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Bangkok 06 - Treasures of the South 2

As a final trip, in my last weeks in Bangkok, I booked myself on another tourist trip, this time to Ayutthaya, one of the previous capitals of Thailand. It’s an early start, travelling by coach from Bangkok at 7:30am, visiting the summer palace en-route (see report 10) and then on to Ayutthaya. In Ayutthaya we visit three of the main temple sites, and have a quick stop at a tourist gift shop/handicraft centre, and then it’s down to the pier to join the boat, for the leisurely cruise, with dinner, back to Bangkok.

Ayutthaya

From the mid 14th century until its catastrophic destruction by the Burmese in 1767, Ayutthaya enjoyed enormous prestige. By the 17th century it was a cosmopolitan trading centre of world renown with a population composed of 40 different nationalities and greater in number than contemporary London. Unfortunately the Burmese war saw almost total destruction of Ayutthaya, the city is home to the ruins of some 375 monasteries, 29 fortresses and 94 city gates. The whole area has been designated a World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Wat Mahathat

The first temple we visited is now impressive ruins, with hundreds of sandstone Buddha icons, all with the heads removed, the result of the Burmese invasion and the desire to destroy what was dear to the Thai people. This wat (Thai for Temple) dates back to the 14th century. Built in three distinct styles, the site gives a real feeling of historic importance. The temple also contains one of the most photographed sites in Ayutthaya, a Buddha head around which tree roots have grown.

Wat Na Phra Meru

The second wat we visit is the only temple to have escaped destruction in the war, this is because it is slightly to the North of the city, and was used as a base by the invading Burmese army. The picture of the Buddha image above is from inside Wat Na Phra Meru.

Wat Lokaya Sutha

The third temple houses a large reclining Buddha, the third largest in Thailand. (The second largest is in Wat Po – see report 9). This ends the trip – but there are often surprises, on this one, it was the elephants!

Trevor

Another nice day trip, is to visit the Summer Palace. We set off at 8:00am on Sunday morning, for a gentle trip up the Chao Phraya river. Cold water is provided on board, and the views are tremendous! It is only on journeys like this that you appreciate just how many temples there are in Thailand, for as one is passed, the next approaches!

The journey is broken on the way up river by a stop at a Handicraft centre where all the traditional crafts of the Northern tribespeople are kept alive. Although mainly for tourists, the centre also houses a craft school, exhibitions and demostrations are available in wood-carving, silks, basket weaving and pottery, as well as a large shop for souveneirs and purchases!

Wat Chumphon Nikayaram

The royal palace at Bang Pa-In has a history dating back to the 17th Century. According to a chronical of Ayutthaya, King Prasat Thong (1629-1656) had a palace constructed on Bang Pa-In island in the Chao Phraya river. A contemporary Dutch merchant, Jeremias van Vliet, reported that King Prasat Thong was an illegitimate son of King Ekathotsarot (1605 – 1610), who is his youth was shipwrecked on the island and had a son by a woman who befriended him. The boy grew up to be Chief Minister and having usurped the throne became known as King Prasat Thong.

The King founded a monastery, Wat Chumphon Nikayaram on the land belonging to his mother on Bang Pa-In island, and then had a pond dug and a palace built to the South of that monastery. These pictures were taken walking around the grounds of the monastery.

Bang Pa-In Summer Palace

The present day royal palace dates from the reign of King Chulalongkorn (1868 – 1910), when most of the buildings standing today were constructed between 1872 and 1889. The palace is used occasionally by King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit as a residence, and for holding receptions and banquets.

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Trevor

Wat Po, or Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajawaramahaviharn as it is officially known is a royal monastery located on a 20 acre site, just South of the Grand Palace. Exploring the site can take some time, as it seems to sprawl on in all directions. Just when you think you’ve finished, you go through another gate and find whole new areas you didn’t know existed!

The many halls and temple rooms house Buddha images, from many styles and eras. The most important in religious/historical terms is ‘Lord Buddha in the posture of concentration’. He sits on a three tier pedestal, and beneath the pedestal are found the ashes of King Rama I of Thailand. Indeed, most of the chedi (the pagoda type structures shown in the first picture were built to contain ashes – in this royal monastery there are 71 of these structures built to contain the ashes of royal descendents.

The reclining Buddha

 

Although the most important Buddha in religious terms in the one shown above, this is not the image that has made Wat Po famous. For Wat Po houses the "Reclining Buddha", an amazing 46m long (and 15m high) golden Buddha image. Made from stucco covered bricks and concrete covered in gold leaf and with feet inlaid with mother-of-pearl. If you are receiving this in a letter, rather than reading it on the web, you may well get a postcard of the reclining Buddha too!

Of course, there are many other images! Chinese rock pagodas, statues representing massage and health positions and remedies (Wat Po houses a traditional Thai massage school), and many images of Buddha in other poses. As this is all laid out among herb and bonzai collections, in courtyards surrounded by chedis and ornate gateways, with places to sit, and places to get the necessary Diet Coke, it makes a very nice day out and is highly recommended to you all!

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Trevor


Thanks for checking out my blog! Please come back soon for more news and pics from our life.
I‘m Trevor
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I'm half a century old, and have been teaching for a quarter of a century! I have the most beautiful wife, and the best-behaved child ever, and life is good!

I have been living in Singapore for getting on for ten years, having also lived and worked in the UK, Europe, Middle East and other parts of Asia.

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Trevor Hughes

Hi, I'm a British teacher living in Singapore. This blog is to share my daily life and trips. Enjoy!.

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