang Pa-In was founded in the 17th century by King Prasat Thong, who formerly came from this region. It was a pleasant summer residence for the kings of Ayutthaya because it was easy to get to by river. After the Burmese destroyed Ayutthaya, the early Chakri kings abandoned Bang Pa-In, as it was far from Bangkok. King Mongkut in the latter half of the 19th century rediscovered the advantage of the site and began to construct the buildings which, unfortunately, can no longer be seen today. King Chulalongkorn followed his father’s example and regularly spent the hot season at Bang Pa-In. The place could also be reached by the railway line leading to Ayutthaya constructed during his reign.
Bang Pa-In’s greatest attraction is in the pools surrounding the scattered buildings which are no longer in use; the park is well maintained and surrounded by walls marked from time-to-time monumental doorways in the neo-classical style. There are many charming buildings. The whole of this area is decorated with stucco statues, no doubt imported from Europe at the end of the 19th century. There is a feeling of response and ease about the palace, even though the buildings are mostly of Western inspiration one that is found in Europe. On the island between the Bang Pa-In canal and the river is Wat Niwet Thamprawat. This temple built by King Chulalongkorn in the style of a Gothic church, is linked to the other bank by a platform which moves along a cable.
The Island Kingdom of Ayutthaya
Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 by Prince U Thong who subsequently become king by the name of Ramathibodi. It remained the capital of the kingdom until it was conquered and destroyed by the Burmese in 1767. The site, which on the eastern side already contained a settlement, was carefully chosen. It is at the point where the Pasak and Lop Buri Rivers join up with the Mae Nam Chao Phraya at the heart of the river system; all that was needed to make it easy to defend was a canal to turn it into an artificial island.
Over a period of four countries Ayutthaya, which was famous in its times as an urban centre, developed to such an extent that it outgrew the enormous area (5km by 3km) which it originally occupied. A Grid-pattern of canals, the remains of which can still be seen, allowed boats to move around the town and reach the principal buildings.
The prosperity of the kingdom and the magnificence of its kings turn the capital into a city of palaces and temples which foreign visitors described in terms of wonder. The plans and bird’s eye views of Dutch and French travelers in the 17th century give one an idea of its size. The number and importance of the ruins which dot the site of Ayutthaya still bear witness today to its past splendour. Ground with rivers, it was a water bone city, ornamented, thanks to the piety of its kings and people, with a forest of chedis covered with stucco and gilt. The Burmese destroyed it in such a savage manner, they set fire to the temples, pillaged and demolished them in the hope of finding treasures, devastated the palaces and massacred the inhabitants. Almost overnight the splendid capital of Siam become a field of ruins so total that King Taksin and the Chakri Kings abandoned any hope of repairing it.
On the island of Ayutthaya, there are over 160 temples and historical sites. It is necessary for one to spend approximately 3 to 4 days in Ayutthaya if one wishes to cover the interior of the town thoroughly.
Under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Dr Momrajawongse Suriyavudh Sukhasvasti, The Siam Society will organise a study trip to visit the museum and historical sites in Ayutthaya Historical Park, including the summer palace in Bang Pa-In, from Saturday, 27 to Sunday, 28 May 2023.
The tentative programme will be as follows:
|Day 1: Saturday, 27 May: Bangkok – Ayutthaya
|Meet at The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Road, Sukhumvit 21, Bangkok
|Depart the Siam Society for Bang Pa-in Palace in Bang Pa-In district, Ayutthaya Province
Visit Bang Pa-In Palace and Wat Niwet Thamprawat
Proceed to Ayutthaya Historical Sites and visit Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, which is situated outside the Island of Ayutthaya. This temple is connected with many events in Thai history.
|Lunch at a local restaurant
Proceed to the interior of the island and visit Wat Phra Si Sanphet. This temple doubtlessly served as a royal temple. It was inside the compound of Wang Luang. Its position is rather similar to that of Wat Phra Keo in relation to the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Visit the grounds of the old Royal Palace and visit Wat Na Phra Men. Wat Na Phra Men is one of the few temples in Ayutthaya to have escaped destruction by the Burmese. It has several handsome buildings and a remarkable collection of valuable art objects. It has been an important Buddhist monastery since the Ayutthaya period and is situated outside the city wall.
Visit Wat Chaiwatthanaram, located on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River, built by King Prasat Thong. In 1630, King Prasat Thong ordered the construction of Wat Chaiwatthanaram on the site of his mother’s former residence where he had spent his childhood. This temple is one of the most impressive temples of Ayutthaya. In the reign of King Boromkot (1732-1758), a Singhalese mission of Buddhist monks visit the island city of Ayutthaya. In their records, they praised the beauty and splendor of Wat Pal Lan Kara which is understood to be Wat Chaiwatthanaram. After Ayutthaya was lost to the Burmese in 1767. Wat Chaiwatthanaram was abandoned and gradually returned to the jungle. The restoration of the temple was taken in 1987 and completed in 1992.
|Check in at Krungsri River Hotel
Dinner and overnight at the hotel
|Day 2: Sunday, 28 May: Ayutthaya – Bangkok
|Breakfast at the hotel
|Proceed to Wat Phanan Choeng. This temple has been renovated over the years and houses the large,14th-century, seated image of Phra Chao Phanan Choeng. The Wihan was built in the mid-19th century. This famous and much-respected statue has often been restored. It stands on an enormous base which one can walk around and is framed by three groups of thick columns.
Visit Wat Mahathat. This temple is the most important monument in Ayutthaya as it represents Mount Sumera and marks the centre of the Ayutthaya kingdom. The chronicles vary as to when and by whom Wat Mahathat was originally built. The Fine Art Department has carried out some research in the ruins and discovered gold objects d’art and a golden fish with small metal work boxes and Buddha statues inside (these are displayed in the museum). The Prang at Wat Mahathat was the main structure of the temple, built to enshrine the relics of the Buddha. In addition, to the main prang, there were twenty-five other prangs and many other buildings in the temple.
Visit Wat Raja Burana. This temple was constructed in 1424. Wat Raja Burana is surrounded by a wall with monumental gateways and lance-handed openings, some of which are still standing in the centre of the compound is a fine prang with a chapel on its eastern side, which can still be found in very good condition. This temple is located immediately after Wat Mahathat and is considered one of the most impressive temples of Ayutthaya.
|Lunch at a local restaurant in Ayutthaya
|Visit Chao Sam Phraya National Museum. The name of the museum is after Prince Chao Sam Phraya, who later became King Borom Rachathirat II (1424-1448). The museum contains a collection of bronze, stone, silver, and gold and tera-cotta statues found in the ruins of the temples of Ayutthaya. There is also a seated Buddha of Davovavat style in white crystalline stone which was taken from Wat Nang Kui. There are some gold and silver objects that were found in the crypt of Wat Raja Burana.
Visit Wat Meheyong. This Wat is a large, deserted temple, outside the island city in the east. In the old days, this temple was surrounded by water on all four sides. The most important structure at Wat Meheyong is the round stupa surrounded by elephant caryatids at its base. The chronicles say that King Tai Sa (1708-1732) had a dockyard constructed in front of Wat Maheyong. The junks built there transported elephants to foreign markets, such as Mergui on the west coast of Burma. At present, both rivers and canals have become too shallow for navigation. Historically, Wat Maheyong was a large and important temple with proper planning. What remains today is a testimony to the excellent work of ancient artists.
Visit Phu Khao Thong or Golden Mount. Phu Khao Thong is situated on an open plain battle of Ayutthaya. It is near Thung Makham Yong, the side of an important battle between Burma and Ayutthaya which took place in 1548. In 1690 during the reign of King Petracha Engelbert Kaempfer, the Physician to the Dutch Embassy in Japan, visited Ayutthaya and gave a detailed description of Chedi Phu Khao Thong in his book, a description of the kingdom of Siam, 1670, which generally corresponds with Chedi Phu Khao Thong as it stands at present. However, Kaempfer said that it was built in memory of a victory which the Siamese obtained over the Burmese.
|Depart Phu Khao Thong for Bangkok
Arrival at The Siam Society
The Siam Society reserves the right to change the program as necessary.
– The Siam Society may utilise photos taken from study trips, lectures, performances, and other activities as part of its public relations and marketing communication campaign. These photos, which may sometimes contain image(s) of activity participants, can also be featured on the Society’s website and other online social media channels.
Contribution of THB 11,000 (THB 12,000 for non-member). Single room surcharge of THB 1,000. will cover transportation, meals as mentioned in the programme, accommodation for 1 night (two persons per room), entrance fee, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. In addition, basic travel insurance is included. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the payment has been made. There is a 3% surcharge for credit/debit card payment to cover bank charges. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), saving account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code on your right. Once payment has been made, please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us.