Because of the invasions, annexations, wars and creation of many kingdoms, it’s a bit difficult to get a precise understanding of Thai history in a day. But since we’re on our way through Thailand’s former capital cities, we need to figure this out, just for the sake of the chronology. To keep it simple, let’s say:
- From XI to XII centuries: Khmer invasions – Lopburi was the capital city
- XIII century: Sukhothai kingdom – Sukhothai was the capital city
- From XIV to XVIII centuries: Ayutthaya kingdom – Ayutthaya was the capital city and Lopburi a second capital.
- Since XVIII century: Chakri dynasty – Bangkok is the capital city.
We already brought you through Ayatthuya’s ruins, let’s wander around the two other capitals…
Lopburi didn’t impress us too much. Whereas temples and ruins are well preserved in Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, in Lopburi they are surrounded by recent buildings and shops, which ruins the charm of the sites.
Lopburi’s palace – Phra Narai Rajcha Nirej – was worth it though. Narai the great, King of Thailand from 1657 till 1688 particularly loved the city and, thus decided to establish his secondary residence in Lopburi. He used to live here 8 months out of 12 and led the country from this place, receiving ambassadors, enhancing international relations and modernizing royal protocols.
What surprised us the most in Lopburi was the numbers of monkeys walking around freely in the streets. We thought it was a legend for attracting tourists but not at all!
Monkeys are everywhere in the area of Phra Kan shrine. Eating out of trashes, they cross streets in large groups creating chaos in traffic, they invade balconies and roofs, swing on electric cables… inhabitants have no other choice than to seal their houses off with chicken wires. We felt like we were on the Planet of the Apes!
But we managed to escape and decided to make an unscheduled stop before heading to Sukhothai…
Train 220, Seat 83/84, third class, we can enjoy Thailand’s countryside through the open window. Back to front, we can see where we come from but not where we’re going to. It doesn’t matter, we feel calm and serene, we don’t need a plan for everything… Palm trees, farmers working in the fields, we can guess mountains’ shapes in the horizon. Air is hot and humid, light is fading away as the sun goes down. When the train enters cities, atmosphere changes and we can smell street food in the air: a mix of meat that stayed in the sun, drying, for too long, frying oil, garlic and gaz. We hear people and motors running. But the train never stops for too long and our journey goes on. Quiet, we let the regular roll of the train rock us. We’ll be at destination in a couple of hours…
What a good idea we had to come to Phitsanulok! Way prettier than Lopburi, we discovered some of the most vivid temples here, met very kind people and got more insights about Thai rural way of living, traditions and culture.
Phitsanulok is one of oldest cities in Thailand and is the birthplace of Naresuan theGreat, King of the Ayutthaya kingdom in the 16th century. Naresuan was one of the most revered monarchs in Thailand as he led numerous wars against Burma. He is even considered the greatest Thai warrior. His romanticized story of being captured by the Burmese when he was a kid and later returning to Ayutthaya to defeat his former captors in battles is now the subject of series of Thai action movies…
Last but not least, we discovered the first Thai capital city: Sukhothai (which means the Dawn of happiness). A former center for buddhist cult and culture, Sukhothai managed to preserve an amazing heritage, real testimony of the past glory of the area.
We visited Si Satchanalai Historical Park, basically a huge and quiet forest sheltering the ruins of stunning temples and monasteries. The atmosphere of the place is very serene and we loved walking around these relics of a splendid past. Buddha statues on top of hills, red brick stupas and chedis where you can still distinguish decorative stuccos, sculptures of elephants protecting the temples… such a beautiful place.
Another stunning area is the Sukhothai historical park. Breathtaking views of the many wats and Buddha statues, pagodas reflecting in the water, we had the impression to be in a movie set. Lakes give a different feeling in this place and helped us bear the heat, so that we stayed until sunset and had the chance to admire traditional thai dances.
What a better way to end the day than listening to thai music while enjoying traditional dances in front of ancient temples warmly colored by the fading light of the sun?