Ayutthaya Historical Park
These represent only a small part of the total, since I limited myself to visiting only three temples (the most important) out of the dozen that make up the historic park of this city:Wat Mahathat
Wat Phra Ram
Wat Phra Si Sanpeth
I do not think I am making a mistake in saying that Ayutthaya and Sukhothai are the most beautiful and imposing ruins in Thailand and that they are absolutely admirable sites.
Ayutthaya, founded around 1350, was one of the capitals of the kingdom of Siam, the ancient name of Thailand. During its golden age, the city housed three palaces and more than 400 temples. After four centuries as capital, the city fell in 1767 to the Burmese who almost completely destroyed it. Before many ruins were carefully restored.
The 2011 Floods
The temples of the former Thai capital, Ayutthaya, have survived centuries of tropical climate, but worrying cracks caused by flooding that drowned the area have appeared on some buildings
"The monuments were not designed to support the weight" of all this water, says Chaiyanand Busayarat, director of the Ayutthaya Historical Park.
"The floods have also softened the soil, making it unstable. Buildings could sink, or in the worst case, they could collapse," he continues, estimating the damage at least 650 million baht (15 million euros), even before this catastrophic scenario.
The worst floods in decades have killed more than 600 people in Thailand since the end of July and affected millions of people after a particularly heavy monsoon. The Ayutthaya region was one of the most affected.
Built at the confluence of the Chao Phraya River and the Pa Sak and Lopburi Rivers, the former capital has always been exposed to flooding. But it was for a long time protected by a network of canals that evacuated excess water, notes a UNESCO expert. "Many of these channels have been filled or have naturally become shallower over time."
Wat Phra Mahathat is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya and has the oldest prang in the city.
Buddha in the roots
Heavily affected by the Burmese attack of 1767, as did the entire city, Wat Phra Mahathat was almost entirely destroyed by the Burmese. Wishing to crush Ayutthaya with determination, they beheaded almost all the Buddha statues in their path.
From there, comes undoubtedly the most remarkable curiosity of Wat Phra Mahathat: the "Buddha in the roots".
Legend has it that when the Burmese beheaded all the Buddhas, one of the heads would have rolled to the roots of a tree that would have gathered it in its roots. Today, entangled in the roots of the tree, the Buddha's head is sacred, it is revered by Buddhists.