Saturday, January 07, 2006

In the Ruins

Sukhothai was pretty cool. Historically it was the first capital of Thailand and much of the city that is left over was built in the 12th and 13th centuries. It is in Sukhothai that King Ramkhamhaeng helped expand the kingdom to larger than the size of Thailand now in an era now known as the golden age of prosperity. He is also
credited-with some controversy for the creation of the first Thai alphabet. The early kings of Sukhothai adopted Theravada Buddhism and many of the buildings are centered around huge (some gigantic) statues of Buddha. More info is here.

We rented bicycles to ride around the old city (where most of the ruins are, as opposed to the new city where our guest house was they are about 15 km apart, but that is not very interesting). I haven't ridden a one speed bike in so long and I'm thankful for my 21 speed at home. There were tones of tourists because of the New Years holiday and riding on the roads and paths to the ruins with manicured lawns that surrounded the mammoth ancient stone structures, with so many other people, oddly enough it was the ruins that seemed out of place. Many of the structures have been restored to some degree and I came to prefer the ruins that were more out of the way and that have been overgrown and mostly ignored by other tourists. At these places I really got a feeling of 'old'.

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There are so many Wats that we did not remember all the names but most had the large pillars which are the rumnants of the wihaan (a room used for meeting and prayer)and a chedi (a bell shaped structure that usually held relics from Buddha).

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For a sense of scale

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Seriously huge Buddha- What Chao Pra

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Elephant Wat

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Sunset

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The ruins were definitely impressive, the almost overwhelming feeling of how massive they are when looking up the ancient stones that were so meticulously placed gives a real feeling of awe. I can hardly wait to see the ruins of Ankor Wat in Cambodia.

We also went to see a modern Wat near New Sukhothai. In our guesthouse there was an article that explains the history of the wat and some insight into some of the legends of Buddha and Sukhothai kings. The wat had several statues that depicted stories that were explained in the article as well as many other statues.

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Wat Thewet

This is hell, the sculptor saw it in a dream. Alcoholics get scalding liquid down their throats, those who kill animals get their head turned into that animal, girls who have an abortion get a worm that eats them, and those who are violent get 'grotesquely' enlarged hands.
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DAN SAW A SIGN

The other thing that we did in Sukhothai is go and see a bat cave. Dan saw a sign advertising this and he got all excited, so we inquired. The guide told us that he could take us (of course) and that we could maybe go by ourselves but he didn't know how to explain to us where it was. So we went with him and made it just before the bats started to come out of the cave. This was so cool! The bats came out of the cave in a long stream, moving in unison in a line across the sky swooping one way then another. You could hear the flapping of thousands of wings and the small squeals that they make. After the 'show' one of the rangers took us in the cave, and whoa did it ever stink! He led us inside to a replica of a Buddha statue that was placed there in the Sukhothai period. He was very impressed that we were so interested in the bats and that we were taking pictures. Our guide had never even been inside the cave. He explained that Thai tourists are very 'safe' and would never go do something like that. The ranger even succeeded in grossing me out by picking up a dead bat and squeezing it so that the maggots came out...ewww! Interestingly their were many saks of guano lining the cave, apparently it is sold as fertilizer.
The bat show was over quite quickly but was amazing to see, so amazing that Dan was able to convince me to go back and camp there the next night. I was very excited to be able to use our tents for the first time on our trip.
We left late and sped to get to see the show in time but 15 km away Dan's motorbike got a flat tire. I stayed and got the tire fixed because I knew that the bats meant more to Dan than me. -This was no show of heroics, it cost a lot to spend the night at the park with 400 Bhat on the motorcycles 200 Bhat on entrance to the park plus food and gas and time. I didn't want to spend a whole extra day just because we missed the show that night. The repair to the tire was only 100 Bhat though so that was good.

Here are some of the bat pics
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Now that's a lot of bats

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Unfortunately the only Batman there was Dan

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Well those were our adventures in Sukhothai and now we are back in Mae Sot so that we can cross the border tomorrow and then make our way to Um Pang. Don't expect a post for a while because there is no internet in Um Pang. Hope You are all doing well, let me know what's going on in your lives...

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