Elephant Polo!


This is the final article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy this and other travelogues about the Hua Hin area.

Elephant polo is a fascinating sport to watch. A variant of equestrian polo, elephant polo originated in Meghauli, Nepal and is played in Nepal, Thailand, India, and Sri Lanka. Teams from England and Scotland also participate in organized tournaments. The sport is governed worldwide by the Kathmandu, Nepal-based World Elephant Polo Association (WEPA) and in Thailand by the Thailand Elephant Polo Association.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (9)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (5)

The sport features Asian elephants ridden by a polo player and a mahout who steers the elephant. Players hit polo balls into goals with a mallet attached to the end of a long stick. Goal posts are located at either end of a pitch that’s three quarters the size of an equestrian polo field. Teams of four players, mahouts and elephants square off for two ten-minute “chukkers” (time periods) with a 15-minute time out (“interval”). The team with the most goals at the end of the second chukker wins the match. A full list of elephant polo rules is available here.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (10)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (11)

Thailand-based luxury resort and spa company Anantara Resorts hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament in Hua Hin. Military marching grounds south of Hua Hin Town make an ideal pitch for a week’s worth of elephant polo matches. Dozens of sponsors set up pavilions on the sidelines that cater to visitors and polo players who come from around the world to watch or participate in the games. My family and I watched the 2012 championship match on the final day of competition; other spectators spent the entire week at the event.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (1)

While the sport has come under some scrutiny for the use and treatment of elephants, the elephants participating in the King’s Cup seemed content on the sidelines and competitive on the field. They appeared as engaged and eager to participate as the human players. Elephant Polo in Nepal and Thailand is played under the auspices of the WEPA, which enforces strict rules on elephant welfare and game play. To my knowledge, no instances of alleged mistreatment of elephants related to elephant polo have been reported in Thailand.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (3)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (4)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (6)

We enjoyed mingling with the elephants on the sidelines where the polo teams waited to saddle up. Several elephants huddled near the edge of the pen watching the matches and munching on feed like popcorn. They didn’t seemed to mind the spectators who gathered around them for photos. It was all part of their duties as star athletes. We enjoyed taking photos with a jovial pachyderm who inspired the character Ellie the Elephant in my book. This elephant was doing what Ellie aspired to do – play competitive elephant polo.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (7)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (8)

The mahouts tended to the animals, feeding them, saddling them up, and guiding them on the pitch. They appeared to have experience working with the animals, while the skill of the players varied according to their familiarity with elephant polo. One replacement player took the field for the first time and had trouble handling the cumbersome mallet taller than an elephant’s shoulders. Watching the elephants, mahouts, and polo players work in tandem was mesmerizing. When a player missed hitting the ball, the elephant would back up so they could try again.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (12)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (13)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (14)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (15)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (16)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (17)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (18)

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (20)

All the teams we watched did a splendid job. While only one won the King’s Cup, every team took home a trophy in the shape of an elephant’s head. The tournament was competitive and fun with all the excitement you would expect at any sporting event. There were scrimmages, breakaways, and the occasional error – all in the name of fun.

2012_09_06 Thailand Hua Hin Elephant Polo (21)

If Ellie the Elephant were at the King’s Cup Elephant Polo tournament, she would have enjoyed playing or watching from the sidelines.

Cover 4

And you would have too! Here’s a video clip of elephant polo in action.

Elephant Polo in Thailand

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers! Get your copy today!

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin

Wat Khao Takiap Temple in Hua Hin

map-ddaf71d935e422[2][2]

 

clip_image0023222[2]M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Advertisements

World Adventurers YouTube Channel


Did you know that World Adventurers has a YouTube Channel with travel video clips from all around the world? It’s true! The World Adventurers YouTube Channel features a growing list of clips featuring travel destinations and more.

Now that I have an iMac that makes video editing easy, I plan to post more travel clips. Every 1-2 weeks I will upload a new video from somewhere around the world. Some may be embedded in my blog posts; some will not. You’ll have to see for yourself! Click here to subscribe to the World Adventurers YouTube Channel.

Here are just a few of the travel videos:

Thai Royal Barge Ceremony:  The 2012 Royal Barge Ceremony on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, Thailand. A parade of barges rows to Wat Arun, one of Thailand’s most important Buddhist temples.

Thai Royal Barge Ceremony

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef:  A video clip from the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Cairns, Australia taken underwater from a submarine in October 2012.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef

Fire Dancing:  Fire dancing performance during our 2012 trip to Ko Samet, an island in the Gulf of Thailand off the coast of Pattaya. Fire dancers perform along the beach for tourists enjoying their evening meal.

Fire Dancing!

Traditional Paraguayan Dance:  A video clip taken in Paraguari, Paraguay, in July 2008. The mixture of traditional dresses, music dominated by the harp and guitar, and songs in Guarani, an indigenous language, are mesmerizing.

Traditional Paraguayan Dance

2012 Chinese New Year: Fireworks in Shanghai, China at midnight on January 23, 2012, to celebrate the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dragon.

2012 Chinese New Year

Subscribe to the World Adventurers YouTube Channel today!

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures.

He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated three books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series: Alexander the Salamander, Ellie the Elephant and Zoe the Zebra.

Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. A former U.S. diplomat, he served in South Korea, Paraguay, and Zambia before leaving the Foreign Service in 2011 to write full time. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Wat Khao Takiap in Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the fifth article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about Wat Khao Takiap in Hua Hin Town. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

Wat Khao Takiap is a Buddhist temple complex on “Chopsticks Hill” (Khao Takiap) south of Hua Hin Town center. One of the most recognizable temples in Hua Hin, it straddles a 272-meter (890 feet) tall hill that juts out into the Gulf of Thailand and is visible from beaches to the north and south.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (3)

A shrine shaped like a blooming white lotus flower sits halfway up the hillside. Although the 80 or so steps to it are a quick workout, one can drive to a parking lot part way up Chopsticks Hill. The view from the shrine and the shrine itself are both picturesque.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (4)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (5)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (8)

The parking lot area is even more interesting with an eclectic mix of Buddhist statues, including a Hungry Buddha and many-headed Buddha, dinosaur statues (seriously!), a prayer pagoda, souvenir and snack shops, and…

…monkeys! Hundreds, maybe thousands, of macaque monkeys live on the temple grounds. They are the inspiration for Monk the Monkey, one of the characters in my book Ellie the Elephant. People who work at the temple are the protectors of the macaques, who like to get too close to human comfort in their tireless search for food and drink. Tourists need to be careful because the monkeys target and steal bags, bottles, and anything else that looks like an easy meal. They’re not prone to bite but can become aggressive when the food runs out.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (19)

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (20)

Here’s a picture of Monk the Monkey featured in Ellie the Elephant.

monk

The chickens that wander freely around the parking lot don’t seem bothered by the monkeys. Why should they? Some are larger than a mid-sized macaque and mean serious business in their hunt for chicken feed.

This rooster did not consider it a laughing manner when he crossed the road.

At the base of Chopsticks Hill is a large Golden Buddha standing 20 meters tall who looks out on the Gulf of Thailand with his arms outstretched. While he gave his blessing to the fishermen trolling the waters off the coast, we were blessed with delicious Thai food served by the outdoor restaurant at the base of the hill.

2012_09_16 Hua Hin Temple (25)

If you visit Wat Khao Takiap, don’t forget to give a donation. It could bring you good luck. Just leave it on this painted concrete block and someone will pick it up.

You’re in luck because Ellie the Elephant’s school, the Pachyderm School, is not far from Wat Khao Takiap. Stop by for an incredible adventure with Ellie!

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers! Get your copy today!

Cover 5

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin

map-ddaf71d935e422[2]

 

clip_image0023222M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the fourth article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about Khao Takiap Village in Hua Hin Town. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

At the base of Khao Takiap (Chopsticks Hill) in Hua Hin opposite the Gulf of Thailand lies a colorful and messy fishing village nestled in a small waterway. The organic place looks out of place, and yet, right where it belongs in this area east of Hua Hin Town.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (1)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (2)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (3)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (6)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (4)

Suburban Hua Hin has expanded around it, filling the former wetlands with contemporary high rises and neighborhoods, but this timeless village stands out amidst the surrounding modernity.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (27)

Hundreds of wooden fishing vessels clutter the waterway with a chaotic order that looks artistic but tricky to decipher. Boats with hulls of varying bright colors create a multi-colored menagerie intertwined with a spider’s web of stout wooden masts and booms.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (8)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (9)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (10)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (11)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (12)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (13)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (14)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (16)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (17)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (18)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (19)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (15)

On the rickety wooden walkway that follows the water channel and sways with every movement, villagers prepare daily catches for the market, from fish gutting to drying squid and gathering seashells. It’s quite the sight for seafood lovers to behold. The smell is not overpowering as fresh hauls come in and the remnants are washed into the coffee brown channel. I glanced down into the thick water and shuddered to think what must have been lurking in its bowels.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (20)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (21)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (23)

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (24)

Many villagers live on the boats while a few own freestanding homes that strike an interesting contrast to the high-rise resort rising just to the south. Some own seafood markets, restaurants, and souvenir shops just across the street in the shadow of Chopsticks Hill.

2012_09_16 Thailand Hua Hin Fishing Village (25)

The coin-fed washer and dryer machines in a kiosk along the road indicated that the villagers have ready access to basic necessities. In spite of what looked like poor living conditions when I visited Khao Takiap Village, the villagers seemed to live well with an ocean of seafood waiting to be caught on the leeward side, and to starboard, a sea of tourists waiting to consume whatever they could catch. While a fisherman’s life didn’t look easy, Khao Takiap Village seemed to be a good place to give it a go.

If Ellie the Elephant wanted to be a fisherelephant, she would live in Khao Takiap Village!

Cover 11

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

The Countryside near Hua Hin

map-ddaf71d935e422

 

clip_image002322M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

The Countryside near Hua Hin, Thailand


This is the third article in a six-part series about Hua Hin, Thailand, a coastal city near Bangkok on the Gulf of Thailand. This post is about the countryside near Hua Hin. Hua Hin hosts the annual King’s Cup Elephant Polo Tournament, a fun and unique sporting event. The 2012 tournament inspired me to write the children’s picture book Ellie the Elephant about an elephant that dreams of playing in the tournament. Enjoy these travelogues about this fascinating area of Thailand.

The drive from Bangkok to Hua Hin takes about two and a half hours as a drunken crow flies and when traffic is light. The scenery on southwest-bound Highway 35 is forgettably suburban Thailand with more and more rice fields and orchards as the cities thin. At little more than the halfway point near the city of Samut Songkhram, the highway merges with Highway 4 and heads south on the Malay Peninsula. Here lies the beautiful countryside of Phetchaburi and Prachuap Khiri Khan provinces between the Gulf of Thailand and Myanmar (Burma).

huahinmap

Most of the drive to Hua Hin Town passes through Phetchaburi, one of three western Thai provinces that are popular weekend getaways for Bangkok residents looking to escape from the sweltering lowlands of the Chao Phraya River delta. (The other two are Kanchanaburi and Ratchaburi.) The highlands of the Tenasserim Mountains offer cooler weather that blows in from the Andaman Sea. Phetchaburi is worth a stop to explore its scenic wonders, but for those on the way to Hua Hin, the province will still reward them with opportunities to enjoy picture-perfect scenery. Rice fields in the lowlands, including one farmed by Ellie the Elephant’s parents, share the land with rolling hills and craggy mountains.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (1)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (2)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (3)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (4)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (5)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (6)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (7)

You never know what you’ll discover in the countryside on the way to Hua Hin. During our drive to Hua Hin in November 2012, we spotted a thatched roof lodge at the foot of a mountain reminiscent of a traditional Thai bamboo house with some indigenous elements.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (8)

Accustomed to seeing rotund statues of the Buddha, I stopped to examine some statues of a malnourished one. The “Fasting” or “Starving” Buddha depicted a time in the life of Siddhartha Gautama (563-483 B.C.), the Indian prince who founded Buddhism, when he wandered in the countryside for six years in search of spiritual enlightenment and practiced such an austere lifestyle that it left him skin and bones. Realizing that his asceticism would lead to death, not enlightenment, Siddhartha adopted a middle path between the luxury of his youth and his austerity. The statues on the way to Hua Hin recalled this period in the Buddha’s life.

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (9)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (10)

Ellie the Elephant calls the countryside near Hua Hin home. Along with her parents and brother, she works in the fields when she’s not in class or playing at Pachyderm School. While she doesn’t mind helping out with chores around the farm, what she really wants to do is play elephant polo. Read Ellie the Elephant, her incredible story about following her dream – to play in the Elephant Cup tournament!

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside (11)

2012_09_15 Thailand Hua Hin Countryside

Ellie the Elephant is now available as an e-book or in print from Amazon and other booksellers!

More about Hua Hin, Thailand

Hua Hin Town

Hua Hin Night Market

map-ddaf71d935e42

 

Maps courtesy of Google and Bing.

clip_image00232M.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, and a short story collection called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. He also wrote and illustrated Alexander the Salamander and Ellie the Elephant, two books in the World Adventurers for Kids Series. His books are available in e-book and print from Amazon.com and other booksellers. Edwards graduated from the University of Washington with a master’s degree in China Studies and a Master of Business Administration. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

© 2013 Brilliance Press. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted without the written consent of the author.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the second in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about the temple ruins at Wat Chaiwatthanaram. The first article described the City of Ayutthaya. The remainder will feature other sites in Ayutthaya Historical Park, including Wat Phu Khao Thong, Wat Mahathat, and Wat Yai Chai Mongkon.

Wat Chaiwatthanaram is a restored Buddhist temple on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River across from Ayutthaya Island. In 1991, UNESCO designated the complex a World Heritage Site in Ayutthaya Historical Park. The temple ruin, one of Ayutthaya’s most popular tourist destinations, offers picturesque views that capture the essence of this fascinating place. The site is remarkable for its once-innovative square chedi or stupa (pagodas) with indented corners that are now common structures in contemporary Thai Buddhist temples.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (2)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (16)

According to the information resource History of Ayutthaya, the name Wat Chaiwatthanaram is roughly translated as the “Monastery of the Victorious and Prosperous Temple.” It was built over two decades from 1630 to 1650 by King Prasat Thong of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Dedicated to the memory of his beloved foster mother, the temple was used to perform royal ceremonies, including the cremation of deceased royals.

The temple’s centerpiece is the “Phra Prang Prathan,” a 35-meter tall prang (tower) built in Khmer (Cambodian) style popular at the time of construction.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (7)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (9)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (10)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (11)

The rectangular outer wall and gates that once surrounding the symmetrical complex were gone when I visited in August 2012, and only the foundations and a few of the eight chedi that served as chapels remained.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (3)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (19)

The wall, which symbolized the crystal walls of the world in Buddhist lore, once enclosed a large courtyard. In its center stood a still-intact, five-pointed structure (quincunx) that included Phra Prang Prathan, a symbol of the legendary Buddhist mountain Meru (Phra Men), and four smaller prang representing four continents pointing in different directions toward the sea. The courtyard represented seven oceans.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (6)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (8)

On the angled base of Phra Prang Prathan graced by large Buddhist statues, sets of stairs climbed to what was once an ordination hall where ceremonies were performed and to a gallery that symbolized seven mountains.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (14)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (15)

Two restored Thai-style chedi next to the Chao Phraya River interred the ashes of King Prasat Thong’s mother.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (17)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (18)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (21)

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (22)

Destroyed by the Burmese in 1767, Wat Chaiwatthanaram lay deserted and was looted for bricks, Buddhist statues, and other artifacts for more than two centuries until it was restored by the Royal Thai government in 1992. The site sustained damage during the flooding of Ayutthaya in late 2011, and was still closed for restoration when I visited. I managed to take some fantastic photos of the complex from the site perimeter.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram (24)

While some of the temple’s splendor remains, many of its structures, statues, artwork, and the royal boat landing at the river’s edge disappeared ages ago. Enough of it has been preserved to give visitors of glimpse of its former glory.

2012_08_11 Thailand Ayutthaya Wat Chaiwatthanaram

A video clip with a 360-degree view of the Wat Chaiwatthanaram site.

Video clip of Wat Chaiwatthanaram in Ayutthaya, Thailand
Map picture

 

More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about the City of Ayutthaya and the Ayutthaya Historical Park

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.

Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the first in a five-part series about Ayutthaya, Thailand and the Ayutthaya Historical Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This article gives an overview of the City of Ayutthaya and its history. The others will feature four of its most important sites: Wat Chaiwatthanaram; Wat Phu Khao Thong; Wat Mahathat; and Wat Yai Chai Mongkon. They should give you a taste of what this amazing place has to offer.

In August 2012, I visited Ayutthaya, the site of the former capital of Thailand (also called Siam or Krung Tai) during the Ayutthaya Kingdom period. Established in 1350, the capital at its height in 1605 ruled an area that included Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, and parts of Burma (Myanmar) and China. The city was destroyed in April 1767 after a 14-month siege by Burmese invaders. Most of its buildings were reduced to rubble and its treasures looted or destroyed. The threat of a Chinese invasion at home forced the Burmese army to retreat a few months later, leaving Thailand decimated until the country reunified in December 1767 and a new capital was established in Bangkok (then-Thonburi).

800px-Iudea-Ayutthaya

In 1991, UNESCO named Ayutthaya a World Heritage Site and designated 15 sites in the city of significant historical value. These included Wat Ratchaburana; Wat Mahathat; Wat Phra Sri Sanphet; Wat Phra Ram; Wat Lokayasutha; Wiharn Phra Mongkhon Bopit; Wat Lokayasutha; Wat Yai Chai Mongkon; Phra Chedi Suriyothai; Wat Phanan Choeng; Wat Chaiwatthanaram; Ayutthaya Historical Study Centre; Japanese Settlement; Wat Phu Khao Thong; and the Elephant Camp (Kraal). Most are located on or around an island in the city center surrounded by the Chao Phraya River.

Some sites have partially restored temple ruins, such as the gorgeous Wat Chaiwatthanaram.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (2)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (4)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (5)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (3)

Wat Mahathat, a former Buddhist monastery and one of the largest sites in Ayutthaya Historical Park, is well known for the stone Buddha’s head stuck in a banyan tree on the grounds. Experts believe that the artifact was either abandoned by thieves or fell from a statue after the temple was destroyed.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (7)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (8)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (9)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (10)

Other ancient structures such as Wat Yai Chai Mongkon, a restored temple famous for its reclining Buddha, are still in use. Ruined prang (towers) and stupa or chedi (monuments) offer glimpses of Ayutthaya’s once-glorious past.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (15)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (16)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (17)

Wat Phu Khao Thong is another monastery dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period that has been renovated and is still in use today.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (20)

Ayutthaya is a two-hour drive north of Bangkok (in good traffic) via an expressway from downtown Bangkok. It’s a great daytrip for those who want to explore Thailand’s past and the Ayutthaya Kingdom’s influence on Thai culture. The city of about 60,000 inhabitants is relatively compact and easy to navigate.

With many historical structures scattered throughout the city, Ayutthaya is a wonderful place to savor Thailand while you’re driving from site to site. Check out the beautiful countryside and the shallow (and somewhat muddy) Chao Phraya River that winds its way through the city on its way to the Gulf of Thailand.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (21)

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (22)

Stop in the city center for lunch. The Amporn Shopping Centre and Chao Phrom Market have a variety of dining choices ranging from Thai to western cuisine.

Browse the local markets and try some fruits or snacks. The aging Chao Phrom Market is an authentic Thai market, gritty but fascinating. The contemporary Ayodhya Floating Market on the outskirts of town is a touristy place with elephant rides and staged re-enactments of the Burmese invasion. While it may feel kitschy and commercialized, it’s a fun place to end the day with a meal and some souvenir shopping. It’s different than the Ayutthaya Klong Sa Bua Floating Market, a better-known floating market that was closed when I visited but will reopen in October 2012.

2012_08_11 Ayutthaya (27)

Ayutthaya’s historical sites would have been in much better condition had they not been destroyed in 1767 — consider how well preserved its peer, the Independence National Historic Park in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is — but many still stand as a testament to the former majesty of this ancient capital.

Map picture

More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

Click here to read about Wat Chaiwatthanaram, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

Click here to read about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a historical Buddhist monastery

Click here to read about Wat Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

Visit Ayutthaya Historical Research for more in-depth information about historic Ayutthaya.

The photo of the historical painting of Ayutthaya was used with permission from Wikipedia.

buythumbM.G. Edwards is a writer of books and stories in the mystery, thriller and science fiction-fantasy genres. He also writes travel adventures. He is author of Kilimanjaro: One Man’s Quest to Go Over the Hill, a non-fiction account of his attempt to summit Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain and a collection of short stories called Real Dreams: Thirty Years of Short Stories. His books are available as an e-book and in print on Amazon.com and other booksellers. He lives in Bangkok, Thailand with his wife Jing and son Alex.

For more books or stories by M.G. Edwards, visit his web site at www.mgedwards.com or his blog, World Adventurers. Contact him at me@mgedwards.com, on Facebook, on Google+, or @m_g_edwards on Twitter.