And so we arrived on our paradise island. We checked into a fancy hotel with a swimming pool and headed to the beach which was… dirty, with a lot of stones, cold and with stuff floating in the water. Massacre!
We had to drop off the car in the new district of Bangkok full of wide streets and skyscrapers – Avis in Thanon Witthayu just opposite to the Embassy of Switzerland. I only remember the impossible mission of changing four lanes from one end to another before we had to turn to get to the nearest gas station. I checked on google maps it’s 140 meters. If we missed it there was no turning for a while and as you can imagine we were short on time. But this was just a beginning. We had to turn into expressway where the outer lanes are opposite direction than they should be so it seems upstream. Confusing.
This is the ending of a popular film called “The Bridge on the River Kwai” (1957) based on a book by French writer Pierre Boulle. The bridge in the film was located near Kitulgala (Sri Lanka). The bridge on the river Kwai is located in Thailand in Kanchanaburi.
In the last travel post I started to describe what we saw in Ayutthaya concentrating mainly on the city Island. I would like to continue doing so and at the end describe Wat Chaiwatthanaram and Phra Mongkonbophit.
Wat Ratchaburana (วัดราชบุรณะ) is also called the Monastery of the Royal Repairs or the Monastery of the Royal Restoration.
Not much is known on the history of this temple in the period between its establishment in 1424 and its destruction in 1767. The most significant feature is the nearly 600 year old chedi said to enshrine relics of the Buddha. However, there is no access to the chedi’s spire. On ayutthaya-history.com you can see some pictures from inside the temple. I love the one showing the ceiling and this is why I enclose it here. I did not go in to the temple of any of the surrounding buildings in which a showroom displaying old coins, bank notes, musical instruments and glass objects is available. There is a fee of 50 Baht (1.63 USD) to enter the grounds of Wat Ratchaburana. The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm every day.
In september of 1957 A.D. looters dug into a two-level crypt inside the main prang (Khmer-type tower) and stole a great quantity of valuable material. Police arrested some of these looters. The Fine Arts Department proceeded to excavate the site and found Buddha images and many artifacts made of gold. Among these were a large number of votive tablets made of gold and lead. Staff of the Thai Fine Arts Department conducted a further excavation and discovered that there were the vault had three stories. Confiscated artifacts amounted to 2,000 items. Among them were more than 100,000 votive tablets and more than 100 kilograms of gold jewelry. Since the Buddha images were very numerous the ministers approved giving some of them to people who had contributed to the building of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum.
Wat Rachabutana has three porticos facing east, north and south. The ruins of various satellite chedi and the walls of viharns surround it. There is a two-level crypt inside the main prang, and visitors are able to go down the steps to view the fine 15th century mural paintings that are preserved there. The lower level murals are of Chinese influence, while the upper level depict stories of Buddhism and Buddha’s lives. Flanking the base of the Chedi are stucco images of Yaksha demons and animals of the Himavana mythical forest.
There is also an elephant camp just opposite Khum Khun Phaen offering elephant rides as well as daily shows and feeding from 9:00 to 17:00. You are seated comfortably high up on a cushioned howdah and travel in royal style. Just to warn you the ride is far more expensive than the one in Chiang Mai. Also in Chiang Mai the elephants will track through the jungle while the ones here just walk along the street.
Next to all the monuments is a wonderful market full of colorful wares and food. Enjoy the pictures in the slideshow at the bottom of the post.
Phra Mongkonbophit (Buddha of the Holy and Supremely Auspicious Reverence) is a sanctuary housing the large bronze Phra Mongkhon Bophit Budha image. It was previously damaged by lightening and then restored in the Rama V period.
And the last but not least Wat Chaiwatthanaram (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม). It is one of the most beautiful ancient Buddhist monasteries. It is believed that it was located on the site of King Prasatthong former home. The reason for building it was to make merit for his mother.
What does it mean to make merit you may ask. One of the most common religious practices among Thai Buddhists is merit making. Whether it is giving food to the monks on their daily alms round, bringing offerings to the temple, or chanting in the ancient language. The majority of Buddhists who make merit are hoping to gain happiness in the present life but it is also believed that this merit will have good effects on your next life. Another reason to make merit is to help you see the truth about life, namely that life is always changing and never certain, that there is birth and death, there is meeting and parting, and material objects are impermanent. It helps to reduce desires and cease attachment to worldly things.
This Wat consists of main prang (Khmer – type tower) and four lesser prangs, all built on the same baseand surrounded by eight lesser prangs and a gallery. Along the gallery were placed 120 gilt lacquered buddha images in the attitude of maravijaya or Victory over Mara, the Evil One. Within the eight lesser prangs there are twelve crowned Buddha images. The ceiling of each alcove was made of wood and was decorated with gilded star-like patterns on black lacquer. Walls inside have mural paintings while the outside walls were adorned with twelve stucco relief decipting stories from the life of Buddha.
The main prang is 35 meters high and was built in early Ayutthaya style. The four lesser prangs on the other hand are in the style of King Prasattong. They have seven levels. We climbed one of them. The stairs are very steep, the higher the worse.
At the entrance to the monastery we had our pictures taken and then were able to purchase a plate with it. Mine is right now at my grandparents place so I can’t show you the picture. let me just say I never regretted buying it. A nice souvenir. I really wish we had more time to sightsee Ayutthaya. Don’t go on a one day tour offered in Bangkok it will not be ebough as you spend only 3-4 hours at the sight. It’s worth 2 days. Other attractions include cycling, boat cruises along the river and kayaking in the canals. you won’t be bored.
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.