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At The Crossroads Of History

27 Sep, 2019

The ancient city of Ayutthaya was surrounded by rivers -- the Lop Buri on the north side, the Pa Sak on the east side and the Chao Phraya on the remaining sides. South of the city island, known in Thai as Koh Muang, the Pa Sak merges with the Chao Phraya at the point where the latter makes a southward turn, away from Koh Muang.

Hundreds of years ago, from the confluence to the Takiayokhin Mosque near the mouth of Takhian canal, about 3.5km further downstream (see map), this section of the Chao Phraya was full of trading vessels from many parts of the world. And the areas on both sides of the river were home to foreigners, from the Chinese, the Malays and other Asians to Europeans of different languages and cultures.

Of course, not all of these foreigners were merchants. Seeking religious or political refuge or opportunities, they came from various walks of life, from craftsmen and labourers to adventurers and mercenaries and anything in between.

Some joined the Siamese army in wars. Some served as royal guards or did other duties in the Thai court and managed to climb to high ranks.

Greek citizen Constantine Phaulkon, for example, became a powerful officer during the reign of King Narai. He was involved in several important incidents including the Makkasan Rebellion in which a prince from Macassar (now Indonesia's South Sulawesi) and his kris-wielding warriors who settled down along the Takhian canal wreaked havoc in Ayutthaya and Bangkok because of resentment about the rising influence of Europeans. Phaulkon, who was part of the problem, played a crucial role in quelling the rebels.

Meanwhile, Phaulkon's wife Maria Guyomar de Pinha (known in Thai as Thao Thong Kip Ma) was an Ayutthaya-born lady who was credited for introducing foi thong and sangkhaya, the Thai version of similar Portuguese desserts made of egg yolks. The woman had a mixed ancestry (Portuguese-Japanese-Bengali). If you have visited the former Portuguese settlement on the west bank of the Chao Phraya, you'll notice it is exactly opposite to the Japanese village on the other side of the river. Maria Guyomar de Pinha obviously was a result of the interactions between the people of these international communities.

These stories are just a few pieces of the jigsaw that makes Ayutthaya history. If you wish to learn more, next time you visit Ayutthaya, don't forget to check out this area south of Koh Muang.


Ayutthaya is about an hour's drive from Bangkok. The main links between the ancient capital and the current one are Highway 347 and Highway 32. The first allows you to approach Ayutthaya from the west, the latter from the east. To explore the area south of Koh Muang (city island), it's best to have a private vehicle. In case you don't bring one from Bangkok, just hire a tuk-tuk from major tourist spots.


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