08 June 2012

bus to Si Satchanalai
rikshaw with engine
Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng
Wat Chang Lom
Wat Chedi Ched Thaeo
Wat Nang Phaya
Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaliang

Today we wanted to go to the Si Satchanalai old temple ruins. We thought it would be easy enough to catch a local bus to the next village (new Si Satchanalai) and jump off at the ruin site along the way. We walked to the bus stop to see when our bus would come. As it turns out, there aren’t any small local busses running here, and we would have to wait till the next big intercity bus to come through. If we asked, the driver would stop near the ruins for us, then it is only a half hour bike ride away (they rent push bikes at the makeshift bus stop) It all sounds like more hassle than we were expecting, especially as the next bus doesn’t come till 12.30.. more than 2 hours away.

We still needed to get breakfast, so we decided to walk around town and find a place to eat before catching our midday bus. Our hotel is near the bus stop, but not downtown Sawankhalok. Old town seems to be near the river, and the town is growing around the new highway. We find a nice place along the river and have our standard breakfast, noodle soup and fried rice. We tried to find out if a moto would be willing to take us to Si Satchanalai, but according to our cook, that would be very expensive. When a couple of moto guys also stop for a bite, they check with them on our behalf. The moto’s are not even interested in taking us out there. “to far, to far” It is about 20 kilometers.

We made our way back to the bus stop, when a sort of rickshaw pulls up next to us. (it’s a motorbike with 2 wheels and a 2 person seat at the front) With help from a local translator, we figured out that we is willing to take us there, and hang around while we sightsee AND take us back again when we are done. He doesn’t seem to fussed when we make it clear that we would be a few hours at least. Ok, it is (a lot) more expensive than the bus, but this way we can go anywhere, see what we want to see, and are guaranteed a ride back.

Our Rickshaw

We enjoyed the ride out. A few rain drops, but nothing to worry about. We passed a few very small villages, and quite a few rice paddies. We seem to be following the signs to the Si Satchanalai Historical Park nicely, but the distances are strange here. You can pass a sign saying 10km to go, and 5 minutes later (on the same road) pass the same sign saying 15 km to go.. Si Satchanalai is a world heritage listed site with ruins from the 13th to 15th century. It is part of the Sukothai Si Satchanalai historical park, but we are not doing the Sukothai bit. (more touristy and 60km away)  When we were close, we saw a sign pointing down a side road saying the historical park was 2.5km down it.  The driver went straight past and we started to worry about our translation.  Pulling him up, we made him do a U-Turn on the road and go back to the turn off.  Another 500m down the road he pulled into a side street.  This still should be 2km from where we wanted to go.  After a bit of discussion.  With it getting no-where we pulled out the bible (lonely planet from 1996) and tried to name the most important Wat/complex in the park.  He nods and gestures back to the bike.  Going back the same way, he went back to where he was going before we told him to change. A few minutes later we pull up at the entrance to the park.  We still don’t know why that big sign was there…

Steps? I don’t see many steps here!

Buying our hyper inflated foreigner ticket with our rickshaw there, we expected him to wait at the entrance for us,but no he was ready to go.  On the plus side we were supposed to pay vehicle entrance, and we didn’t.  Our driver took us into the park and up to the first temple, Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng. This one is on top of a hill, and involves climbing 160 steps. During the climb up we notice all the birds around. There are a lot of white and grey longnecked birds, that frankly look more like water birds than forest birds. The temple itself is nice. A simple Chedi and big Buddha, a nice view over part of the park. As with all the old ruin sites in Asia so far, this one is also still visited for religious purposes. People leave their own little statues near the Buddha. (small Buddha’s, elephants, cows or small statuettes depicting the royal family seem to be popular) They burn a candle or leave an offering.

Elephants and Buddhas suround this Chedi

On to one of the most important ones here: Wat Chang Lom. It is in the middle of the historic town. The base of the Chedi is decorated with bigger than life elephant statues. Not all remain, and the ones that do are in different stages of collapse. It is kinda interesting, cause we can now see how they were made. Most of the temples, chedi’s and statues here are made out of laterite blocks and then covered in a plaster. Some have/had decorative reliefs in the plaster, some were colorfully painted.
This temple is important as some people belief some remains of the Buddha are buried under the Chedi.

Buddha sitting on a Naga @ Chedi Ched

We walk across the road to Wat Chedi Ched Thaeo. The main Chedi here is surrounded by 33 smaller chedi’s and they are all different. Not one of them is the same and quite a few different styles have been used. After a good look around we decide to get back in our rickshaw. We ran into a group of school kids on a school excursion. We already had them yelling and waving at us before. They start firing questions at us: “Where are you from?, What do like about Thailand?, Do you like elephants?” We do our best to answer them. The teacher explains that the kids are excited about being able to practice their english. We are happy to help out.

How Many Wats can you fit in a What?

Time for a little talk with our driver. We had just noticed in our free leaflet that there’s a nice temple complex a few kms away. We want to go see it, but not sure how the driver feels about it. In sign language, and basic english we get our point across and he is fine with the extra driving. (I guess our tuktuk experiences in Cambodia have made we us overly cautious)
A quick stop at Wat Nang Phaya. Again Chedi, big Buddha etc. It might sound a bit boring, but they do all look different, it is just hard to write about. Here a small section is roofed to protect the last of the plaster relief decoration. You can just imagin what the whole complex would have looked like back in the day.

Entrance Gate of Wat Mahathat

Last temple via a nice drive along the river: Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat Chaliang. This one is so special that you have to buy a special ticket to see it. It is stunning though. This has a big central Phra that reminds us of Ayutthaya and Angor Wat. In front is a massive Buddha, dressed like so many in pretty yellow/gold. We climbed the Phrabecause there are supposed to be frescos inside, but nowadays it is inhabited by pigeons.. No wall paintings to be found, but there is a shire inside.

Wat Mahathat Buddha and Phra

We also climbed the (BIG) Chedi behind and found another shrine. This one was not easy to climb at all, as the steps are big and very very steep. By now the rain had returned, so we quickly took a look at the multiple Buddha statues behind, and made our way back to our very patient driver. We told him 5 more minutes, so we could have a look at the hanging bridge over the river..


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