has a rich and fascinating past. The land has been a cultural crossroads
and many historical sites exist as testament to the nation's evolution.
Bangkok's many Buddhist temples and theart treasures they contain are usually the first sights the traveller encounters. Wonderful though these are, few are more than 200 years old, Bangkok being founded as the Thai capital in only 1782. Further afield, however, it is possible to trace an intriguing history extending far back in time.
The area now defined by the borders of Thailand boasts civilizations dating back to prehistoric times. At Ban Chiang, in the Northeast region, for example, archaeological finds, including delicately decorated pottery, date back more than 5,000 years.
Prior to the Thais' rise to supremacy in the 13th century, much of the region was dominated by the Khmer, whose vast empire was centred on Angkor in present-day Cambodia. The cultural legacy of this influence can be seen at a number of well-preserved Khmer monuments, notably in the Northeast, which are the finest examples of their kind found outside Cambodia.
Moving into the Thai period proper, dating from the 13th century, the historical development of the Kingdom can be glimpsed at several ancient sites. Reflecting past glories to the fullest are the surviving ruins of the first two capital cities: Sukhothai, founded in c 1238, and Ayutthaya, which was the power centre for over 400 years until its destruction in 1767. At both places, the former located on the northern edge of the Central Plains and the latter situated some 80 kilometres north of Bangkok, are impressive ruins attesting to the architectural achievements of the Thais.
Sukhothai and Ayutthaya are two of the well-known ancient sites scattered around the country. Other range from Chiang Mai in the north, founded as the capital of the Lan Na Kingdom in the late 13th century, to Nakhon Pathom, an early and important Buddhist centre lying west of modern Bangkok, and to old southern cities such as Nakhon Si Thammarat.
Past glories have not vanished in the modern world, and Thailand presents myriad wonders of cultural and artistic achievement.
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