Monday, March 27, 2017

Exploring Sukhothai

"Beep. Beep. Beeep." It's 5:30 a.m. and the droning sound of my alarm fills the room. Mel, my travelling companion, and I sleepily roll out of bed and start getting ready for the day. The previous afternoon we had arrived by bus to Sukhothai, a place famed as being the first Siam (the older name for Thailand) capital that was constructed roughly 700 years ago. The site is maintained as a historical park, and was the location we were heading to so early in the morning. 

We pedalled our way to the park grounds on our rented bikes (the best way to explore the expansive park) and made it just before sunrise. Starting with the main attraction Wat Mahathat, we stood in awe of the ancient beauty watching the orange glow of the sun appear while listening to the monks from a near by temple conduct their morning chant. A wave of peace and gratefulness engulfed me in that moment. It still feels like a dream sometimes that I have the fortune to be exploring such a rich and vibrant country. 

There is also something surreal about walking through the remnants of ancient sites and attempting to picture what the surroundings would look like bustling and filled with people. To imagine what life was like back then standing in the same location where others of centuries past have stood, admiring the same gorgeous craftsmanship, regardless of the stages of weathering. 

Bodhi Tree

What is left of the capital is mostly temples with chedis (bell shaped structures that represents Mt. Meru or the center of Buddhist cosmology), pillars once forming ordination and assembly halls, and of course Buddha statues. Hints of Hinduism can also be found in the complex, such as stucco sculptures of Hindu gods and goddesses, as well as the Hindu temple Wat Si Sawai. 

Buddha statue found at Wat Mahathat

Wat Si Sawai: the three pillars representing Brahma, Shiva, and Vishnu
An added bonus to the day was visiting the Ramkhamhaeng National Museum which contained more examples of Sukhothai art, as well as other styles, and more artefacts from the historical park providing a better look at the details of the pieces. 

After grabbing lunch finishing one of the best plates of pad thai I've had, Mel and I loaded onto the bus back to Chiang Mai. While it was a short weekend trip it was one that was filled with vibrant memories.