Thursday, January 20, 2011

Sri Satchanalai Historical Park - Sukhothai

The Sri Satchanalai Historical Park (Thai: อุทยานประวัติศาสตร์ศรีสัชนาลัย) is a historical park in Si Satchanalai district, Sukhothai Province, northern Thailand.
The protection of the area was first announced in Volume 92, Part 112 of the Royal Gazette on August 2, 1961. In 1976 the restoration project was approved, and in July 1988 the park was officially opened. On December 12, 1991, it was declared a World Heritage site, together with the associated historic parks in Kamphaengphet and Sukhothai.
Sri Satchanalai Historical Park is just the perfect place for hiding away in some secret corner behind the bare bricks of ancient temples, or under the shade of huge trees – just relaxing and watching the sky role by. Located 68 km north of Sukhothai, Sri Satchanalai, previously known as Chaliang, possesses many significant historic monuments of the same era as Sukhothai.
Although there are fewer temples than in Sukhothai in the rampart of the city. You can sit – spending time contemplating the remains of Sukhothai’s long history that stretches back several centuries. It’s really amazing, whenever you think that those lumps of bricks and ancient constructions are still in existence and a touchable part of the past from hundreds of years ago.
From the main entrance, all visitors are usually mesmerised by the first highlight of Sri Satchanalai, Wat Chang Lom, located in the center of this historic town. The temple is acclaimed as being one of the most beautiful of its kind, because the main Sri Lankan style chedi is surrounded by 39 sculptures of elephants at its base. The sculptures of the elephants at Wat Chang Lom in  Sri Satchanalai are quite different from  those found at other temples, as they represent standing elephants which are all “larger than life”.
Just opposite to Wat Chang Lom, Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo is located with various styles of chedis in the beautiful calm setting of the temple. It is compared as being as significant as Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai Historical Park, built during the period of King Ramkhamhaeng. The presidential chedi is in the style of the beautiful lotus-bud shaped chedi, the actual name of the temple translates as “the temple with seven rows of chedi”, and is derived from its 33 subordinate chedis erected inside the wall, which are also quite famous for various styles of art such as Sri Lankan, Pagan and Srivijaya. The late Prince Damrongrajanuphap – an expert of Thai history – suggested that this temple might be the place where the cremated remains of the Sukhothai royal family were kept.
Within the nearby compound, there are a few other places worthy of being visited, such as Wat Suan Keao Utthayan Noi, Wat Suan Keao Utthayan Yai, and Wat Nang Phaya – with a vihara building made of laterite block and the exterior face of its walls decorated with highly elaborated stucco, showing different styles of art from the Ayutthaya period. The atmosphere of Wat Nang Phaya is quiet and peaceful, because it is located far from the main group of historic sites adjacent of the southern rampart.
There are some significant historical sites located outside of the old town of Sri Satchanalai, paying a visit to Wat Phra Sri Ratanamahathat first.
Wat Phra Sri Ratanamahathat, locally called Wat Phra Borommathat Muang Chaliang, is one of the most important temples – assumed by archeologists to have been founded during the pre-Sukhothai period. The temple is composed of a few major buildings, the most appealing of which is the presidential prang. The main shrine of the temple was built to cover an earlier stupa of the pre-Sukhothai period, constructed from blocks of laterite, which were in turn covered with lime plaster and red paint. The prang, as seen today by its architectural characteristics, can be identified as having been built during the early Ayutthaya period. Another rare masterpiece of  Thai historical art that still remains today and is only available at this temple, is a priceless column – its top is decorated with stucco and it also displays an image of Bodhisattva.
Back into the old town of Sri Satchanalai, visitors can go up hill where another two historical sites – Wat Khao Phanom Ploeng and Wat Khao Suwan Khiri are located. To reach the top, you can either take the staircase or drive up the paved road on the other side. It is a hill slope that can be climbed fairly easily by mountain bike. On the hill, you can go to Wat Khao Suwan Khiri to see its bell-shaped chedi and to the other important temple - Wat Khao Phanom Ploeng.


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