Straddling the Chao Phraya River, the nation’s principal waterway, the province is extremely important, as it was the Siamese capital for four centuries. This province is relatively small at 2,557 sq. kms. and is easily accessible due to good road, rail, and river connections and its proximity to Bangkok. The city of Ayutthaya is 76 kilometres north of Bangkok and boasts numerous magnificent ruins from its days as the capital. Just to the south, in perfect condition, stands the royal palace of Bang Pa-in set in splendid gardens. The province is also noted for H.M. the Queen’s Bang Sai Arts and Crafts Centre. The ancient city of Ayutthaya, formally designated Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya was the Thai capital for 417 years, and is one of Thailand’s major tourist attractions. Many ancient ruins and works of art can be seen in a city that was founded in 1350 by King U-Thong when the Thais were forced southwards by northern neighbours. During the period when Ayutthaya was capital, 33 kings and several dynasties ruled the kingdom, until the glittering city was sacked by the Burmese in 1767, ruined and abandoned. The extensive ruins and the historical records demonstrate that Ayutthaya was one of Southeast Asia’s most prosperous cities. In recognition of its historical and cultural importance, Phra Nak hon Si Ayutthaya Historical Park, the location of the ruins adjacent to today’s city, was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.