Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Sukhothai--Golden Age of Thai Civilization--13th--14th Century

After taking the Sky Train to the Mo Chit Station, it was a short but confusing ride to the Bangkok Northern Bus Station--also named Mo Chit or Mor Chit--- by the ever exciting moto taxi. Once there, I wandered a while through a maze of hallways until I got to the ticket area that seemed to stretch forever.

There were few destination signs in English so I just started asking for where to get a ticket to Sukothai. after about four misdirections by various ticket sellers I finally got to the right ticket stall. I got a window seat on the shady side of the bus and I the front row---big mistake! After I got on the bus, I saw that instead of having a view to the front from behind the bus driver there was a solid wall and there was no leg room to stretch out---and this was going to be a seven hour bus ride. Not only that, but my window area was very small.

Fortunately, after a couple of hours, I was able to move back a few rows as people got off the bus. The landscape outside was mostly flat filled with rice fields in various stages of growth and replanting. I think Thailand is the world's largest exporter of rice.

 

We arrived in Sukothai and I was approached by Jarn the owner of the Happy House Guest House who offered me a place for just 300 baht---remember there are now 29 baht to $1 USD. He said it was new, had wifi access to every room, and hot showers. When I got there, I realized that I forgot to confirm that the room also had A/C. For another 200 baht that problem was solved.

I checked out the local night market and enjoyed getting a desert of a coconut mango pancake very popular throughout Thailand. It is a crepe loaded with egg and bananas, cut up into bite sized pieces topped off with shredded coconut and drizzles of double condensed milk. Not exactly a weight watchers special.

Early morning I caught the sorngtaagou that took us about 12 km to the entrance to the Sukhothai Historical Park for just 30 baht. After some breakfast, I rented a bicycle to explore this large park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sukhothai Kingdom represented the golden era of Thai civilization from the mid-13th century to the late 14th century. Some of the most classic Thai styles of religious art and architecture can be seen here. The remains of the kingdom encompass about 45 sq km of partially rebuilt ruins, which are one of the most visited ancient sites in Thailand and is one of the UNESCO World Heritage sites.

The Wat Mahathat is the largest Wat in Sukhothai. It is surrounded by a moat that represents the outer wall of the universe and the cosmic ocean. The chedi spires found throughout represent the lotus-bud. This the the most elaborate, largest, and complete Wat in Sukhothai. There are many sitting---Mara position---Buddhas and two standing ones here.

 

This Buddha has recently had a gold foil manicure in anticipation of my visit.

Wat Phara Phai Thuang is at the northern section of the park and I am so glad I rented a bicycle to tour this large complex. I was able to see the remnants of a reclining Buddha and guess what---its' insides are filled with brick and mortar. As in many Buddha religious Wats or Stupas there are always claims that a remnant of Buddha are secreted somewhere in these religious sites. It can be anything from a bone fragment, a tooth, or a hair that provides additional import to the religious site.

Current devotees have left their own religious amulets to honor Buddha so these are not merely historical sites, but rather part of the fabric of daily living and devotion to the tenants and teachings of Buddhism.

I am now at the foot of Wat Sapan Hin and to get to the top of this two hundred meter hill, I walked along this stone path. In Thai, it means stone bridge.

Once at the top, I am greeted by a very tall---quelling fears---Buddha along with a smaller sitting Buddha.

This is a statute of King Ramkhamhaeng, who reigned from 1275 to 1317 and is credited with developing the first Thai script. King Ramkhamhaeng expanded his kingdom which included an area larger than that of present-day Thailand.

Now on to the Thai-Lao border to Nong Khai using a combination of tuk tuks, and buses.

 

 

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