Thailand is not just Bangkok; there's much more!
Jul 19, 2013

Apart from bustling Bangkok, Thailand has much more to offer its visitors, this Sri Lankan globetrotter finds out

Thailand had over 15 million tourists last year, with approximately 72,000 Sri Lankans visiting the country. According to tourism authorities in Thailand, Sri Lankans only visit Bangkok, mainly for commercial purposes and entertainment. Bangkok is a much sought after hub, which has earned a reputation as a city which provides various sorts of entertainment.

So, it is debatable as to how many Sri Lankans have visited Ayutthaya, one of the ancient capitals of Siam. The city is only a two-hour drive away from Bangkok.

Surrounded by three rivers: the Chao Phraya, Pa Sak and Lopburi, Ayutthaya was once a regional power for 417 years (1350 -1767). The Kingdom of Ayutthaya, at the peak of her popularity, enjoyed strength in sovereignty, military power, culture, wealth and international commerce.

She had diplomatic relations with France during the 16th century, while Britain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Japan and China sought her favour during that period.

The concept of the white elephant as the significant symbol of power was popularised by the monarchs of Ayutthaya, Siam.

The historical park situated in the centre of the city is a World Heritage site.

During the tour, the guide, Miss Wanna explaining the significance of the predominant architecture of the old city, said that it was a mix of "Khmer" and "Sukhothai" styles.

"The cactus shaped obelisks called prangs, signified 'Khmer' influence and looked somewhat akin to the famous towers of the Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia, while the more pointed stupas could be attributed to Sukhothai influence," she said.

The Unesco World Heritage site includes several key historic Buddhist temples and ruins. The ties between Sri Lanka and Thailand commenced due to Theravada Buddhism which existed in both countries.

In fact, the type of Buddhism one finds in Thailand is an inheritance from Sri Lanka through a relationship that's more than 700 years old.

Historians and lovers of history will find a haven in the midst of its ancient temple ruins, which reminds one of the ancient cities of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka.

One of the largest ruins in Ayutthaya is the Wat Chiwatthanaram temple (The temple of long reign and glorious era), which was built on the banks of the Chao Phraya River.

It was constructed in 1630 by King Prasat Thong. The temple was destroyed by the Burmese when they attacked and destroyed the great city in 1767.

The ruined temple proved to be an invitation for thieves who plundered and beheaded the Buddha statues, and stole the bricks of the temple in search of Ayutthaya’s treasure, she said.

After a long period, the site was only restored in 1987 by the Thai Department of Fine Arts, and opened to the public in 1992.

The site also includes the ruins of Wat Thammikarat, Wat Ratburang and Wat Phra Mahathat.

There is also the entertainment and shopping side to Ayutthaya.

While you’re in the city, don’t forget to visit one of its floating markets, where you can bargain for fair prices for shoes, clothes and little trinkets and souvenirs. Or you could just sit, and watch the boats in the river, as well as the activity around you.

The day should finish with dinner on one of the many rice barges. At dusk, the lights illuminating the many sites such as the Wat Phananchoeng, Phet Fortress, Wat Putthaisawan, Wat Chai Watthanaram, St. Joseph’s Church and many other sites which you would have seen during daytime will take your breath away.

On July 20, Sri Lanka will celebrate 260 years since the establishment of the Siam Nikhaya by the Venerable Upali Maha Thera.

The King of Sri Lanka at that time, Keerthi Sri Rajasinghe, had sought the assistance of King Borommakot of Thailand to ordain 700 Samaneras to the Priesthood.

Portuguese and Indian invaders had dealt a severe blow to Buddhism in Sri Lanka at the time and left her without Bhikhu's to perform "upasampada".

Historians reveal that the Venerable Upali Maha thera ordained 3,000 Bikkhus and 7,000 Samaneras within three years. Amongst them was the Venerable Weliwita Saranankara Thera.

But what of Ayutthaya the ancient capital of Thailand, which was known as Siam - from where the Venerable Upali Maha Thera in 1753, ventured to sail across to Sri Lanka?

The ties between the two countries have strengthened even more over the years.

And the similarities between the two countries do not remain only in Theravada Buddhism, but it also extends to the people, despite the difference in their skin colour.

The only way to be witness to this is to visit Thailand and walk not only the streets of Bangkok, its present capital, but also other parts of the beautiful country.

by Dilanthi Jayamanne

SOURCE / The Island