Exploring Ayutthaya Historical Park (Part 1): The Ruins of Wat Mahathat

April 7, 1767 – the residents of the city of Ayutthaya are in a desperate situation. They have no food and other supplies are running low. Meanwhile, outside of the city walls is the Burmese army still persevering for more than a year of siege. The rainy season floods, which are their last hope, failed to drown the invading Burmese. There is no hope but death because the enemy didn’t want anything less than the utter destruction of their city.

The inevitable came at 4 o’clock in the afternoon. The city walls fell and the invading Burmese entered and slaughtered and burned and finally destroyed the once proud capital of Ayutthaya Kingdom. The beautiful palaces were torched. Even the glorious temples for Buddha were not spared.1 One of such Buddhist temples destroyed by the Burmese is Wat Mahathat.

The ruins of Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya Historical Park

Wat Mahathat (correctly spelled as Wat Mah That) is known as the Temple of the Great Relic because it once held the relics of Buddha. It was also the residence of the head monk of Ayutthaya Kingdom.2

Wat Mahathat is the first tourist spot that I visited in Ayutthaya Historical Park. Since I was not a Thai, I paid 50 baht as admission fee.

Ticket to Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

The ruins are everywhere and most of them are in the shades of orange due to the clay bricks used to construct the prangs, stupa, walls and structures of Wat Mahathat.

Stupas in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

I was fortunate to enter Wat Mahathat before busloads of tourists arrived in Ayutthaya Historical Park. I was able to take good photos of the ruins of Wat Mahathat like this one:

Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

That is a statue of the Buddha which I believed was hacked during the fall of Ayutthaya. Burmese invaders beheaded and removed the golden parts of Buddha statues of Ayutthaya.

Beheaded buddha statues in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

I guess that getting the spoils of war is much more important than honouring their Buddha.

Headless buddha in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

Wat Mahathat is approximately located at the center of Ayutthaya. It was placed in that location because the main prang or the temples main tower represents Mount Meru, which is the center of Buddhist universe.

The remains of Wat Mahathat's main prang in Ayutthaya Historical Park
The remaining base of Wat Mahathat's main prang.

Wat Mahathat’s main prang stood 50 meters in the past.2 Now only its base remains.

Near the prangs is the Grand Hall where the monks once lived. What remained of its are just brick walls and the floor. The Buddha statues, the paintings, the gold ornaments that adorned it are now lost.

The ruined monks' house in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

Near the Grand Hall is the most photographed object in Ayutthaya:

Buddha head in buddha tree in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

Buddha’s head stuck in a bodhi tree. 

Too bad that taking selfie with Buddha’s head is not allowed. I just contented myself in taking zoom in photo of it.

Head of buddha stuck in a tree in Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park

Exploring the ruins of Wat Mahathat amazed me. I felt like an archaeologist trying to decipher the story behind the ruins. I also felt like a regular tourist who sometimes enjoys goofing around.

Ishmael Ahab at Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya Historical Park
Me playing Samson among the ruins of Ayutthaya.


1. The Burmese - Siamese War (1765-67) in Wikipedia.
2. Wat Maha That in the History of Ayutthaya

Let’s Go to Ayutthaya

My journey to the temples and ruins of North Thailand and Sukhothai didn’t satiate my hunger for more adventure. In fact, that journey made me want to explore Thailand more. So, in the last month of my 6-month stay in Thailand, I visited another former capital of Thailand. This is no other than the ancient city of Ayutthaya.

Ruins of Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya was established in 1350 by King Uthong. It grew in prominence and invaded some kingdoms in the Malay Peninsula, Thai kingdoms in the north like Sukhothai, and parts of Cambodia which was then under the Khmer Empire.

Unfortunately, Ayutthaya weakened due to wars between throne claimants. After being the Thai capital for 417 years2, Ayutthaya was utterly destroyed by the invading Burmese Army. 

Ayutthaya is not only a city of ruins but also has plenty of interesting places. Here are some of the places which I will post about in coming blog posts:

1. The Ruins of Ayutthaya Kingdom

Buddha statue in Ayutthaya Historical Park

I felt like Indiana Jones when I explored the ruins of Ayutthaya. The ruins are so plenty that I stopped entering any ruin of a wat after visiting three major wats. The highlight of my ruins expedition is my descent to the crypt of Wat Ratchaburana.

2. Greet and Meet the Elephants

Thai elephant in Ayutthaya Historical Park

My Ayutthaya adventure is memorable because this is the only time when I came very close to a living Thai elephant.

3. Another Church Visit

Catholic church outside of the walls of Ayutthaya Historical Park

I was glad when I discovered that there is Catholic church just outside the old city of Ayutthaya. It is one of a kind chance so I visited it. My effort was not in vain because I saw a beautiful church.

4. The Remains of the Portuguese Village

The ruined chapel in the old Portuguese settlement in Ayutthaya

Ayutthaya’s economic importance was noticed by Europeans. The Portuguese built not only diplomatic and trade relations with Ayutthaya but also sent soldiers as mercenaries for the Thai king. So when Ayutthaya fell to Burma the small Portuguese population perished. The settlement remained to tell their story. This is another unique spot beyond the normal ruins of Thai temples and palaces so I made sure to visit it.

Isn’t Ayutthaya interesting? I do hope that I was able to get you interested to read my future travel posts about ruins of Ayutthaya.

Sukhothai Historical Park: The Ruins of the First Capital of Thailand

“Would you like to go Sukhothai?” – this is the question that our generous Thai friend asked us the morning after our super adventure in North Thailand. He said that his parents are going to Sukhothai for a Rotary Club meeting and we will accompany them if we wanted to.

Our answer, of course, is YES even if I didn’t know what kind of a place Sukothai is. I’ll go as long as it’s an adventure especially if it’s an adventure in Thailand.

We spent almost the whole morning travelling along the winding road over the mountains and valleys. We reached Sukhothai town with empty stomachs so we dropped by a Sukhothai noodle soup restaurant for lunch.

Sukkhothai Noodle Soup Restaurant

Our hosts intentionally brought us to this restaurant so we could taste the gastronomic pride of Sukhothai: Kuaytiaw Sukhothai which literally means Sukhothai-style noodles.

Sukkhothai Noodle Soup

I enjoyed Sukhothai’s noodles. The broth, the pork meat and the thin noodles are very good combination.

We said our “thank yous” and “good byes” to Yam’s parents after the delicious lunch and off we go to the ruins of Sukhothai.

Tourists in Sukhothai Historical Park

The ruins are the remains of the once powerful Sukhothai Kingdom, which dominated Thailand during the 13th Century.

Map of Sukhothai Kingdom in the 13th Century
Sukhothai Kingdom in orange.

The height of Sukhothai’s influence is due to Ramkhamhaeng, the third ruler of the kingdom. He expanded Sukothai’s territory by invading kingdoms in the Malay Peninsula, Myanmar, and Laos.

King Rhamkhamhaeng statue in Sukhothai Historical Park
King Ramkhamhaeng of Sukhothai

Ramkhamhaeng is still respected highly by the Thais so never make a mistake of making fun of his statue or insulting his name. In fact, some considered him as the Founding Father of the Thai Nation.

The Sukhothai Historical Park occupies a very large rectangular area surrounded by walls. It is composed of 193 ruins of palaces, temples, and other structures. There are so many ruins to visit but we couldn’t visit them all so we just focused on a couple of major ruins of Sukhothai Kingdom.

Lone pagoda in Sukhothai Historical Park

The first ruin that we visited is Wat Mahathat, which reminded me of the colossal ruins in Athens.

Ruins of Sukhothai Historical Park

Wat Mahathat is located at the heart of Sukhothai and considered as the main temple of the whole Kingdom. It once housed a bronze Buddha image which was transferred to Bangkok by King Rama I.

Buddha statues in Sukhothai Historical Park
Remaining stone Buddha in Wat Mahathat.

The main feature of Wat Mahathat is its main stupa that looks like a lotus bud.

Lotus bud stupa of Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai Historical Park

At the base of this stupa is a relief of Buddha’s disciples.

Bas relief in Sukhothai Historical Park

It seems that these disciples are dancing.

The ruins are proof of the greatness of Sukhothai Kingdom. The old city has canal, dykes, dams and fortifications.

Pagodas in Sukhothai Historical Park

Unfortunately, Sukhothai’s greatness ended with the death of Ramkhamhaeng. All of its vassal kingdoms broke away until it was invaded by the Kingdom of Ayutthaya.

Standing Buddha statue of Sukhothai Historical Park

Compared to major tourist sites of Thailand that I visited, the old city of Sukhothai is the least crowded. I guess Sukhothai is too far away from Bangkok and few tourists dare to travel far.

Temle ruins in Sukhothai Historical Park

I am quite impressed with the ruins of Sukhothai especially because I came from a country that didn’t develop such kind of architecture. Our ancestors just used bamboos and wood as fortifications. We had to wait for the Spaniards for us to develop forts and structures made in stone.

Buddha in Sukhothai Historical Park

The ruins are not only thing that was left of Sukhothai Kingdom. The truth is that it created the Siam culture. The Thai alphabet, architectural styles, and even the Loi Krathong Festival traced their roots to Sukhothai Kingdom. This Kingdom is truly the “mother” of modern Thailand.

So for history buffs like me, the visit to Sukhathai Kingdom is worth considering.


Information for this post was obtained from the following sources:

The Kingdom of Sukhothai from AsiaWorld
Sukhothai Historical Park from Sawadee.Com
Ramkhamhaeng and Sukhothai Kingdom from Wikipedia
Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns from UNESCO
Sukhothai Kingdom from Encyclopaedia Britannica