Ayuthaya was Thailand's capital and cultural centre from 1350 until the 1760s with a strategic position both for defence and trade. Merchants from Europe and Japan had their own districts within the city. When the Burmese sacked it in 1767 forcing the royal family to flee up the Lopburi River towards present day Bangkok, the city fell into decline. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the ruins of Ayuthaya are magnificent; the collection of Thai and Khmer style temples and chedis lie along the three rivers that surround the island. These rivers provided a natural barrier to invasions and even now that a modern city has sprung up around the holy ruins, life still revolves around them. Viewing the ruins by boat is possible as well as exploring on foot.