This morning drive to Sri Satchanalai, the northern outpost town of the kingdom of Sukhothai, built by King Ramkamhaeng. . . .Built in the 13th Century to help consolidate the power of the Sukhothai Kingdom in this area, my guidebook says Sri Stachanalai “is considered by many historians to be the apogee of Thai city planning.” Sounds like my sort of place 🙂
Just inside the entrance to the historical park that contains the remains of the historic city, we find the first picturesque ruins, these those of Wat Suan Keao Utthayan Noi. It feels lost in time, undiscovered.
Chris begins our official tour at the dramatic Wat Chang Lom, with it’s amazing huge Sri-Lankan (Ceylonese) style chedi that is born upon the backs of 39 larger-than-life elephants.
As usual, Chris gives us a detailed lecture on this place just outside the wat, making us stand baking in the hot sun. I want to start taking pictures!
At last she is finished and we are free to explore. I can see a couple people walking along the second layer of the structure, just above the elephants. Can we actually go up there?
Indeed, we are free to walk wherever there are stairs and walking paths, just as the people who worshipped at this site over the generations have. The only rule is that we not touch any Buddha – even a ruined one – and don’t sit on the walls. Excellent!
I said the chedi is born on the backs of 39 elephants, but it’s more like the remains of 39 elephants. Like much of the structure, most of the original elephants have worn away over the centuries, so only the underlying laterite structure still remains.
It’s still really cool.
On the level above the elephants, the temple walls are lined with niches, all of which once held figures of the Buddha in what I think is a Touching the Earth pose. While some niches are now empty, most still hold at least a partial figure.
Chris has told us that all images of the Buddha are sacred, no matter how ruined, so I am not surprised to see offerings beside many of the ruined statues. Some offerings, however, seem more the leavings of badly-behaved and disrespectful tourists.
Some people should never leave home.
While we should have an amazing view of the next temple from Wat Chang Lom, the position of the sun is such that we can barely make out the vast sea of remains that comprise Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo (or Wat Chedi Jet Taew).
The temple’s name indicates that that there are seven rows of chedis here. There are a lot of them – in all styles and all states of decline. They are laid out in neat rows, but I wouldn’t want to try to figure out how many there really are.
Walking through these ruins is amazing – it’s a chaotic crumbling maze of beautiful, intricate shrines that seem to slowly decay before our eyes in the hot humid air of mid-day.