Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Thailand Part 10: The Ancient Capitol of Sukhothai

The Ancient Capital of Sukhothai
December 2, 2015

Today, we continued our trip north through the heart of central Thailand.  Our first stop was the ancient city of Sukhothai, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the first capital of Thailand from 1283 through 1350.  Sukhothai translates to "Dawn of Happiness," and my happiness dawned brightly as we wandered through this vast city!  The city is now a ruin, but wow, what a ruin it is.
The ancient Thai capitol of Sukhothai

The stupas sometimes hold relics associated with the Buddha.

The grassy fields are filled with the remains of temples of stone and brick, and ruins of the royal palace, but what draws your attention are the enormous statues of the Buddha sitting on platforms everywhere throughout the part.  The largest temple, Wat Mahathat, was built to hold relics of the Buddha, but the large statues and smaller carved images of Buddha surround the visitors.  Each statue was unique.  Some Buddhas gazed down solemnly, while others wore enigmatic little smiles. 

Rob meditates with the Buddha.

Most of the statues are huge and imposting, but a couple of the Buddhas were almost feminine.  One of these stood near the beautiful small temple of Wat Sa Si, which sits alone near a small lake.

Water Lilies decorate the lakes of Sukhothai

A graceful Buddha

Happy Travelers at Wat Sa Si

Our group sat under the shade of the Bodhi tree, the tree associated with Buddha's enlightement, and learned more about the area from our guide, Yo.

The influence of Hinduism was also found in the city.  One of the temples, Wat Si Sawai, is one of the oldest temples in Sukhothai and and was founded in the late 12th century as a Hindu shrine.  It was modeled on the Khmer style of Cambodia, similar to the temples at Angor Wat.   This temple included three pagodas dedicated to the Creator God (Brahma), the Protector God (Shiva), and the Destroyer God (Vishnu).
Wat Si Sawai

Yo relates the history of Wat Si Sawai

Hindu details on the temple

Rob and I wandered around the grounds for a couple of hours, marveling at the statues and seeking out the smaller images of Buddha and the other creatures carved into the stone.  I could have stayed for hours more but it was time to move on to new adventures.
A boat left over from Loy Krathong

The Buddha statues were more obvious, but there was fine detail carved into many of the buildings.

Just outside the grounds of the ancient city was a small village.  We visited a ceramics workshop where the employees were molding fantastic Hindu and Buddhist inspired images - five-headed dragons, fearsome dogs, Yakshas (the Thai demons), and lots of statues of the popular elephant-headed Hindu god, Ganesh.  Naturally, Rob made friends with the shop's resident dog and cat!
The Phaya Naga, a semi-divine creature, figures into the mythology of both Buddhism and Hinduism.  Their likenesses were found throughout Thailand.

Phaya Naga

Workers in the ceramics shop

A rather sexy Ganesh lounges amidst other ceramic objects.

Naturally, Rob found the Ceramic Shop dog...

And kitten!

After a great fish lunch in a local restaurant, we continued our trip north.  Our long bus ride was broken up by short stops to observe Thai life.  As we rose into the mountains of northern Thailand, we chanced upon a rice farmer and her family just harvesting their rice crop and tying it into bundles.  Yo stopped the bus and we visited with the woman for a few minutes.  She was delighted at our interest and, with Yo translating, told us about her work. 

Workers in a rice field.

The rice farm's owners

Land snails pulled out of the rice paddies

A bit further down the highway, we stopped briefly at what I would describe as a "tourist temple," a large but somewhat garish reclining Buddha.

A tiny Buddha in the mouth of the dragon.

Yo made our long bus ride tolerable with local snacks..
Our last stop of the day was at a family-owned indigo workshop, which had existed through several generations of the family.  Our group gathered around the covered shed and "Auntie" demonstrated each step of the process, from hand-drawing the wax design on the cloth to the creation of the dye paste to the actual dying of the material.  We all got to try out hand at creating a design, and our wet creations dried while we visited the shop where Rob and I both found beautiful shirts to buy - cool and comfortable for the warm weather.
Yo introduces "Auntie" to the group.

The pail holds the leaves of the indigo plant which  creates the dye.

Auntie demonstrates the process of dying cloth with the beautiful blue.

Our tour group enjoys the lesson.
Yo holds us the prepared cotton cloth, which has been stamped with a substance (wax?) that will prevent the dye from coloring the stamped areas.

After soaking the cloth in the dye, it comes out with a lighter greenish color...

...that deepens to indigo blue as it dries.

Dyed and decorated cloth dries on the line.  It will be sewn into various articles of clothing.

In the workshop, this woman demonstrates how to stamp the cloth.  Each member of our group got to make a square of cloth that was then dyed and waiting for us at the end of our visit.

The shop's cat loved jumping from table to table, lying on various works-in-progress.

We ended our day in the city of Phraya.  It had been a long day, but filled with amazing sights and encounters with lovely people. 

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