Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ANCIENT SIAM – Around Thailand in a Day Part 2 of 3

A visit to Muang Boran aka Ancient Siam was an immensely satisfying experience. Not only was there so much to see, each site was a near-perfect replica of the original . I had a field day taking photos, but as I was checking out the list of 116 sites listed on the site map back at my hotel, I realized that I missed a LOT! This gives me a reason to revisit Ancient Siam in the future - and I can't wait!

In this post - the 2nd piece of a 3-parter, I was heading "north of Thailand" before turning east and round back. I'd hop off the tram, roam a temple or site, get awed by each diligent reconstruction, then catch my breath and wait for the next tram ride to come along. The sun was scorching and I've downed several bottles of water - yet perspiration dripped like a leaky faucet from the tendrils of my hair. I'd reach for my nape, dap my hair with my handkerchief - and I would marvel at how drops of sweat tricikle down in succession. Tumatagaktak. Muang Boran would be a perfect place for biking in the months of December to February, I thought, but before then, such solar rays would be nothing less than health hazard (although nothing beats the raging sun of parched Bagan during the summer). Having mentioned that, it was such a delight seeing replicas of the temples and halls from Sukhothai which I visited last year!

I wanted to explore the cluster of this miniature village where the Floating Market was. The blue footbridge beckoned like a magical transporter to authentic Thai life. A few boats half-filled with vegetable produce slid past us. Riverside food stalls lined by pots and kettles could be seen waiting for the occasional starved tourists. I was more semi-dehydrated than hungry, but I couldn't resist their version of the halo halo (crushed colored ice with mixed fruits and condiments). I soaked on the atmosphere by the the lakeside - dwarfed wooden tables facing the waters. I sat hunched down and cross-legged, with my back against the post. It was surreal watching the play of activities surrounding me - they all seemed real; not the reconstruction that this place actually is. For a more thorough narrative on my visit here, please visit the previous blog post.

This is the Eye in the Sky.

Wooden avenues surrounding the Floating Market area or the Damnoen Saduak. The Damnoen Saduak Floating Market is located at Damnoen Saduak District, Ratchaburi Province, about 105 kms from Bangkok. According to history around 1866 King Rama IV ordered that a 32 kms long canal be dug at Damnoen Saduak. This canal would connect the Mae Klong River with the Tacheen River. The excellent quality soil beside the canal is very fertile and suitable for growing many kinds of fruits and vegetables. The area is famous for Malacca grape, Chinese grapefruit, mangoes, bananas, and coconut.

Idyllic houses on stilts...

Souvenir items at the Old Town Market area

Nam Keng Sae or Thai Halo Halo - Just looking at it proved to be irresistible, so... yum!

Nam Keng Sae or Thai Halo Halo at 15 baht ($0.45)

Sukhothai wihan - the wihan is constructed based on the wihan of Phra Buddha Chinarat of Wat Phra Si Ratana Maha That in Phitsanulok Province.

Grand Hall of Wat Maha That in Sukhothai's Old City

Grand Hall of Wat Maha That in Sukhothai

Size of the Buddha of Wat Maha That. Is it really scaled down? It's almost a third smaller. I visited the original Wat in North Thailand last year, and this replica is pretty impressive.

Main chedi of Wat Maha That in Sukhothai. Wat Maha That is the biggest temple among the 26 found in the Sukhothai Historical Park. The Kingdom used to dominate over the area in North Thailand between the 13th and 14th century. There are 193 ruins in 70 square kilometers of land. It is a World Heritage site.

A lotus bed blooms in front of the main chedi of Wat Maha That, Sukhothai

Main chedi of Wat Maha That, Sukhothai - the view from outside

Sand castles near the Chedi Cham Thewi

The Royal Water Course Procession - aka Krabuan Phayuhayattra Chonlamak) is a ceremony of both religious and royal significance which has been taking place for nearly 700 years. It takes place rarely, typically coinciding with only the most significant cultural and religious events. During the reign of Thailand's present King Bhumibol Adulyadej spanning over 60 years, the Procession has only occurred 16 times.

The Royal Barge Procession, in the present, consists of 52 barges (51 historical Barges, and the Royal Barge the Narai Song Suban King Rama IX, built in 1994 and the only Barge built during King Bhumibol's reign) and is manned by 2,082 oarsmen. The Procession proceeds down the Chao Phraya River, from the Wasukri Royal Landing Place in Khet Dusit, Bangkok, passes the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, the The Grand Palace, Wat Po, and finally arrives at Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn).

Pavillion of the Enlightened - This is associated with Mahayana Buddhism and the story of 500 enlightened monks of different background, code of conduct and merits, coming together to reach Nirvana. Mahayana Buddhism is one of the 2 major branches of this religion (the other one being Theravada) that originated from India.

Pavillion of the Enlightened

Multiples of chinese-looking buddhas sit around the halls of the Pavillion of the Enlightened. There should be 500 buddhas at the original site. That would be an amazing place to see.

Pavillion of the Rainbow Bridge - Connected to this is the Rainbow Bridge, but since I was already so tired to get off the tram, I just took photos from a moving tram and the bridge was partially hidden behind trunks of trees. The pavillion is located in Lopburi.

Next post - Part 3 and Last Part of Ancient Siam (Muang Boran): http://eye-in-the-blue-sky.blogspot.com/2009/08/ancient-siam-around-in-thailand-part-3.html

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