Macau


Click here to read the original article on MG Edwards. Visit MG Edwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

Macau is a place of contrasts. Macau, or Macao as it was better known when it was a Portuguese colony, is officially the Macau Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China. Like its many names, the SAR is filled with more people, culture, and history than its small size suggests. Sitting on just 29.5 square kilometers (11.39 sq. miles) of land, some of it reclaimed from the Pearl River Delta, Macau has a population of more than 600,000 with a density of more than 18,500 people per square kilometer (48,000 per square mile). Although crowded, its denseness does not seem so much from its small footprint as from its rich and colorful history. The former colony still retains much of its Portuguese and indigenous Cantonese character but has grown more Chinese since its return to China in 1999. As the country’s only destination for legalized gambling, a Portuguese legacy dating back to the 1850s, Macau has become a tourist draw with its growing array of gambling and Las Vegas-style entertainment and conference venues. Nestled amid the grand casinos are neighborhoods steeped in colonial and traditional Chinese heritage. Like its sister across the delta in Hong Kong, Macau is worth highlighting as a semi-autonomous region because of its unique character and heritage.

More About Macau

Ruin of St. Paul’s Cathedral

St Paul (7)-1

Senado Square

Senado Square (2)-1

A Skyline View of Macau

2012_04_17 Macau Skyline (3)-1

Taipu Village at Night

2012_04_17 Taipa Village (3)-1

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Cambodia


Cambodia is a land of contrasts. From the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary city of Angkor to the country’s recent history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is a mixture of triumph and tragedy. The country has emerged from the dark shadows of the past and is rapidly developing into a modern, vibrant society that stands side by side with magnificent edifices and artifacts. Few visitors to Cambodia leave without being somehow touched by the warmth of the Cambodian people, its rich culture and history, and stories laced with sobering realities. Its diverse land stretches from pristine beaches and wetlands along the Gulf of Thailand to the rolling Cardamom and Annamite mountains. Nestled in between is one of Southeast Asia’s largest wildernesses. Those looking for a fun, fascinating and unforgettable journey should spend time in Cambodia.

More About Cambodia

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia

Heading to the Coast (National Highway 4)

Driving the Coast (National Highway 48)

The Cambodian Wilderness

Koh Kong

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat

2012_12_30 Cambodia Silver Pagoda

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River

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Cross-posted from MGEdwards. Visit MGEdwards for more great travelogues, photos, and video from around the world.

Top Ten Things to Do on Holiday in Cambodia


Here is a list of top ten things to do if you visit Cambodia, a country in Southeast Asia. This list is based on my travels in Cambodia from December 2012 to January 2013. It’s generally ordered by proximity to the country’s premier tourist destination, Angkor.

The destinations and activities below will give you a taste of what this incredible country has to offer. A study in contrasts, from the majesty of the former Khmer Empire showcased by the legendary Angkor to the country’s recent tragic history under the Khmer Rouge still echoing in the Killing Fields, Cambodia is unique. It is a wonder to behold. These are some of the best places where you can experience what Cambodia has to offer, although this is by no means a complete list.

1. Angkor: The capital of the Khmer Empire from 802 A.D. until its conquest by the Thais in 1351 A.D., Angkor today is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in northwest Cambodia near the city of Siem Reap. Hailed as one of the world’s most spectacular ancient historical sites, Angkor is a large complex that includes the former palace of Angkor Thom and dozens of Hindu and Buddhist temples scattered across an area more than 1,000 square kilometers (390 square miles) where as many as one million people once lived. Today more than two million tourists flock annually to this remarkable place to see the timeworn temples, buildings, and points of interest that coexist with contemporary Cambodia. Angkor is by far the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia, and its highlights would easily fill their own top ten list. The site is so far flung that it has inner and outer roads to take you to take you near and wide around Siem Reap.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Pre Rup

2012_12_27 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_27 Cambodia Siem Reap Traffic

2012_12_28 Cambodia Countryside

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Sunset

Angkor Wat: A Hindu temple built between 1113 and 1150 A.D., majestic Angkor Wat overshadows the Angkor complex and is by far its most popular attraction. It is splendidly beautiful. No visit to Cambodia would be complete without spending time in Angkor Wat. Walk around the gardens, admire the reflecting pools, and climb up to the main courtyard where you can see an amazing 360-degree view of the horizon.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Wat (3)

Moonrise Kingdom

Angkor Thom: The former Khmer capital in the epicenter of Angkor is surrounded by a wall with preserved gates you can drive through in a car or tuk tuk. Several important sites are located inside its walls, including the Bayon, Baphuon, and Terrace of the Leper King.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Thom Gate

Angkor Thom

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Horizon

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Thom

Bayon: The state temple of the Khmer kings, the Bayon is a Buddhist shrine built in the late 12th Century or early 13th Century. The out-of-this-world mystical site is filled with towers graced with faces carved into the stone, giving the impression that the temple guardians are watching you. The walls also features impressive bas-reliefs.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (3)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (4)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Bayon (2)

Baphuon: A Hindu temple built in the 11th Century, the Baphuon lies northwest of the Bayon and just south of the royal palace. The collapsed temple was rebuilt in the last half of the 20th Century and now offers a great view of Angkor Thom from the top. The back of the temple features one of the world’s largest Reclining Buddhas. Can you spot him in the picture below?

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon (2)

2012_12_26 Cambodia Angkor Baphuon Reclining Buddha

Terrace of the Leper King: The semi-submerged structure at the center of Angkor Thom winds through a hillside like a snake, its walls adorned with images from Hindu lore. The site was reportedly used for cremation ceremonies and named after an Angkor king who had leprosy.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Leper King Terrace (2)

Ta Prohm: A Buddhist monastery located to the east of Angkor Thom, Ta Prohm is the second most popular of the many temples and monasteries after Angkor Wat. Much of it has been left its natural state, although some efforts have been made to preserve the site and keep it from being gradually torn apart by the roots of the tetrameles nudiflora trees growing on its walls. The site is otherworldly – a scene from the movie “Tomb Raider” was filmed at Ta Prohm. One hopes that it won’t fall to ruin from the very trees that make it more awe-inspiring than computer-generated imagery (CGI) animation.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (5)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (2)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm (4)

2012_12_27 Cambodia Angkor Te Prohm

Ruluos: A cluster of Hindu temples in Angkor about 15 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap, the site is dominated by the Bakong and Preah Ko temples. Built in the 9th Century, they were among the first shrines built by the Khmer kings.

2012_12_27 Cambodia Roluos

Ruluos

2. Siem Reap: Cambodia’s tourist hub is a fun city of about 200,000 located near some of Angkor’s most stunning sites. Stay in the center and enjoy the town in the evening after a long day touring Angkor. Siem Reap has several markets, including a night market, and its lively evening atmosphere makes it a great destination for food, shopping, and entertainment.

2012_12_26 Cambodia Siem Reap Nightlife (2)

3. Kompong Phluk Stilt Village/Tonle Sap Lake: Kompong Phluk Stilt Village is located about 25 kilometers southeast of Siem Reap off National Highway 6; the entrance is just past the road to Ruluos. During the dry season when it’s not flooding, villagers who make a living fishing on Tonle Sap Lake, Cambodia’s largest, live in stilt houses that rise more than five meters (15 feet) off the ground. The town offers an interesting glimpse into the lives of local fishermen and looks like the set of a post-apocalyptic movie. Wooden boats take tourists downriver past the town on a brief cruise through a semi-submerged mangrove forest and along the shore of Tonle Sap Lake. It’s a great daytrip combined with a visit to Ruluos. Those who don’t have a car can take a tuk tuk or taxi from Siem Reap for a reasonable price.

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk (2)

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Kompong Phluk

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Mangrove Forest

2012_12_28 Cambodia Tonle Sap Lake

4. Koh Ker: Briefly Angkor’s capital from 928 to 944 A.D., Koh Ker lies about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northwest of Siem Reap in a remote area of Cambodia. The seven-tiered pyramid is the most famous of several historical sites in Koh Ker. Perhaps most significantly, Koh Ker is a nice get away from the throngs of tourists who congregate around Siem Reap.

Koh Ker

5. Preah Vihear: An ancient Hindu temple built in the 9th Century on the edge of what was once Angkor, Preah Vihear sits atop a cliff in the Dangrek Mountains of Cambodia overlooking a plain in Thailand. The temple is beautiful and the view spectacular. A 140-kilometer trip from Siem Reap, the temple sits on the Cambodian-Thai border. Tensions between Cambodia and Thailand over access to the location and instances of violence has made the area somewhat volatile, although the situation has been quiet as of late.

Preah Vihear

6. Phnom Penh: Cambodia’s capital is a study in contrasts. It is fast emerging as a dynamic engine of growth for development with the opening of a new stock exchange and financial center. And yet, it can’t escape its brutal past under the Khmer Rouge regime that captured Phnom Penh in 1975 and decimated the city and its people until its overthrow in 1979. A walking tour of the center, from Wat Phnom Penh temple to the markets near the waterfront for shopping and a meal, to glimpses of historic sites such as the French architecture along Monivong Boulevard and the Cambodia-Japan Friendship Bridge, are reminders of Phnom Penh’s past and present. Try some Cambodian food with French coffee and dessert at one of Phnom Penh’s many eateries.

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Skyline (2)

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Monivong Blvd

2012_12_30 Cambodia Phnom Penh Waterfront

2012_12_28 Cambodia Phnom Penh Japanese Bridge

7. Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda: Cambodia’s Royal Palace and famed Silver Pagoda – named for the silver tiles on the temple floor covered by carpet – are among the most beautiful sites in Phnom Penh. Much of the palace of the Cambodian king is closed to the public, but it still offers a taste of Cambodia’s rich culture and heritage.

IMG_8939

8. Tuol Sleng (S-21) Prison: This former high school in a quiet Phnom Penh neighborhood was once the site of unspeakable horrors. An estimated 20,000 victims of the Khmer Rouge were interred, interrogated, tortured, and killed at Security Prison 21 (S-21) or transferred to the Killing Fields to be executed. Only 12 known survivors escaped death here. Today the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum serves as a poignant reminder of the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. It is a sobering look at the darker side of Cambodian history and the tragedy of genocide.

Tuol Sleng

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (3)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Genocide (4)

9. Cheong Ek Memorial / Killing Fields: Cheong Ek, better known as the Killing Fields, is a former Chinese graveyard and orchard used by the Khmer Rouge to torture and execute thousands of victims in a horrific act of genocide. Mass graves with the remains of 8,895 out of an estimated one million victims of the Khmer Rouge were discovered at the site. Today it is a memorial with a stupa (tower) filled with the skulls of more than 5,000 victims and a walking tour of the grounds that will leave you in tears. The graphic photos and depictions of torture and execution at Tuol Sleng and Cheong Ek are not for young children or those faint of heart but a necessary reminder of the country’s past. It’s important to focus on all that is good about Cambodia during your visit, but these sites should not be overlooked.

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields (2)

2012_12_29 Cambodia Phnom Penh Killing Fields

Cheong Ek

10. Cambodian Coast / Sihanoukville: The Cambodian Coast is a generally unspoiled region waiting to be enjoyed by those who like great beaches, national parks, tropical forests, mountains, and nature hikes. A stopover in Cambodia’s largest seaside city, Sihanoukville, is a great starting point for travel along the coast. See my recent series on the Cambodian Coast for more information about the Cambodian Coast.

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (2)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (3)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (6)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (8)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast (9)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Tatai River (2)

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong (5)

2012_12_31 Cambodia Coast Sunset

2013_01_01 Cambodia Koh Kong

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clip_image0013[3]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 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.

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 Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the final installment of a five-part series about Ayutthaya, Thailand. This article features Wat Mahathat, the ruin of Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). Previous posts discussed the historic City of Ayutthaya; the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram; Buddhist monastery Wat Phu Khao Thong, and temple ruins of Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon.

Wat Mahathat, or the “Monastery of the Great Relic” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a former Buddhist temple located in the heart of historic Ayutthaya not far from the old royal palace. It is one of the most famous sites in the Ayutthaya Historical Park.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (1)

Wat Mahathat is best known for the photogenic Buddha’s head embedded in the trunk of a banyan tree. The well-preserved face with a serene look leaves a lasting impression. Experts believe that the sandstone head either fell from a statue and landed in the tree or was left there by a thief who could not haul it away.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (3)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (6)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (9)

Although most visitors come to see the famous head, the temple itself is just as interesting.

Wat Mahathat was one of the largest and most important temple complexes in the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Historical records indicate that it was either built by King Uthong (Ramathibodhi I, 1350-69), King Borommaracha I (1370-88), or King Ramesuan (1388-95). The site fell into disrepair in the 1630s and 1730s before the Burmese razed it in 1767. Many of the prang and stupa or chedi (spires) collapsed after years of decay. Efforts have been underway since 1956 to preserve the site.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (11)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (12)

The temple served as the religious center of the Ayutthaya Kingdom and was the seat of the supreme Buddhist patriarch of Siam (early Thailand). It once housed relics captured during military campaigns in Cambodia and elsewhere. During the annual Kathin (royal barge) ceremony, the Ayutthaya kings sailed in a procession of barges down a canal from the palace to the temple, where they would disembark, pray, and make offerings to the gods.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (13)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (14)

Like Wat Chaiwattanaram, the Khmer-style Wat Mahathat was built in the shape of five-pointed structure (quincunx) with a large central prang (tower) more than 50 meters (165 feet) high representing the legendary Buddhist mountain Meru (Phra Men). Four smaller prang on the corners formed a cross symbolizing four continents facing the sea (a large, grassy courtyard). An ordination hall lay nearby. Records indicate that the temple’s architectural style, artwork, and relics grew more ornate during subsequent renovations as befitted a place of religious significance.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (24)

Although efforts have been made to restore or add Buddha statues, most remain headless after being decapitated by the Burmese in 1767.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (26)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (27)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (28)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (29)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (30)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (32)

Some preserved prang, chedi, and a few murals amid a discombobulated maze of rubble are all that’s left of this once-magnificent place. While not as visually stunning as Wat Chaiwattanaram, Wat Mahathat has a larger footprint and an openness that lets you explore up close monuments of the former kingdom.

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat (33)

2012_08_31 Wat Mahathat
If you plan to visit Ayutthaya and the historical park, make a stop at Wat Mahathat. It’s one site you don’t want to miss!
Video clip of Wat Mahathat in Ayutthaya, Thailand
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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

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

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

buythumb42M.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.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon in Ayutthaya, Thailand


This is the fourth in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram, and the third, Wat Phu Khao Thong. The final post will feature the ruins of temple Wat Mahathat.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon, or the “Great Monastery of Auspicious Victory” according to the website History of Ayutthaya, is a restored Buddhist temple located in southeast Ayutthaya. Evidence of a large moat that once existed around the site suggests that it was once an important Khmer-style temple complex in “Ayodhya,” a settlement that pre-dated the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Today it’s a functioning temple with a monastery and restored stupa or chedi (monument). Several smaller chedi ruins dotting the grounds serve as a reminder that the site is historical.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (3)

Records indicate that Ayutthaya King Uthong, or Ramathibodhi I (1350-69), established the monastery to lay to rest two of his children, Chao Kaeo and Chao Thai, who died of cholera. Its first name was Wat Pa Kaeo or the “Monastery of the Crystal Forest.” The temple built on the site later became known as Wat Chao Phya Thai, or the “Monastery of the Supreme Patriarch,” and was home to monks trained in then-Ceylon (present-day Sri Lanka).

The temple is noteworthy in Ayutthaya’s history for its role as a meeting place for conspirators involved in palace intrigue. Stories suggest that it was once home to a closely-guarded, priceless ruby that represented the wealth of the gods. In his chronicle of the history of Ayutthaya, Jeremias Van Vliet, an employee of the Dutch East India Company, alleged that slaves were groomed to die in mock attempts to steal the ruby as an offering to the gods.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (2)

The current configuration of the temple and chedi took shape during the reign of King Naresuan (1590-1605), who reportedly gave it the name “Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon” to commemorate his victory over the Burmese occupiers he ousted from Ayutthaya in 1592. The temple was destroyed by the Burmese in 1767 and restored by the Thais in 1957. The tall chedi that stands an estimated 30 meters (100 feet) is almost as high as the one at Wat Phu Khao Thong; its more slender profile that rises in the middle of urban Ayutthaya obscures its true height.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (4)

The temple is perhaps best known for its seven-meter (23 feet) long reclining Buddha constructed during King Naresuan’s reign. One of the largest outdoor reclining Buddhas in Thailand, it was restored in 1965 and is now a major tourist attraction in Ayutthaya.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (6)

The large chedi that dominates the temple complex has a square base with smaller chedi on each corner. It rises to a platform with great views of the city. As you ascend the steps, a large Buddha statue greets you at the top with a calm nod. Above the platform rises a bell-shaped tower with an octagonal base that tapers to a point; a chamber on the western side with Buddhist relics serves as a prayer shrine. The temple complex unfolds below in all directions, from the monks’ quarters and ordination hall to the west to a garden with several large Buddhist statues to the east. Manicured lawns with groomed trees and ruined chedi grace the north and south flanks.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (7)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (8)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (9)

During my visit to the temple in August 2012, I was struck by the number and symmetry of the Buddha statues that meditated around the chedi base. Some such as those in the nearby prayer shrine were unique, but most were virtually identical and sat at attention in a tantric state. My wife did an excellent job capturing this impression with photos of them at artistic angles.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (13)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (14)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (15)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (16)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (17)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (18)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (19)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (20)

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (21)

Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon was the last stop on our daytrip to Ayutthaya. We enjoyed watching the encroaching dusk transform the temple from a place that beckoned visitors to one reclaimed by shadows. The site is a great destination to end the day before going for dinner and embarking on an evening tour of the city to see the historic monuments of Ayutthaya at night.

2012_08_11 Wat Yai Chai Mongkon (22)

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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

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

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 Mahathat, the ruin of a former Buddhist temple

 

buythumb42M.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.

Wat Phu Khao Thong in Ayutthaya, Thailand



This is the third in a five-part series on Ayutthaya, Thailand about Wat Phu Khao Thong, a restored Buddhist temple dating back to the Ayutthaya Kingdom period (1350-1767). The first article described the historic City of Ayutthaya; the second, the temple ruins of Wat Chaiwatthanaram. Upcoming posts will feature the ruins Wat Mahathat and the Wat Yai Chai Mongkon temple.

Wat Phu Khao Thong, or the “Temple of the Golden Mount” in Ayutthaya, is a large Buddhist complex located about two kilometers (one mile) northwest of the city center. The restored temple was built in 1387 during the reign of King Ramesuan (1339-95) of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. In 1991, UNESCO designated it a World Heritage Site within Ayutthaya Historical Park. Its famous chedi or stupa (pagoda) that rises more than 30 meters (100 feet) above the Chao Phraya River offers one of the best views in Ayutthaya.

Following his capture of Ayutthaya in 1569 at the end of the first Burmese-Siamese War, Burmese King Bhureng Noung began to construct a large Burmese Mon-style chedi on the site to commemorate his victory. The structure was not completed until 1587, when then-Prince Naresuan of the Ayutthaya Kingdom (1590-1605) finished it as Thai-style chedi to honor Ayutthaya’s independence from Burma in 1584.

The chedi was renovated in 1744 to its current form, a large square Burmese Mon-style base that rises at a moderate angle to a smaller base supporting a Thai-style chedi with a steep point. The entire hybrid structure is considered a single chedi. Four sets of stairs, one on each side, ascend to the second base.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (4)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (5)

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (7)

A nondescript passageway on the upper base leads to a sacred Buddhist shrine in the heart of the structure.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (14)

The chedi dominates Ayutthaya’s landscape and offers great views of the countryside west of the city.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (9)

A contemporary Buddhist temple built on the ruins of its predecessor lies to the south.

The remains of a canal that once linked the temple to the Chao Phraya River borders it to the east. Now accessible by road, the canal fell into disuse following the destruction of Ayutthaya in 1767.

2012_08_11 Wat Phu Khao Thong (11)

To the north is a monument dedicated to King Naresuan with a statue of the legendary king mounted on horseback. Large, colorful statues of chickens surround the monument, reportedly paying homage to the king’s fondness for the bird.

While not as famous as other historical sites in Ayutthaya, Wat Phu Khao Thong is worth a visit to climb the great chedi and enjoy the view. It’s one of the few places where you can bestride a remnant of ancient Ayutthaya.

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More About Ayutthaya, Thailand

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

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

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

 

buythumb[4]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 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.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.