Thursday, 1 November 2012

Si Satchanalai Historical Park

This morning I braved the local produce market for breakfast. I had noticed the market the previous day, I wanted to try some real local food. I guessed (correctly) that the food vendors would not speak English, so I took the simple step of waiting till some one ordered and pointing at what they had.
I ended up with a lovely bowl of noodles, with what I think was a tomato/tamarind based sauce, various bits of meat and accompaniments. It was very nice also cheap and filling and spicy and I did not get a photo to display.
After that it was time to explore Si Satchanalai Historical Park.The park is about an hours drive from Sukhothai, so for this trip I engaged a driver with a car for the day. This turned out to be a good thing as the driver had some knowledge of the park and he was able to optimise my visit.
First stop was Wah Khao Phanom Phloeng. This is an ancient temple complex built on a hill called Phanom Phloeng with a nearby hill Suwankhiri also accessible via a short walk. Apparently there are 144 stairs to the top of the hill. I was hot and sweaty by the time I had climbed them.
Looking up those steps
 At the top is a large ruined temple which contains a huge Bhudda. The complex consists of other buildings too and I spent a solid hour walking around and discovering. It is a bit Indiana Jones territory with ruins partially hidden by vegetation and the whole area has a quiet and contemplative feel to it.

I descended from the hill temples and ended up at another complex which I also explored. I think that I may have taken the wrong path down the hill as I had to do some bush bashing and jump a wall to get into the temple area.
The outer wall

View of the temple complex

After this I reconnected with my driver and we drove a short distance to explore the Wat Chedi Chet Thoeo complex.

After that we took a ride to a more better preserved area of the park. Already I was beginning to get a bit "Wat"ed out. I should mention that there were informative displays at various locations, some of which showed reconstructions of how the temples may have looked. These were very useful as you could see the existing ruins and put it all into context.

Interpretative Panel

The ruins corresponding to the panel above.
Despite being in ruins many of these temples are still used for worship and I was intrigued to find some offerings in one place that included a whole roast chicken. It was fresh, the ants had barely had time to find it. I was very tempted to be naughty and try a piece, but I refrained.
Mmm that Chicken looked finger licking good

After a few more buildings and temples I decided that it was time for a change and asked the driver to show me the kilns. The kilns had been used to make pottery, and remember we are talking hundreds of years ago, so I was intrigued to see the technology. Unfortunately the main site was closed to visitors that day, but we spotted a signpost to a kiln along the roadside and I was able to look at that.
It was quite interesting, consisting of three distinct chambers. The first was a furnace where wood was burnt. The second was a chamber where the pottery was placed. I am not sure how that was loaded up. The third and final chamber was a huge chimney. It was fairly obvious that the hot gases from the furnace where drawn through the pottery chamber and out the chimney. To me it was ingenious.
The roof has collapsed, the furnace in the foreground, the other chambers just visible behind.

Detail of the brickwork that the kiln was made of.
By now it was well into the afternoon. I was tired hot and thirsty and had not stopped for lunch. My driver let me know that he had kept the best until last and we made our way to Wat Phra Si Rattana Maha That Chaliang. Technically outside the Si Satchanalai Historical Park but close enough to be considered part of it.

The driver was right as these temples had been restored in the 1700's and are in a much better condition than what I had seen to date.

Once I had visited this, I was all finished for the day. I could not see anymore temples. I asked the driver to return to my accommodation. He was happy to do so.
That evening I had my final meal in a slightly up market restaurant. Unfortunately it was fairly forgettable. Street food was more tasty.
The Bludger could not fit another Wat into his tiny brain.

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