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90 km north of Bangkok lies the ancient capital Ayutthaya. The city was founded in 1350 and has been expanded by 33 kings for 400 years. It is situated between three rivers and was a crossroads for lively trade with Europe, Middle East and Asia. Around 1600 there were 1 million people living here. The great kingdom began to falter by Burmese attacks, which ultimately destroyed Ayutthaya in 1767. Today you can visit the ruins as a World Heritage Site.
Despite much has been destroyed, it is particularly interesting to see, it shows the grandeur of the Siamese empire. Wat Chaiwatthanaram is considered one of the most beautiful temples of Ayutthaya, a Buddha head, hidden in a tree at Wat Mahathat and Wat Phra Si Sanphet, one of the major temples where only 3 chedis remained, a reclining Buddha 37m long and 8m high welcomes you at the entrance of Wat Lokayasutharam and a 19m high Buddha statue at Wat Choeng Phanan.
Bang Pa-In, outised Ayutthaya in direction of Bangkok, is the summer palace of more recent kings around 1900.
River Kwai (Kanchanaburi)
Kanchanaburi province is 130km west of Bangkok, not far from the border with Myanmar. Surrounded by beautiful limestone hills, abunant green and several beautiful waterfalls, it's best known for the horrible history which took place during World War II, when the Japanese forced approximately 300,000 Asian laborers and 60,000 allied prisoner to work on the notorious Thailand-Burma railway in 1942-43. It cost the lives of more than 100,000 Asian laborers and 12,000 allied prisoners.
You learn about the history when you visit the Thailand–Burma Railway Centre, an interactive museum, information and research facility dedicated to presenting the history. When visiting the Allied War Cemetery, a memorial to some 6000 allied prisoners of war (POWs), you realize the cruelty in this part of the world during the war, and also the 'Hellfire pass', a little part of the railway where a huge amount of people lost their lives. Of course you need the see the 'Bridge over the River Kwai', which a famous movie was named after in 1957. Part of the railway is still used today, you can take the train, which rides until Bangkok.
Apart from the history, Kanchanaburi is home of Sai Yok National Park, reknowned for its tranquil river scenery and some impressive waterfalls, tumbling into Kwai Noi River. Another National Park is Erawan with the beauitful Erawan falls, which has a series of cascades and shady rock pools. You can also find caves here with colourful stalactites and stalagmites. This NP is a very popular and can be quite crowded in weekends and National Holidays.
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