Inside the Historical Park
Name: The City Pillar
Background: This rebuilt two-floor monument is located across the roundabout from Wat Phra Ram. It houses a stone pillar that once marked the provincial center of Ayutthaya. The pillar resembles a lingam, which is a phallic symbol associated with Brahmins. It is therefore, appropriately located next to Sala Phrakran, a temple once used by this very group. A local legend is that anyone who touches the pillar will be struck dead or maimed for life if they are tainted by sin. Only the pure of heart can survive its mystical power. As fate had it, I visited the city pillar with my students the day after our midterm test. I requested that they touch the pillar to prove that they had not cheated. Much to my dismay, none of my students accepted this challenge. They slyly snuck away instead while pretending to be seriously interested in the Brahmin site nearby.
Name: The Grand Palace
Fee: 30 THB (10 THB or free for Thai tourists) – includes Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Background: King U-Thong built the Grand Palace immediately after he founded the city in 1351. Royal Chronicles state that King U-Thong built this palace near a city that pre-dated Ayutthaya. It was known as Dong Sano. One popular legend is that an ill-willed dragon lived in the swamp that surrounding this site (Bueng Phra Ram). The dragon’s poisonous saliva brought on such epidemics that it drove away former inhabitants. King U-Thong decided to make this territory inhabitable once again by slaying this dragon. A wandering ascetic, who dwelled at this site, suggested a series of tests to accomplish this goal – which unfortunately culminated in King U-Thong throwing that very hermit into the swamp afterward. Once the burden of a poisonous dragon was removed, the land could be claimed by King U-Thong. There are actually many different stories about the founding of Ayutthaya and a wide variety of theories about King U-Thongs family origins. I will not discuss them here, but scholars have suggested that there may be some truth behind the legend. Prior to 1351, there was a major outbreak of disease (plague, cholera, or small pox). King U-Thong fled his former residence to avoid these epidemics, so he brought along his troops on a military expedition to find new territory. The spread of disease explains why the former population had abandoned the city before his arrival. Anyone that discounts the story about a mythological dragon may think otherwise after spotting one of the enormous monitor lizards that still live in Bueng Phra Ram today.
This Grand Palace was known as Wang Luang. Its original location was on the site of Wat Phra Si Sanphet. However, King Boromtrailokanath moved the Grand Palace further north in 1448 and transformed the former area into a royal monastery. The Grand Palace was the location in which Siamese kings held court. Foreign visitors were impressed with its grandeur. Dutch trader, Joost Schouten, described the Grand Palace as a little town that had many buildings and towers entirely gilded with precious metals. French clergyman, Abe de Choisy, described Buddha images that were molded from solid gold with diamond adornments. Over time, two more palaces were added: the Wang Na (Front Palace), the Wang Lang (Rear Palace).
Unfortunately, the Grand Palace was hit the hardest when the Burmese invaded in 1767. Many buildings were made from wood, which allowed the Burmese to quickly burn them to the ground. Temples and Buddha images were destroyed and melted down for precious metals and then sent to Burma. Many locals believe that Shwedagon Pagoda, in Rangoon, was constructed from this plundered material. The Burmese looted and pillaged the Grand Palace for seven months, basically razing it beyond repair. There isn’t much left to see at the Grand Palace. There are traces of various throne halls, some brick walls, water trenches with plumbing pipes, and the remnants of fortresses; but none of this even hints at the palace’s former glory. For those wanting a better glimpse, The Ayutthaya Historical Study Center offers a replica model of the actual design of the Grand Palace.
Name: Sala Phrakran
Background: This building was constructed in the early Ayutthaya period. The location is at an old site used by Brahmin priests. Although the Brahmins have a Hindi background, they played an important role in religious and political ceremonies (such as the first plowing of the season and the drinking of the water of allegiance). The Brahmins also participated in judicial decisions during the Ayutthaya period. This would help explain Sala Phrakran’s close proximity to the ancient prison as well as Wat Ket – where last rites were given prior to execution. In 1636, during the reign of King Prasat Thong, the temple was taken over and used by Buddhist for some unclear reason. King Prasat Thong once gave Brahmin priests 100 cows and 100 horses as alms, which they returned to the monarch because they lacked the slaves to take care of them, so it appears that they shared a cordial relationship.
The Fine Arts Department partially restored this building in 1969. The modern excavations at Sala Phra Khran revealed various artifacts of Hindu deities. Locals still visit this Brahmin site, but with little knowledge about its past. The temple is covered with dozens of elaborately decorated silver poles; Brahmin phallic symbols in reference to lingams. Each layer of the foundation is cluttered with hundreds of broken religious figurines.
Name: Tuk Din
Background: This building was originally built during the reign of King Narai (1656-1688) for the purpose of watching boat campaigns. During the rainy season, October through November, a boat racing festival is still held while the water runs strong. The festival (Pleng Sakkava) is named after a type of boat song. Former Thai Prime Minister Phibunsongkhram restored this building around the same time that he turned Bueng Phra Ram into a city park. There are still traces of its original foundation.
Name: Wat Chan
Background: This temple shrine is located on a small island in Bueng Phra Ram. It can be accessed only by a small bridge near Wat Maha Prasat. Its history and former architectural structure is unclear, but the modern shrine stands unique in the city. The temple is a long stone structure with a staircase leading to something that roughly resembles a mountain. There is no trace of an ubosot or wiharn, but a Buddha image exists at one end with an elephant and monkey bowing in reverence. On the opposite side of this alter is a small cave that offers just enough space for one person to sit. I am told that this is a place for Buddhist monks to meditate. The view from inside this cave points directly at Wiharn Phra Mongkhonbophit and Wat Phra Si Sanphet. I used this cave for shelter once when caught in a monsoonal rain storm. The experience was rather peaceful. None of my students had visited this site before. I tracked down its name based on the map by Phraya Boran Ratchathanin.
Name: Wat Chang
Background: This temple ruin is located on the western side of Queen Srinakarin Park. It is heavily buried in jungle. I learned about it accidentally while I was tracking the path of the ancient Klong Klab. A female work crew was busy hacking away at the surrounding jungle with machetes. I asked them if they had seen any wat rang in the area and they pointed it out to me. The former monastery had many trees growing out of it, so it was difficult to get a full picture. There is a large chedi that has toppled over. The spire lay on the ground below. The bell-shaped chedi was hollowed out by looters and natural elements. A head of a Buddha image rested on the ground near part of the ruin. I gave the workers some bottled water because it was painfully hot that day. They flirted with me and warned me about snakes in the area (a fact perhaps more useful when known in advance). The women cleared away the temple over the next few days, but it remained totally unexcavated except for the bell-shaped chedi.
Over the next few months, I failed to find any information about this ruin. The architectural design is from the middle Ayutthaya period. Its name suggests elephants, but the main elephant camp was not located on this part of the island. There was still enough mystery that I decided to revisit Wat Chang four months later. The jungle had entirely grown back already, which demonstrates how difficult maintaining temple ruins must be for the city. This time I spotted two men drinking whisky nearby. I supplied them with energy drinks and before long they were motivated to go exploring. I was cut up by thorny vegetation as they led me to Wat Chang. We peeled away a few branches for a closer look. Before long, we were attacked by fleets of red ants. We ran away shouting. In the back of my mind I worried that the Buddha head was no longer there.
Name: Wat Chao Phrom
Background: Located near Klong Tho (or Klong Cha Krai Yai). The central prang was built in the early Ayutthaya period, and later restored in the late Ayutthaya period. No exact dates or historical information are known. This temple can only be reached by boat, since a moat surrounds it. The prang has a hollow entrance on its eastern side.
Name: Wat Chao Prab
Background: This temple was built during the early Ayutthaya period. It was once used by punitive agents (bodyguards, police, and soldiers). The name of this temple is mentioned in an old book used by military troops. The temple’s name suggests “subduing an enemy”. It was restored during the late Ayutthaya period. This former monastery can be seen in Queen Srinakarin Park.
Name: Wat Chedi Yai
Background: The one distinguishing item that remains is its single bell-shaped chedi. Wat Chedi Yai was most likely built during the middle Ayutthaya period, given its Sri Lankan style. No exact dates or historical information are known. The chedi has a ring of missing bricks on its outside, which shows how layers were expanded over time. It is located in Queen Srinakarin Park.
Name: Wat Chi Chiang Sai
Background: This temple no longer exists. However, its central stupa was once the highest building standing in Siam. A Dutch trader named Jeremias Van Vliet wrote about it in 1638 and several maps drawn by Dutch artists portray it. Wat Chi Chiang Sai was constructed within the walls of the Grand Palace by King Chairacha (1534-1547). As legend had it, the pillars of this construction were over three fathoms thick, approximately 18 feet, and an enormous amount of treasure was buried in its crypt below. Wat Chi Chiang Sai was severely damaged by lightening and in a dilapidated state by the time that Dutch traders arrived. Nevertheless, its repair was prevented by prophesy that only a pure king from the old blood line could restore it. It was said that chiefs, overseers, and labors were stricken blind or driven to insanity whenever attempting this task.
In 1639, it was the Buddhist millennial year. Brahmin priests predicted that the whole country would be annihilated and later reborn. King Prasat Thong decided that he would prevent this upcoming destruction by launching a merit-making campaign of new temple construction and renovation projects. Van Vliet insinuates that King Prasat Thong razed this temple to the ground to acquire the treasure beneath it – perhaps to fund his massive construction projects. King Prasat Thong then moved the bronze Buddha image housed inside to a different location and built a new monastery on top of Wat Chi Chiang Sai’s remains. Wat Chi Chiang Sai is one of Ayutthaya’s great mysteries, because not a trace of it remains today (except for the Buddha image, which is now housed at Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bophit). Most locals have never heard of the ancient monastery, but its description seem to have been curiously transferred to Wat Mahatat – massive size, destruction by lightening, hidden treasure, ill fate to people that tamper with it. Van Vliet’s testimony is perhaps the only evidence of its existence.
Name: Wat Choomsang
Background: This temple is located near the Grand Palace on Naresuan Road. It was connected to Klong Nam Cheaw, a canal that brought fast moving water from Klong Muang (the old Lopburi River) to Bueng Phra Ram. The temple was still covered by a swamp back in 2002, which made it difficult to visit, but now this area has now been drained. It has a large Buddha image, minus his arms and head, and a largely eroded bell-shaped chedi. There are still people living in this territory. The dilapidated neighborhood next to this ruin provides a quick shortcut to Wat Yannasane. There isn’t much written history about this temple. It probably was built during the middle Ayutthaya period.
Name: Wat Damikaraj (Thammikarat)
Background: This active temple could possibly pre-date the Ayutthaya period. A large bronze Buddha head was discovered on this property that dates back to the U-Thong art period (presently located at the Chao Sam Phraya museum). Evidence suggests that Wat Damikaraj was once restored during the during the late Ayutthaya period. It was seriously damaged later by fire during the second Burmese invasion – perhaps they were melting down part of the temple for precious metals. The earliest elephant kraal was located nearby, so it is curious that the main chedi showcases Khmer-style lions instead. A large ruin lurks nearby with towering columns, and the main bell-shaped chedi has well preserved images of lions and multi-headed Naga serpents. One of its buildings has a beautiful reclining Buddha image inside. Wat Damikaraj is an active temple. Tourists are requested to park their bikes and walk inside. When I lived in Ayutthaya in 2000, a large swamp covered part of the temple property. This has since been drained, and the temple is now wonderfully landscaped with many flowers and trees.
Name: Wat Ket
Background: This temple is located near the spot of a former prison. During the Ayutthaya period, prisoners would visit this temple for a final chance to pray before execution. Punishment was done in various ways depending on the crime and the status of the person involved. Some criminals were trampled to death or thrown around by elephants. Others had swords dropped on their heads at certain heights. Royal execution involved stuffing that individual in a velvet sack and beating them with a sandalwood club, so that royal blood would not be spilled on soil [Note: it appears that royal executions often took place instead at Wat Kok Phraya].
This unique, pyramid-shaped, temple is located across from Wat Phra Ram. There appears to have been at least one failed attempt to reactivate this temple. An urban slum formed in the area around Wat Ket, and squatters stayed there until the 1990s, which probably didn’t help with acquiring donations. Jane Bramley wrote in 1969 that the monks at Wat Ket received only 30 baht per month, which was tied as the lowest rate (Bramley 333). The temple probably folded when the neighborhood population relocated. In the late 1990s, an elephant camp was set up for tourists next to Wat Ket. These elephants still give rides in the Historic Park.
Name: Wat Langka Dam
Background: This abandoned temple was named after the black tiles on its roof. Its main chedi was build during the early Ayutthya period, the ubosot constructed during the middle period, and a small chedi was added in the late period. Its name implies that it once had some connection with Wat Langka Kao. Both are located close to each other in Bueng Phra Ram. I once found traces of black tile in the canal next to this temple during dry season. It was a small monastery that had once been aligned with Klong Nam Cheaw – a fast moving water supply that has since been filled in.
Name: Wat Langka Kao
Background: This temple is located in Bueng Phra Ram, across from its counterpart Wat Langka Dam. There isn’t much historical information available about this temple. The name refers to the white tiles on its roof [Note: I couldn’t find any traces of white tiles nearby. I am told that this is because landfill was trucked in to fill the swamp surrounding the monastery]. There isn’t much left of Wat Langka Kao today other than a large bell-shaped tower. It has a hollow entrance on the eastern side. The inner structure is filled with hundreds of bats.
Name: Wat Lokaysutharam
Background: There isn’t much known about the history of this temple. Its style suggests the middle Ayutthaya period. There was once a large religious compound at this site, but now only a massive foundation, some pillars, and a Khmer-influenced prang attest to its former greatness. The prang-tower has a hollow entrance on its eastern side. However, the highlight of this temple is its enormous reclining Buddha image (37 meters long and 8 meter high). The reclining Buddha image was restored in 1954 by the Alcoholic Beverages Factory (then located in the area) and again in 1989 by the family of former Prime Minister Thawal Dhamrongnahwahsawat. It is usually wrapped in brightly colored orange cloth, which makes a beautiful contrast with the blue sky. All the Buddha’s toes are of equal lengths. There is an interesting stupa northwest of the reclining Buddha image, which was covered by a forest until a few years ago. If you look closely, stucco Buddha images can still be seen. Warning: the vendors here can be very aggressive at times. I was fleeing them once when I learned that the road north leads past Wat Tuk. The road south unravels eventually within the sight of Chedi Suriyothai – both useful reference points.
Name: Wat Luang Shikud
Background: This temple is located in Queen Srinakarin Park. King Chakkaphat (1548-1569) lived in this area before he inherited the throne. This temple was constructed for some type of ceremony during the middle Ayutthaya period. There isn’t much left of it other than its brick foundation and a stack of various Buddha torsos and limbs. However, it can still be very beautiful to behold due to the coconut trees around it.
Name: Wat Mahasamen
Background: This temple is named after a type of deer. My students tried to explain a folk story about a deer dying at this site for the sake of a king, but their version was too unclear for me to translate without inaccuracies. This area is associated with people from northern Siam, especially Sukhothai. There used to be a port nearby that connected the Ban Chi neighborhood to Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Female monks allegedly lived at this temple or at least established some relationship to it.
Name: Wat Maha Prasat
Background: This temple pavilion is more like a shrine in the middle of Bueng Phra Ram. It is located on its own islet and can only be reached by footbridge. There is a shrine to King U-Thong inside, who founded Ayutthaya on this swamp. Charnvit Kasetsiri points out that the three spires reflect part of Ayutthaya’s provincial seal (316). Brahmin priests discovered a conch shell under a Man tree (Cordia dichtoma) when they were performing the founding ceremony for the city. The provincial seal is a three spire building beneath a man tree. This new structure was built during the Rattanakosin period in recognition of the city’s origins, but there may have been another building on this site earlier.
Name: Wat Mahatat
Fee: 30 THB (10 THB or free for Thai tourists)
Background: There is evidence of a 12th century Dvaravati settlement on this site prior to King U-Thong’s arrival in 1350 (Garnier 40). However, the recorded construction dates start in 1374 and end in 1388. King Borom Rajathiraj I (1370-1388) founded this temple as the city’s spiritual center. It served as the monastery for the Supreme Patriarch of a forest-sect of Buddhism. The temple was finished during King Ramasuan’s second reign (1388-1395). Wat Mahatat has had a rough history. The 38-meter high prang collapse during King Song Tham’s reign (1610?-1628). King Prasat Thong (1629-1656) restored it to become the highest monument in Ayutthaya’s history – a record breaking 51 meters. The Burmese set it on fire in 1767, and it collapsed for a second and final time in 1904 (though some sources claim it was actually in 1911 or much afterward). Looters plundered it for years after its collapse. There are some surviving photographs of the intact structure, taken from a floating market at a canal that has now been filled-in. Early western sources sometimes refer to this temple as Wat Nopphathat.
Recently, there was controversy when this temple was rented out for a private party. There was fear of potential damage and hesitation relating to the issue of respect, since alcohol could have been consumed at this holy site. There was also some litter left behind the day afterward. Still, Wat Mahatat survives as one of the most popular destinations for tourists. This is the famous site that has the image of Buddha’s head inside of a tree. Locals like to say that the tree is lifting Buddha’s head off the ground since the relic is so holy. There are some other unique Buddhist structures at Wat Mahatat, including an octagonal tower in the Lanna style. Although it isn’t promoted, there are some paintings that have survived. They are located in the area where tourists are not allowed to climb. However, special arrangements can be made.
Name: Wat Mai Chai Vichit
Background: This temple was built after the fall of Ayutthaya during the reign of King Rama III (1824-1851). It is associated with Governor Phraya Chai Vichit, who formally owned this land and provided the temple with its name. This governor, in turn, built his new residence near Wat Suwan Dararam. He is also noted for restoring Wat Phukhao Thong. Wat Mai Chai Vichit is located on the territory of the former Grand Palace, across the site of an ancient well. It can be seen by boat from Klong Muang (the old Lopburi River).
Name: Wat Nok
Background: A Mon settlement existed at this site during the reign of King Maha Thammaracha (1569-1590), who also had a Mon background. The main prang was built during the early Ayutthaya period. It has an entrance on the eastern side that is full of bats. Some stucco Buddha images and mythological creatures can still be seen on this tower. Wat Nok can be easily found just south of Wat Mahatat. It is worth a look.
Name: Wat Phra Ram
Fee: 30 THB (10 THB or free for Thai tourists)
Background: Royal Chronicles date this temple to 1369. King Ramesuan (1369-1370) ordered the construction of this monastery as a crematory site for his father, King U-Thong (Ramathibodhi), the founder of the Ayutthaya kingdom. The temple was probably completed during the reign of Borommaracha I (1370-1388). Wat Phra Ram was restored once by King Borom Trailokanath (1448-1488) and once again by King Borommakot in 1741. Wat Phra Ram is a beautiful sight to behold, especially within the reflection of its swamp-like ponds that are full of lotus blossoms. Its large Khmer-style prang temple is nicely located near the old Grand Palace, and there are many stucco images preserved. There is a hallow entrance on its eastern side, but the Fine Arts Department have now closed it off. I walked inside this entrance once in 2001. It looked sort of fragile and dangerous, so it is perhaps better to prevent access for now. Elephant rides are offered across the street.
Name: Wat Phra Si Sanphet
Fee: 30 THB (10 THB or free for Thai tourists)
Background: Wat Phra Si Sanphet was the original site of the Grand Palace. Monks didn’t live here because it was considered a royal temple. The first two bell-shaped chedis were built in 1492 by King Ramabodhi II (1491-1529). The eastern chedi contains the ashes of his father, King Boromtrailokanath (Trailok). The middle chedi contain the ashes of his elder brother, King Borommaracha III. The western chedi, contains his own remains. At one time, each of the three bell-shaped chedis had a wiharn structure built in between, but only the staircases are remaining. A wiharn was built in 1499, which contained a standing bronze Buddha image that was covered with gold. The Burmese melted down the 19-meter high Buddha image for its gold. King Rama I had the remaining statue taken to Bangkok in pieces and reassembled. The three main chedis all have entrances on their eastern side. You can enter them and have a look by climbing the adjacent staircase. A few have hidden shrines and niches, however the smell of bat urea is rather strong.
Name: Wat Plab Pra Chai
Background: This temple is located in the Pradu Chai district. It was built in the early Ayutthaya period between the Grand Palace and the Front Palace (and also close to the old elephant kraal). This strategic location gave the temple importance to Siam’s military. Chao Ai Phraya used it as an army settlement prior to his claim for the throne, which resulted in the death of both him and his brother. New additions were made to this temple during the middle and late Ayutthaya periods. There are still many buildings remaining, including a large Buddha image that is fairly intact. Looters have dug a tunnel in the main chedi.
Name: Wat Pong
Background: This temple was established in the early Ayutthaya period and consistently used by locals into the late period. It is located in Bueng Phra Ram. This once swampy area (Kham Pheng Kleaw) was known for its wall of tall grasses. Canals surrounded the temple, which created a secluded islet. Phraya Boran Ratchatanin believed that a big Mon market existed on this site. Brass containers, spoons, and forks have been found at this location. The temple was restored in 1995.
Name: Wat Rajaburana
Fee: 30 THB (10 THB for Thai tourists)
Background: This temple was established in 1424 by King Borom Rajathiraj II (1424-1448). The monument was constructed after two sons of Intharacha (1409-1424) died in battle over succession of the throne. The fight on elephant-back allegedly took place in a forested area near the Pha-Than Bridge, which can still be seen by the main road. The Royal Chronicles state that both brothers had their throats slashed open at the same time (Cushman 15). A third son from Chainat inherited the throne and cremated his brothers at this site. In 1957, organized looters dug into the crypt and stole many valuable items. A popular folk story still told is that some of these thieves went insane. They were caught in Hua Ror market, dancing around like they were possessed by demons while wielding the swords they had stolen. In 1958, the Fine Arts Department built a staircase leading down to the main crypt. The following year they established the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum to display ancient relics found at Wat Rajaburana and Wat Mahatat.
This temple is worth the admission price. However, many tourists see it without noticing its main highlight. If you visit Wat Rajaburana make sure that you go inside the main prang and descend the entire staircase leading to the crypt. There are some very old Chinese-influenced murals located at the very bottom. The paintings date back to 1424. The crypt gets very hot and claustrophobic, but the staircase provides a worthwhile perspective of how these prangs are constructed inside. There are a number of large Garuda and Naga constructions outside the crypt that are worth a closer look as well.
Name: Wat Sangkapat
Background: This octagon-shaped temple is located within Bueng Phra Ram Park. It was once aligned with other ancient temples (Wat Langka Dam, Wat Yannasane, Wat Pong) along a canal of fast moving water. The Lanna-like tower was most likely built in the early Ayutthaya period. There are several standing Buddha images that remain in good condition. On the eastern side there is an entrance into the prang-like structure. I have seen many large lizards hiding inside.
Name: Wat Sangkata
Background: This temple is located in Queen Srinakarin Park. It was constructed in the Lanna style during the middle Ayutthaya period. Residents might have possibly come here from the north. There are some stucco images of Buddha standing that have been preserved. No exact dates or historical information are known.
Name: Wat Som
Background: There is no record of when Wat Som was established, however the main Khmer-style prang dates back to the early Ayutthaya period. It can easily be found along the eastern-side of the Klong Tho strip. Wat Som (Citrus Fruit Monastery) has some of the best preserved stucco ornaments of any temple in Ayutthaya. There are highly detailed geometric patterns and a number of mythological figures – including Rahu eating the moon during eclipse. Its lintels are especially worth a look. Remains of a wiharn and an octagonal chedi can also be seen at this site, but only at the foundation layers. The base of Wat Som lies two meters below the ground, so future excavation might reveal more about its history later.
Name: Wat Triturn
Background: There isn’t much left of this monastery. The central Khmer-influenced prang has crumbed to its barest foundation layers. It looks as if it had once had a staircase on its eastern-side. There are traces of a wiharn and an octagonal chedi, but both have heavily eroded. Wat Triturn can be found on the southeastern corner of Wat Phra Ram. Given its location and architectural style, this monastery was probably established in the early Ayutthaya period.
Name: Wat Ubosot
Background: This temple was built in the middle Ayutthaya period. It continued to function as a monastery into the late period. Exact dates and historical information are unknown. Wat Ubosot is located in Queen Srinakarin Park next to Klong Tho. Its highlight is a large chedi tower with multiple redentations. A former ubosot also remains, but only the foundation and stubs of columns can be seen today. This temple has been picked clean.
Name: Wat Wang Chai
Background: King Chakkraphat (1548-1569) had this temple built in his old neighborhood, which is now located in Queen Srinakarin Park. It used to be connected to an older port – opposite from Klong Takian and St. Joseph Cathedral. The area around Wat Wang Chai was once very important. It was the living quarters of many palace workers and governing officials. The clay used to make this temple’s bricks resembles the type common in the early Ayutthaya period. Wat Wang Chai has suffered greatly over the tears. An octagonal chedi has survived, perched on a foundation without any walls. A headless and armless Buddha image overlooks the former monastery; stacks of stray limbs and torsos resting nearby. The Fine Arts Department restored this temple in recent times.
Name: Wat Worachettharam
Background: This temple was build west of the Grand Palace by King Ekathosarot (1605-1610). It was constructed as the crematory site for his older brother, King Naresuan, who had died in battle against the Burmese. Over 10,000 monks were invited to attend the ceremony. Its large bell-shaped chedi is usually wrapped with a bright red cloth, and ceramic roosters are often placed around this structure – symbolizing King Naresuan’s enjoyment of cockfighting (legend has it that he once won Ayutthaya’s freedom by gambling with the Burmese prince on a single cockfight). This temple is good for a quick stop on route to the large reclining Buddha at Wat Lokayasutharam. Its water filled moat makes a nice photo or a picnic spot. [Note: This temple should not be mistaken for Wat Worachet Thep Bamrung, which is located off the main island in the western side].
Name: Wat Worapho
Background: It is unclear when exactly this temple was built, but King Songtham (1610?-1628) was a formerly a high ranking monk here. Its original name was Wat Wang Ra Kang. The name was changed by King Borommakot (1733-1758) to honor a tree sent by the King of Ceylon, which was planted at this site. The King of Ceylon sent this gift in gratitude for an embassy of Thai monks who had traveled to Ceylon. The Khmer-influenced prang at this temple has nine redentations on each side, which is the most I have seen. The main prang has withered away leaving only a flat top. It is possible to climb, but there is nothing to see on top. This temple once had a Buddha footprint, but there is no trace of it now. On the northern side there is a shrine with a Buddha image still intact.
Name: Wat Yannasane (also called Wat Yanusane)
Background: This active temple is located in the Tawasukri district, along an ancient canal for fast moving water. A water trough once passed in front of this temple. Apparently, Wat Yannasane had some type of connection with the ancient elephant kraal. A building at this site contained ropes for these animals. During the 1940s, many artifacts were discovered at this temple, including pottery and Buddha images in the Lopburi style. The abandoned central chedi is remarkably beautiful. It has a well balanced design that is unique to the city. The eastern side can still be entered, but the inner chamber is empty. The steep staircase climb does offer a decent view though. This temple has been reactivated. The modern ubosot and bell tower were built during the Rattanakosin period. If you peek behind them you can see hidden statues of elephants and other animals.
Name: Wat Wiharn Klab
Background: This monastery was located in a remote swampy area near Klong Tho. Western cartographers sometimes referred to this site as a gardening area for fields or orchards. The location must have served as a place for water runoff during flood season and a reservoir during drier times. The only items left are a Buddha image painted in gold (which looks new) and a small stack of Buddha parts. A rickety, wooden, roof has been built over this image. The area around this site has been converted into a modern dump yard. There are piles of discarded construction material everywhere and smoldering trash fires are usually burning throughout the day. There is also a hidden lake nearby, which can be quite beautiful. Many birds seems to use this lake as a refuge.
Name: Wat Wiharn Klab
Background: This small wiharn can be seen just south of Wat Si Sanphet and east of Wiharn Phra Mongkhonbophit. It was built around 1538 by King Chairacha (1534-1547) as part of a larger temple. This area was used to cremate members of the royal family during the reign of King Songtham (1610-1628). Only the foundation and the brick walls remain.
Name: Wiharn Phra Mongkhonbophit
Background: This area was created as a specific site for royal cremation ceremonies. In 1610, King Song Tham (1610?-1628) ordered that a large Buddha image be moved from east to west. The Buddha image was originally sculptured in 1538 for Wat Chi Chiang Sai by King Chairacha (1534-1547). A wiharn was established at this site in 1612 to house the Buddha image. During King Sua’s reign (1688-1703) lightning struck this temple and it had to be rebuilt. King Borommakot (1732-1758) restored it once again later, but shortly thereafter the Burmese destroyed it during their 1767 invasion. It was left in ruins until King Rama VI repaired it in 1920. The wiharn and its meditating Buddha image have been repaired quite a number of times in recent decades. Wiharn Phra Mongkhonbophit is one of the few active temples in the Historic Park, although monks do not reside here. Locals visit this site often on religious and national holidays. In a way, it has come to symbolize the city’s will to survive.