AnneMarie and Andrew

Annemarie and Andrew – Trekking Asia

Ayutthaya: A Trading City

At its peak in the 17th century the city of Ayutthaya was the largest in the world with a population of over 1 million. It was a rich, cosmopolitan city at the centre of an empire that got rich through trade rather than war.

Ayutthaya is located 50 miles up the Chao Phraya River north of Bangkok, (which wasn’t founded until after the fall of Ayutthaya). Ships could sail up the river to the city. The city had trade links with China, Japan, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, India and even as far as the Middle East. It was also well located in Thailand to get raw materials from the center of the country and ship them out.

The first Europeans to reach Ayutthaya were the Portuguese. They were given a small settlement on the banks of the Chao Phraya river to the south of the city, just outside the city walls. The Portuguese dominated the spice trade from the East for a while but other European countries were eager to cash in on the goods from the East, particularly the Spice Islands

We visited Baan Hollanda, which was the location of the Dutch settlement. It is also on the banks of the Chao Phraya river to the south of the city. There we learnt about the size, power and influence the Dutch East India Company. Much of the information we already knew, but the main thing we learnt was about the intra-Asian trade. Just carrying goods from east to west didn’t provide enough money to make the company profitable, so it traded between India, Siam, Indonesia, China and Japan. It carried goods around Asia for the local markets. China was a vast market and had huge potential and the Dutch tried very hard to monopolise the trade with China, using the friendly terms between the Chinese emperor and the Ayutthaya king to get a foot in the door.

We then cycled for about 5 minutes south to the Japanese Settlement. This museum gave a wide ranging history of trading with Ayutthaya and which nationalities lived there and why. This was interesting because Ayutthaya was probably the most multi-cultural city on earth. It was filled with thousands of Europeans of all nationalities (British, Dutch, Portuguese, French, etc), Malays, Javanese, Japanese, Chinese, Muslims, along with Burmese and Lao slaves. An interesting read about a Japanese trader from this period can be found here.

We learned a lot of interesting things about just how long Europe and Asia have had relations and how those relations have fared over the years.

Posted from Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya, Thailand.

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