Thailand’s early architecture evolved from the influence of dominant Khmer Empire centred on modern day Cambodia and likewise shares the awesome magnificence of the structures associated with that culture. Among several important Khmer age sites, Phimai and Phanom Rong are the finest.

In the thirteenth century, two Thai states emerged from a weakening Angkor, the Lanna Kingdom of northern Thailand, and Sukhothai, further south. A century later, the Thai Kingdom of Ayutthaya, close to modern day Bangkok, would emerge and subsume Sukhothai, whilst Lanna would eventually fall to the Burmese.

Today these sites are preserved in three historical parks. Wiang Kum Kam close to Chiang Mai is a complex of 42 excavated Lanna monuments. By far the most visited ancient sites in Thailand, however, are the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Sukhotai and Ayutthaya.

The sacking of Ayutthaya by the Burmese, in 1767, led to the relocation downriver of the Capital to Thonburi, building a new palace adjacent to the pre-existing Wat Arun, the Temple of the Dawn, which was at that time refashioned into the form we see today.

Just across the water in what is now modern day Bangkok, Wat Pho, with its famous reclining Buddha, was built to house sacred fragments rescued from Ayutthaya, whilst further remains were incorporated into Wat Phra Kaeo and the Grand Palace, the central historic structures of the city.

Another rescued remnant of Ayutthaya, thought to have originated in Sukhothai, is the famous Golden Buddha, at three metres tall and weighing some five and a half tonnes, the world’s largest solid gold statue, which was once covered in plaster to conceal its staggering worth from the invaders, whereafter it was, almost unbelievably, forgotten. When re-discovered in 1954, Bangkok's Wat Traimit was adapted to house the statue.

In more recent times, a site often visited, particularly by British tourists, is the notorious ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’, near Kanchanaburi, part of the infamous death railway built during the Second World War, at a cost to life of some 7,000 prisoners of war, brutalised by their Japanese captors.