Wat Chaiwatthanaram temple, Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand
© Weerasak Saeku/Getty Image
Ruins of a royal temple. Ayutthaya Historical Park, Thailand
When the sun sets over Thailand, the Wat Chaiwatthanaram Buddhist temple lights up to welcome the night at the Ayutthaya Historical Park. These ruins are evidence of the area's rich history as the capital of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, which grew in power between the 14th and 18th centuries to rule Siam, or present-day Thailand. Around 1630, Wat Chaiwatthanaram was built on the orders of the dynasty's King Prasat Thong, to symbolize the center of the universe and connote his aspiration to become the future Buddha.
From the temple, the Historic City of Ayutthaya, a UNESCO World Heritage site, can be reached by boat or road. Three rivers link the once-metropolitan city to the sea. Now a historical ruin, Ayutthaya was an important point of commerce and diplomacy, with its surrounding rivers serving as a natural defense.