Buddhas, Birds and the Cycle of Life ~ Si Satchanalai Historical Park: Sukhothai Part 2

Heads of two large Sukhothai-periiod Buddhas

With an air of calm, two Buddhas preside over Wat Phra Si Rattana Mah (Wat Phra Prang), Si Satchanalai

Thailand is rich with the textures of life and history.

I’ve talked before about our recent visit to Sukhothai, or more properly, the UNESCO-listed “Historic Town of Sukhothai and Associated Historic Towns”. One of those “associated towns” is Si Satchanalai (or Sri Satchanalai, depending on whose transliteration you follow).

Asian Openbills sitting among green rice patties.

The trees and rice patties were full of birds as we drove north on country roads. Here, flocks of Asian Openbills perch in the rice fields.

Fifty-five kilometres north of Sukhothai along country roads flanked by fields and rice patties, the ancient city of Si Satchanalai on the banks of the River Yom is in a tranquil location. In addition to various ancient wats (temples), the park includes important archaeological sites where some of the world’s earliest celadon kilns have been uncovered and preserved. In the 14C, Si Satchanalai was the biggest ceramic producer in Southeast Asia, exporting its prized Sangkhalok pottery as far afield as Japan, China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

New green growth on roots of a fig tree.

Old trunk; new growth. Wat Chedi Chet Theao

I was struck by the peaceful quiet of the grounds. I am not alone in actually preferring the somewhat understated ruins here to those of the better-known Sukhothai site.

The city and surrounds date back to the 6th century, when the inhabitants were producing tools, beads and terracotta. In the 12th and 13th century, the area was under Khmer control. While this has had little influence on the remaining buildings, the giant fig at Wat Chedi Chet Theao was reminiscent of Ta Phrom at Angkor.

Base of a ficus: Wat Chedi Chet Theao

The quiet of a giant ficus. Wat Chedi Chet Theao

Green weeds on rough laterite brick-work

Smooth growth; rough laterite bricks. Wat Chedi Chet Theao

Rough remains of a laterite buddha head

Suggestion of a Buddha, Wat Chedi Chet Theao

Ancient chedhi

Visiting monks add life to Wat Chang Lom

Many of the ruins date to the rule of King Li Thai (1347-1368) when several buildings were renovated or constructed.

After the death of King Li Thai, the city came under the control of Ayuttaya, before again becoming part of the Sukhothai kingdom in around the 15th century.

Carved elephants at the front of an ancient temple.

Elephants on guard: Wat Chang Lom (Rob)

Ruins of a sukhothai era temple surrounded by green.

Ruins on the green: Wat Nang Phaya

Young Theravada monk

A newly ordained young monk or “nehn” travelling with his elders: Wat Nang Phaya

Detail: laterite with elaborate stucco work.

Wat Nang Phaya features laterite blocks decorated with early-Ayutthaya style stucco.

Thai temples are full of surprises. We climbed up the hill that houses Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng and Wat Khau Suwan Khiri to be assailed by a cacophony of chittering and the ripe smell of too many animals in one place. I thought it was monkeys or bats, until I looked to the tree-tops to find them full of water-birds: herons, egrets and stork – all squabbling for perching and nesting spaces.

Tree-tops full of cattle egret

Tree-tops full of cattle egret, with their golden nesting-head-plumage.

Large birds (Egret and Heron) in trees in front of Thai mountains.

An egret and a heron share the tree-tops.

Asian Openbill storks in jungle foliage

Asian openbill storks look too big for the trees they are sharing with herons.

Egret Chick in a tree-top nest

Several nests contain eggs or chicks. 

Dead egret chick on leaf-litter

Not all the chicks make it; more than one chick lies on the ground around the temple.

Cairn of laterite stones against a background of green trees.

Impromptu cairns dot the Wat Khao Suwan Khiri surrounds.

Dead leaf fallen on a granite plaque

A dead leaf seems to illustrate the story of the temple history.

As the afternoon lengthened, we drove off the main Si Satchanalai site to another temple located close by, in the fold of the river. We arrived just ahead of the travelling monks who were visiting from a central province east of Bangkok and were greeted by a seemingly ancient man playing a simple stringed instrument and hoping for payment. Naturally, we obliged!

Old Thai man in blue cotton pyjamas seated on the ground with a single-stringed instrument.

Elderly Thai Musician – Wat Phra Prang

Seated buddha draped in orange sashes.

Buddha – Wat Phra Prang

Seated Theravada monk in fronted of giant seated Bhuddha

A senior monk poses for his picture. Wat Phra Prang

Laterite wall, chedi behind

Ancient laterite wall: Wat Phra Prang

Large Buddha Head - Wat Phra Prang

Giant standing Buddha – Wat Phra Prang

Seated Buddha - head beside it.

As if to remind us that all things pass – all things change – a Buddha sits with its head fallen.

Next door to the old temple ruins of Wat Phra Prang (Wat Phra Si Rattana Mah), new works are being undertaken to expand the new temple of the same name.

Thai worker in blue headscarf standing in a foundation footing-hole.

The worker on the foundations of the extensions at the new Wat Phra Prang, when asked, said proudly: “Pen khon sukhothai!”: “I am a Sukhothai person!” So, the past links to the future.

And the cycle continues.Text: Happy Travels

Happy travels!

Photos: 21May2012

  • dietmut - July 2, 2012 - 9:01 pm

    Very nice to see this back in your images. Thank you, Greetings DietmutReplyCancel

    • Ursula - July 3, 2012 - 9:25 pm

      Thanks, Dietmut! I’ll post the next Sukhothai installment soon. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Signe Westerberg - July 9, 2012 - 4:14 am

    lovely as always, you have certainly been to some amazing places and rich history abounds… thank you for sharing it 😉ReplyCancel

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *