Thailand: is one of the few countries in the world which has never been colonized, the Sukhothai kingdom declared independence in 1238, and is considered to be the first true Thai Kingdom, many Thais view the Sukhothai Period as the Golden era of Thai History an ideal state, a land of plenty, governed by just and paternal kings who ruled over peaceful contented citizens, it was in this period the first Thai writing system evolved, which became the basis for modern Thai, and the Thai form of Therava Buddhism was codified.
Under the rule of king Ramkamhaeng (Rama the Brave) the Sukhothai Kingdom flourished and expanded as far as Nakhon Si Thammarat in the south, to the upper Maekhong River valley in Laos, and to Bago in Burma.
Ayutthaya began as an ancient settlement named after Ramas legendary kingdom in India, its importance in Thai History began when a cholera outbreak forced Phya U Thong, the ruler of the principality of U Thong (today known as Suphan Buri) to evacuated his people, in 1350 after three years of preparation he officially established his seat in Ayutthaya, and assumed the title Ramathidibodi I.
The Kingdom of Ayutthaya, expanded rapidly by teaching the importance of religion over military might, and extended control over the Chao Phya River valley, which lead to the decline of the Sukhothai influence and in 1378 their seat of power moved to Phitsanulok, Sukhothais population followed and by 1438 Sukhothai was a deserted city.
The Ayutthaya Kings became very powerful moving east to take Lopburi a former Khmer stronghold and then, in 1431, on to Angkor the great capital city of the Khmer Empire the Ayutthaya kings adopted Khmer court customs, language and culture, unlike the paternal rulers of Sukhothai, Ayutthaya’s kings were absolute monarchs and assumed the title devaraja or God King.
Ayutthaya situated on an island in the Chao Phraya River at the junction of the Lop Buri River and the Nam Pasak River, became one of the greatest and wealthiest cities in Asia, in the early 16th century the Portuguese established trade and supplied mercenaries to fight in the continuing campaigns against the rival kingdoms, they taught the Thais cannon foundry and musketry.
Ayutthaya, was attacked by King Tabinshweti of Burma in 1549 aided by the Portuguese, the attack was repelled, but in 1569 Ayutthaya eventually fell to Tabinshwetis brother in law King Bayinnaung, the invading Burmese forces ransacked and plundered the city, forcibly transporting most of its population to Burma, Naresuen the eldest son of the defeated kings leading deputy, was held captive in Burma until he reached the age of 15 as soon as he returned he immediately began to gather armed followers, which he trained in guerilla warfare, taking the opportunity to declare Ayutthayas freedom in 1584 whilst the Burmese rulers were weakened by revolts in their own provinces.
The Burmese made numerous attempts to retake Ayutthaya, Naresuen was able to assume full kingship upon his fathers death in 1590 he rebuilt the kingdom and turned the tables on the Burmese with repeated attacks until the Burmese Empire itself disintegrated, he finally subdued the Khmers on his eastern border, and became known as (Naresuen the Great) under his rule Ayutthaya prospered, becoming a great and thriving metropolis in the 17th century.
The long period of peace and tranquil prosperity ended when a village headman united the Burmese Empire which attacked Ayutthaya in 1760 the Burmese army were repelled but in 1767 after a siege of 14 months the Burmese succeeded in capturing the city, they ransacked the city, burning, looting and melting down the gold from Buddha images, taking their loot together with members of the royal family and some 90,000 captives back to Burma, the invasion left the city destroyed.
During the siege, a Thai general named Phya Taksin broke through the encircling Burmese and took a small band of followers to Chantaburi on the southern coast, where he assembled an army and navy, seven months after the fall of Ayutthaya the general and his forces sailed back to the capital and expelled the occupying Burmese garrison moving his capital to the west bank of Bangkok, known as Thonburi, and was proclaimed king.
He liberated Chiang Mai and northern Thailand from the Burmese and his generals brought Cambodia and most of the present day Laos under Thai control, when a revolt broke out in 1782 Taksin was forced to abdicate, General Chakri, returning from Cambodian was offered the throne and became known as Rama 1 moving his headquarters to the more spacious Bangkok on the opposite bank of the river.
He set about restoring the confidence of his war shattered people Buddha images were transported from Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, bricks from the old capital were floated down the river to build the new city walls, master craftsmen designed and built the first permanent building in the new capital, Wat Phra Kaew, or Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Bangkok began as a city of canals and elephant paths on the east bank of the Chao Phraya River, just a few kilometers from the sea, the first of the new structures ordered by King Ramathibodi, later known as Rama I, was the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, which was later surrounded by the grounds and buildings of the Grand Palace, built in the style of the Royal Temple of the Grand Palace of Ayutthaya.