Khao No – Khao Kaeo, Amphoe Banphot Phisai: Khao No , the limestone mountain 282 meters in height, occupies a plains area surrounded by large paddy field. The mountain is carpeted with various species of green trees. Its numerous caves and niches are home to groups of monkeys and flocks of bats.
There is a temple at the foot of the mountain called Wat Khao Lo and a stairway leading to the cave at the peak where you can see a large image of Sitting Buddha. We didn’t go up there as we were passing by too late for it. We had to be satisfied with a meal at the foot of a mountain split with dogs of all breeds and ointments, as well as monkeys watching us from afar.
Tittle-tattle: some people place stuffed aligators on the top of their cars to keep the monkeys away. See: Darlyne Murawski picture.
Sukhothai was founded in XIII century by Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom (the town’s first ruler) and was the capital of the first Kingdom of Siam.
After his death it was besieged by a Khmer warrior named Sabat Khlon Lamphong and not long after recaptured by the Si Nao’s son together with Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao who later became Pho Khun Si Inthrathit – a ruler of Sukhothai and the founder of Sukhothai dynasty. More on the history of Sukhothai you can find on UNESCO web-site as in December 1991 it was declared the 358th World Heritage.
The cultural foundation of Sukhotai is Buddhism and this is where the first Thai alphabet was created.The site – Sukhothai Historical Park is truly impressive. It has a number of fine monuments, illustrating the beginnings of Thai architecture. The ‘must see’ are: Wat Mahathat, Wat Si Sawai, Palace, Saritphong, Wat Saphan Hin, Wat Si Chum, Wat Chetuphon, Wat Trapang Ngoen. I’m sure if you are interested you will find detailed information on all of them. The thing I wanted to highlight is the way the bricks were laid. have a look at the picture. It looks like there was no mortar used. Another picture taken in Historical Park shows workers hammering wooden pegs with hammer which seems to be almost as big as they are. In the heat and stuffy air it was really admirable.
We arrived in Sukhothai after dark. It looked somehow deserted and maybe a bit dangerous because of the neighbourhood we were in. Although I have to say it might have been only mistaken feelings. We saw some children jumping rope, something we all used to do in childhood. I have to say I’m eager to try it again.
We ended up sleeping in Garden House, Pravetnakorn Rd., Sukhothai 64000, Thailand.
I really liked the wooden cottages surrounded by greenery. We had some problems with dripping air condition but we just moved our bed a bit and it was all right. The picture of durian later on was taken in the guesthouse garden. As a curiosity have a look at the pipes in the apartment block behind the fence wall. Amazing modern art, don’t you agree?
Near our place we went to a pub/restaurant called Chopper Bar (69/1 Jarod Withee Thong Road | Thani, Sukhothai) I want to recommend it. Very nice atmosphere, cold beer. Just so you know I have no idea where M. got those horns from <wink>. We were sitting at the back of the restaurant on a terrace and the wooden tables felt very familiar. You can expect: live music and performances as well as definite biker bar theme and a gathering of the folks in the area who own Harleys and other large cc bikes. So both locals and travellers.
As I really like to read legends and stories I tried to find some connected to Sukhothai. I hope you will find them amusing.
So let’s start from Loy (or Loi) Krathong, one of the oldest festivals celebrated annually throughout Thailand. According to a legened it was started by one of the pricesses at king Loethai court. Princess Nang Nopphamat (นาง นพมาศ) let go on the river garland decorated with small bouquets of banana leaves and flowers to pay homage to the goddess of water and to apologize for wrong actions. The king liked this ceremony so much that he decided to tell his subjects about it. And so from that moment, Thais during the full moon of the twelfth lunar month (the Thai calendar) go to the water to release the Krathong (which can be translated literally as “little raft”), to worship the goddess of water, ask her to take all the worries and problems away and to apologize for wrong actions. We haven’t seen it unfortunatley. It was taking place one or two days after our departure from Thailand. Originally, the krathong was made of banana leaves or the layers of the trunk of a banana tree or a spider lily plant. A krathong contains food, betel nuts, flowers, joss sticks, candle and coins. Modern krathongs are more often made of bread or styrofoam. A bread krathong will disintegrate in a few a days and be eaten by fish and other animals while the styrofoam is polluting the waters. Regardless of the composition, a krathong will be decorated with folded banana leaves, flowers, candles and incense sticks. A low value coin is sometimes included as an offering to the river spirits.
In Ban Kho sub-district, there was a handsome and strong man walking in a forest. Suddenly, a fairy saw him and fell in love. So, she came down to Earth and talked to the man. They fell in love and eventually had a child. The baby was a boy. He was as strong and handsome as his father. The people saw the boy and they crowned him as the king of Sukhothai named Pho Khun Bang Klang Hao, the first king of the Phra Ruang Monarch. There is a stone inscription stating that his name was “Si Intratit Ban Kho”. Some called him “Phra Ruang”. Therefore, there are various names of this king such as Bang Klang Hao, Si Intratit, Arun Raj, Sairakaraj, Phra Ruang, and Roja Raj.
Siamese tradition attributes the founding of the kingdom of Sukhothai to Phra Ruang, a mythological hero. Prior to his time, according to historical legend, the Tai people were forced to pay tribute to the Khmer rulers of Angkor. This tribute was exacted in the form of scared water from a lake outside Lopburi; the Khmer god-king needed holy water from all corners of the empire for his ceremonial rites, a practice later adopted by Thai kings.
Every three years, the water tribute was sent by bullock carts in large earthenware jars. The jars inevitably cracked en route, compelling the tribute payers to make second and third journeys to fill the required quota. When Phra Ruang came of age, he devised a new system of transporting water in sealed woven bamboo containers, which arrived in Angkor intact. This success aroused the suspicion of the Khmer king. His chief astrologer said the ingenious Thai inventor was a person with supernatural powers who constituted a threat to the empire. The king at once resolved to eliminate the Thai menace, and sent an army westwards.
Phra Ruang perceived the danger and went to Sukhothai, where he concealed himself at Wat Mahathat as a Buddhist monk. The Khmers were defeated, and Phra Ruang’s fame spread. He left the monkhood, married the daughter of Sukhothai’s ruler, and when that monarch died, he was invited to the throne by popular mandate. Fact and fiction are inseparable in this popular account.
Chiang Mai (Thai: เชียงใหม่) sometimes written as “Chiengmai” or “Chiangmai” is located 700 km (435 mi) north of Bangkok, among the highest mountains in the country and along the Ping River.
It’s over 700 years old and has over 300 temples. The old city is still surrounded by remains of an old city wall and a moat. King Mengrai founded Chiang Mai, which means “new city”, to be the capital of Kingdom of Lanna. The city was very carefully designed to obey all the correct astrological laws. Within the city walls the King built his palace, several temples and accommodation for his followers. None of the original buildings remain, although Wat Chiang Man is said to be where King Mengrai stayed while he was building his city.
The main attraction of the old walled city is the atmosphere. As you stroll through the narrow streets you feel the heart of the people. Looking into the little dark shops you can see girls sewing, men repairing bicycles or watches, some playing cards, others watching TV, old people smoking and children playing. There are also plenty of food stalls where you can taste the noodles, cool fruit juice or some beetles, maggots or other delights. Goods offered are not limited to food you can find here everything you might need from clothes through house equipment to flowers and souvenirs.
I would like to introduce you to one of the legends I found regarding Chiang Mai:
The story has been told for countless generations that the kings of Chiang Mai and Lamphun one day discussed the sensitive question of the uncertain boundary between the two kingdoms. One of them suggested a clever way to define the appropriate borderline that would result in both cities have equal amounts of land. Since there were neither maps nor measuring instruments of any description, they agreed the best way to reach this equality of size was for the kings to travel from their capitals and accept that the point at which they met would be midway between them, and should therefore be the border. Having made the agreement, they then set a date on which this joint venture should be conducted.
On the morning in question, the King of Lamphun awoke early, was arrayed as splendidly as possible for the occasion, and having mounted his royal elephant, awaited the auspicious moment when the train of ruler, troops, pages and entertaining musicians should set out.
On the same morning, the King of Chiang Mai also woke early. Having dispensed with meals and all ceremony, his horse was brought out and – with a handful of trusted soldiers – off he and his party galloped just as fast as they could go.
Of course, having ridden until noon, it was the Chiang Mai royal party that had covered the greater amount of ground, surprising the Lamphun laggards with the inroads that had been made into what they had previously regarded as their territory. But an agreement is an agreement. Accepting that he’d been outsmarted in this battle without weapons, the Lamphun King dismounted from his elephant, put his seal to the border document that then became law, and turned back to the kingdom that had so suddenly been diminished.
I will bring to your attention some of the temples we visited. First of them is Wat Saen Fang. Along Tha Phae Road, you’ll notice a pair of nagas (dragon-like serpents) lining a narrow lane. Following the lane away from the busy street will take you to the quiet compound of Wat Saen Fang. It was built in XIV century (the architecture is late XIX century) and was used as the ho kham (palace residence) of the local ruler, Chao Kawilorot in the 1860s. The Wat has a fairly typical layout, with the east-facing viharn flanking a large chedi to the west. It displays many Burmese details, such as in the shape of the highly decorated chedi with its rainbow of mirroed tiles, or the guardians on the roof of the ordination hall (ubosot). The prayer hall (wiharn) sports an intricately carved front painted in bright red and gold. Behind the wiharn is a large rambling building where the monks are quartered.
Wat Bupparam (วัดบุพพาราม) was founded by King Muang Kaew in 1497. The Burmese-style chedi was rebuilt in 1958, and there is a well nearby which supplies holy water for anointing the King. The site of Wat Buppharam has a historical importance, as it is from here that in 1797 Chao Kawila took back the city of Chiang Mai after 200 years of Burmese rule. At the entrance you are welcomed by the Moms – guardian beasts, and a small Lanna contains a large brick and stucco Buddha over 300 years old. In the surroundings of the temple we found plenty of animal statues as well as live roosters. The detailed carvings and paintings are truly amazing.
The other temples I recommend seeing are: Wat Pa Pao, Chinese Pung Tao Gong Ancestral Temple and Wat Phuak Hong.