Side Trip from Mae Sai to Tachileik, Myanmar

From Mae Sai it is possible to visit Myanmar, where there is a completely different atmosphere and culture than in Thailand in spite of the short distance between the two countries.

Directly opposite the border bridge, there is a big market winding in and out of all the side streets. There are many goods here appealing to both Thais and foreigners. Here it is also easy to find the Burmese version of the Thai tuk-tuk – it is a fun experience and a good way of getting around in the town of Tachileik.

On a hilltop near the centre of town, you will find the Burmese temple the Shwedagon Pagoda, which is a copy of the famous, colossal pagoda of Yangon. The pagoda in Yangon, however, is 3.5 times bigger than the one in Tachileik. The days of the week are marked round the pagoda, note the two Wednesdays representing the beginning and the end of the day. It is a tradition to have your photo taken on the day you were born and local people are ready with reference books to help you find the right date. From the Shwedagon Pagoda, there is as well a fantastic view over the city and the surrounding area.

At the foot of the Shwedagon Pagoda, there is a beautiful temple from around 1900. Both its exterior with elephant statues and its interior are worth seeing. Inside, there are beautiful murals and some Buddhas in Burmese style, which differs considerably from Thai style. There is also a Thai Buddha. Notice the three-dimensional Buddhas whose eyes are always looking at you.

Mae Sai – แม่สาย

Day Tours from Chiang Rai to Mae Sai

Mae Sai is the northernmost town in Thailand, situated close to the Myanmar border. The town is one of the few places where you can cross the border between Thailand and Myanmar and this influences activities and life in the street. According to the best border trade style, the main street functions as one big market where it is possible to buy Burmese and other goods.

By the border bridge across the Ruak River towards Myanmar, it is possible on the eastern side to stand by a sign that marks the northernmost spot of Thailand.

Phra Prang Sam Yot

The Phra Prang Sam Yot (พระปรางค์สามยอด) was originally built as a Hindu shrine, and not until the reign of King Narai was it converted to a Buddhist Temple and the Buddha figures were added.

The temple was built in the 13th century in the local Lop Buri style. The three well preserved prangs symbolise the Hindu Trinity; Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Siva the destroyer, and this harmonious building is the landmark of the city. Two of the prangs contain Buddha figures that have now been damaged, while all three prangs originally were lavishly decorated. Each November a ceremony for the local monkeys is held and this makes the place particularly well known to the Thais.

Wat Yai Chai Mongkol

King Ramathibodi founded the Yai Chai Mongkol Temple (วัดใหญ่ชัยมงคล) in 1357. It was meant to house monks returning from pilgrimage to Sri Lanka. The big bell-shaped chedi of the temple was not built until 1592 by King Naresuan to commemorate a military victory over the Burmese; a victory that restored freedom to Ayatthaya after 15 years as a Burmese vassal state. The Burmese returned, however, and this temple complex was also destroyed in 1767.

Today, it is possible to see the ruins of the complex and the big chedi is relatively well preserved. Out of several Buddha figures, there is a Reclining Buddha, which was for the personal meditation of King Naresuan. It is also possible to visit a small King Naresuan Museum. Notice that especially the big chedi is leaning – like the Tower of Pisa.

St. Joseph’s Cathedral

The Catholic St. Joseph’s Cathedral (โบสถ์เซนต์โจเซฟ) was built in 1666 on the initiative of missionaries from Vietnam. They had come here lead by Bishop Lambert de la Motte. The original wooden church was rebuilt in stone between 1685 and 1695, but during the Burmese invasion in 1767, it gave shelter to the Thais and was therefore destroyed.

In 1831, the priest Pallegoix began rebuilding the Cathedral and in 1847, it was completed. To a European, the church building is not anything special in itself, but the atmosphere and the experience become interesting because it is placed in the historic capital of Thailand.

Transportation in Kamphaeng Phet

Getting around and tourist information Open daily 08.00-1630. The ticket office is next to Wat Phra Kaeo and north of the river. It costs B40 to visit both the area within the ancient city walls and the forested area to the north, known as Aranyik. It is possible to walk within the city walls, but vehicles are useful for the Aranyik area, for which the following charges are levied: B10 for a bike, B20 for a motorbike, B30 for a tuk-tuk and B50 for a car. It’s possible to walk around the site though you can charter a saamlor or tuk-tuk for roughly B150 for one hour. There’s a badly run Tourist Information Office in the Kamphaeng Phet Local Handicraft Centre, Thesa Road (near Soi 13), which should open between 08.00-20.00 and a second Tourist Information Centre next to Wat Phra Kaeo.

Bus – Terminal is 2 km from the bridge, some way out of town. Regular connections with Bangkok’s Northern terminal (5 hrs) and with Phitsanulok, Chiang Mai, Tak (2 hrs), Nan, Phrae and Chiang Rai. Win Tour, Kamphaeng Phet Rd, and corner of Thesa Rd, operates as a tour buses to Bangkok.

Songthaew To local destinations depart from the main market (the municipal or ThetSabarn) for the bus station. Songthaews run from the bus terminal to the market in town (B5); and from Kamphaeng Phet Ro, atthe roundabout by the bridge.

Shophouses: combining domestic and working worlds

The shophouse is one of Asia’s great architectural innovations, at least functionally, if not artistically. It combines domestic life and Work in a single building. The family live upstairs; work is carried out on the ground floor. Mothers with children can work and meet their ‘reproductive’ demands at the same time, whereas in the west the spatial separation of the domestic world and the world of work means that either women cannot work or they must send (and pay for) their children to attend a creche.
Today, shophouses continue to be built, although architecturally they may be inferior, illustrating their functional beauty and flexibility even in rapidly developing, and westernizing, Thailand. Today, it is common to see the family pick-up parked next to the refrigerator, while children play among sacks of produce. The Romanesque shophouse may have arrived, replacing the far more aesthetically pleasing wooden shophouse, but their functional logic remains the same.

Ban Pha Yang and Kan Ko-noi

North of the city, at Ban Pha Yang and Ban Ko-noi, remains of ceramic kilns have been discovered, dating from the 1350s. The pottery produced from here is known as ‘Sangkhalok’, after the early Ayutthaya name for the district (there is a town of the same name to the south). The kilns of Ban Pha Yang lie 500 m north of the old city walls, and so far 21 kilns have been found, all of the closed-kiln variety. It is thought that they produced architectural and high quality ceramics.

Chaliang Area

Chaliang (เฉลียง) To the southeast, 2 km outside the Si Satchanalai city walls, is the area known as Chaliang.
The first wat you come to along the road to Chaliang is Wat Kok Singh Karam, on the right-handside, which includes three chedis on the same base. In front of these stupas a viharn and bot are to be found.
Wat Chom Chuen – the Monastery of Prince Chan – contains a prang built in the time of the Khmer King Jayavarman VII (1181-1217). It seems that Chaliang was chosen by the Khmer as the site for one of its outposts at the far extremity of the Khmer Empire because of its defensive position. Next to this wat is an Archaeological Site Museum (Dfree, a great building set into the riverbank with a grass roof. The excavations revealed 15 inhumation burials. The bodies were buried during the Dvaravati period (sixth-11th centuries). Grave goods devoted to the dead comprise glass beads, iron tools and clay paddles. Head orientation is to the west.
Positioned on the banks of the Yom River is Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat Chaliang (or Wat Phra Prang), an impressive laterite prang originally built in the mid-15th century. Its origins are older still, as the prang is thought to have been built on top of an earlier Khmer prasat. In front of the prang are the ruins of a viharn which houses a large seated Sukhothai Buddha image, with long, graceful fingers ‘touching ground’. Even more beautiful is the smaller walking Buddha of brick and stucco to the left. It is thought to be one of the finest from the Sukhothai period displaying that enigmatic Sukhothai smile’. The wat also contains a number of other interesting Buddha images.

Chalieng dates from the time of the Khmers, even though construction work has been carried on here through the following Thai period. Therefore, it is possible today to se a blend of architectural style in the ruins, for example in the temple Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat that boasts characteristics of Khmer, Sukothai and Ayutthaya architecture.

The Hill Tribe Museum

Many different tribes live in the mountain villages in northwestern Thailand, including the Karen, Akha and Longneck. Most of the tribes have migrated from Myanmar, but there are also tribes of Laotian origin.
You can visit the mountain villages, but the Chiang Rai Hill tribe Museum is also a possibility. It will introduce the various tribes and their history. Besides, the museum houses a number of tools and arts and crafts typical of the various tribes.

Story of Si Satchanalai

Background During the fourth reign of Sukhothai, Si Sat became the seat of the king’s son and the two cities were linked by a 5o km long road, the Phra Ruang Highway. Bounded by a moat 10 m wide and by thick town walls during its heyday it was the equal of Sukhothai in splendour, and probably superior in terms of its defences. Protected by rapids, swamp and mountains, not to mention a triple moat filled with barbed spikes, Si Sat must have seemed immensely daunting to any prospective attacker.
Critical to Si Sat’s vitality was the ceramic industry based at Ban Pha Yang and Ban Ko-noi, to the north of the city. With the technical assistance of Chinese potters these villages produced probably the finest of all Thai ceramics. These were not just for local consumption; Sangkhalok ware has been found as far afield as Java, Borneo and the Philippines.

Chiang Rai city wall

Originally, Chiang Rai was located on the Kok River and surrounded by city walls. The walls were torn down in 1920 on initiative of the American Dr. Briggs, who thought that the walls blocked up the fresh air and thus caused disease. Besides, he thought that the walls restricted the growth of the city.
In the 1980s, the city council wanted to draw attention to the history of Chiang Rai and make the city more interesting to tourists, so part of the city wall was reconstructed. No one knew what it looked like. All that was left was an engraving of an elephant walking into the morning sun at the eastern city gate, so that is the only part that has been reconstructed. The wall is beautifully located; it is 100 metres long, 5 meters tall and with the eastern city gate in the middle.

Talat Rim Moei border market

Being a border town, trade is widespread throughout Mai Sot and various ethnic groups sell all kinds of goods on the Rim Moei Market (ตลาดริมเมย). It is a good place for buying Burmese products and the mere atmosphere is enough to give you a foretaste of the culture of the neighbouring country.

The East Asiatic Company Building

Oriental Avenue
Station: Saphan Taksin
Pier: Oriental

The old headquarters of the Danish East Asiatic Company is situated on the bank of the Chao Phraya River. It is a charming house built in 1901 in a colonial Venetian style. Right behind it, you can see the Christian Ascension Cathedral from 1910. Together, the two buildings tell a tale about Western influence on the history of Bangkok. Today, high-rise blocks and international hotels, among them the Oriental, which is the oldest in Bangkok, surround the buildings.

Boat trip on the Chao Phraya River

Station: Saphan Taksin
Pier: Central Pier

A good way of getting a first impression of Bangkok is by taking a boat trip on the Chao Phraya River. The name means “the River of Kings”. Several of the major sights of Bangkok are situated along the river, and there are fine and easy ways of transportation by boat.

Ordinary river busses go north and south from all piers on both side of the river. It is always possible and cheap to board a river bus and get to the next pier. If you do not live by the river, take the Skytrain to the Saphan Taksin Station, which is close to a big pier on the river. Saphan Taksin is also close to River City where many of the tour boats depart from.

History of Bangkok

General Taksin became the new king, but he was dethroned in 1782 and Rama I moved his court and his administration to Bangkok on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. By doing so, he made Bangkok the new capital of the country. Rama I, who founded the Chakri-dynasty, which is still in power, considered Bangkok an easier place to defend against potential enemies than both Ayutthaya and Thonburi, because the Burmese would have to cross the relatively wide Chao Phraya River.

The construction of a number of canals was initiated. These canals, the so-called klongs, were since used as waterways in the new city and a few of them still exist. It was thus possible to sail around in most of the city area east of the Chao Praya River. Klongs were also dug in Thonburi. Rama I also had the Grand Palace and the temple of Wat Phra erected. The buildings were highly inspired by the architecture and constructions of Ayutthaya and they were the centre of power of the kingdom.

Apart from these constructions and buildings for the national administration, the period until the middle of the 19th century was characterised by a steady development. The city did not take serious steps towards becoming the absolute centre of the country that Bangkok is today – northern Thailand, for instance, was still governed from Chiang Mai.
During the latter part of the 19th century, construction work in Bangkok accelerated and the population increased. King Rama IV had major construction projects carried out, including several canals and a number of road systems. His successor, King Rama V, stepped the modernisation process and the development of the city up further by considerable investment in the judicial system, health care and education. During this period, a large part of the farmland was transformed into residential areas, and in order to cope with the ensuing pressure on the infrastructure of the city, many new roads were constructed, some of them on top of canals that had been filled up for this purpose.

In 1932, the present constitutional monarchy of Thailand was established and after that, a number of public institutions were founded and Chiang Mai became an official part of Siam, which was still the official name of Thailand.
During the Second World War, the Allies bombed Bangkok. The ruined buildings were soon rebuilt and the capital experienced a rapid development during the decades following the Second World War.

During the Vietnam War in the 1960s, Bangkok was, as were several other places in Thailand, a refuge for primarily American soldiers, and this underlined the status of the city as a regional entertainment centre.

The population has since exploded and many high-rise buildings with flats and offices have been erected. The high increase in the number of inhabitants has caused a heavy growth in traffic, which has been one of the major challenges that has faced the metropolis for several years. A number of train lines have been constructed, such as the Skytrain (BTS) and the Subway (BMCL) in the centre of the city, and they are extended continuously.

In the 1980s and 1990s, the economy of Thailand boomed. Bangkok was the economic locomotive and this period became the foundation of modern Bangkok, which the tourist will meet today. A wealth of new buildings has sprouted up, including some of the luxury hotels that tourists appreciate. After a recession at the end of the 1990s, the tourist trade is booming again to the benefit of local people and visitors alike.

Bangkok Historical outline

The settlement of present-day Thailand began about 2,000 years ago with waves of migration from China. For many centuries, the area was characterized by minor states and scattered systems of government. Some major states did exist during this period, however, especially the Khmer Empire, which was founded in the 9th century and covered the main part of both present-day Cambodia and Thailand. The Khmer people, by the way, called the Thai Siamese, so the area was known as Siam up until the 20th century.

During the 13th century, the Thai people was governed from the first kingdom of the Thai, Sukothai, which had become a regional kingdom as early as the 14th century after a short period of prosperity. Its power had gone increasingly to the kingdom of Ayutthaya, which was founded in 1350 and was ruled from the city of the same name. The Ayutthaya-period became a time of growth for the country and the trade connections with Europe were established.
In 1564, Burmese troops invaded the Kingdom of Siam and five years later Ayutthaya fell, and came under Burmese rule until 1593.

In the year of 1767, the Burmese attacked the capital, Ayutthaya, again, and this time they conquered the city and burned it down beyond recognition. In spite of the fact that the Burmese were driven out of Ayutthaya after a short time, the capital was in ruins and reconstruction was abandoned.
The Thailand military headed by General Taksin moved the capital to Thonburi on the western side of the Chao Praya River by present-day Bangkok.

Wat Thai Wattanaram

Inside Thai Wattanaram temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม), you can see a number of Buddha figures in Burmese style, including a colossal reclining Buddha from 1993 and another statue in marble. In the viharn of the complex, there is an exhibition of Burmese musical instruments and this may give you a taste of what it is like to be in Myanmar, which is less than one kilometre away.

Thung Salaeng National Park

On the road between Phitsanulok and Lomsak, Highway 12, is the Thung Salaeng National Park and a number of waterfalls and resort hotels. The Sakunothayon Botanical Gardens take one of the regular buses running between Phitsanulok and Lomsak, is located off the road at the Km 33 marker. A 500-m-long access road leads to the gardens, which are best known for the picturesque, 10-m-high Waeng Nok Aen Waterfall.

The Thung Salaeng Luang National Park, the park office is located at Km 80 on the Phitsanulok-Lomsak Highway (Highway 12); Regular buses run between Phitsanulok and Lomsak, consisting of forest and grasslands, covers more than 1,250 sq km of Phitsanulok and Phetchabun provinces, rising from 300m to more than 1,000 m. There’s a huge variety of birdlife (190 recorded species), including hornbills, the Siamese fireback pheasants eagles and owls. Of the park’s 17 mammal species the most notable is the park’s small population of elephants; tigers are also said to inhabit the park, but are rarely seen. The best timefortrekking is between November and March.

Phu Hin Rongkla National Park

Phu Hin Rongkla National Park covers 5,000 sq km overthree provinces: Phitsanulok, Phetchabun and Loei. The park, 120 km east of Phitsanulok, off Route 2113, which links Phitsanulok with Loei, has been partly deforested. It was a stronghold of the Communist Party of Thailand (CPT) until the early 1980s, and hundreds of disaffected students fled here following the Thammasat University massacre of 1976. The government encouraged farmers to settle in the park to deny the guerrillas refuge; now that the CPT has been vanquished, the same farmers have been told they are illegal squatters and must move. The buildings used by the CPT for training and indoctrination (3 km southwest of the park headquarters) have been preserved and have now become sights of historical interest to the Thais, particularly former students who joined the movement after the student demonstrations of 1973-1976. The base supported a political and military school – with printing press and Communications centre, a small hospital, cafeteria and air raid shelter. Risingto 1,780 m,the parkhasa pineforeston the upperslopesand many orchids and lichens. Wildlife includes small numbers oftiger, bear, Sambardeer and hornbills.

Get There
Catch a bus towards Loei and get off at Nakhon Thai (3 hrs, B35), and then a songthaew to the park (B15-25).

Wat Chulamani

Wat Chulamani, 6 km to the south of Phitsanulokon Route 1063, was probably the original town centre. During the Khmer period Phitsanulok was known as Muang Song Kwae (‘Two River Town’), as it lies between the Nan and the Kwae Noi rivers. The wat was built by King Boromtrailokantin 1464 and houses the remains of an ornate Khmer prang which pre-dates the Sukhothai period: note the fine stuccowork of the prang.

Get There
catch bus No 5 which leaves from the Citybus (local) centre, near the railwaystation on Ekathosarot Rd, every 10 mins (takes 20 mins).

Folk museum and Buddha image factory

The Folk Museum, exhibits items from everyday rural life, in particular agricultural implements and tools, children’s games, festival and ceremonial items, and other bits and pieces. Across the street, and run by the same man, is a factory (the door is always shut: open it and go in), casting Buddha images. These are produced using the lost wax method and range in size from diminutive to monstrous. It is usually possible to See at least some of the production processes.

Wisutkaset Rd

Tue-Sun 08.30-12.00, 13.00-16.30

Wat Phra Sri Ratana Mahathat

The Monastery of the Great Relic, known as Wat Yai, ‘Big Wat’ – is to be found on the eastbank of the Nan River, close to the Naresuan Bridge. It was built in the reign of King Lithai (1347–1368) of Sukhothai, in 1357. The viharn contains one of the most highly regarded and venerated Buddha images in Thailand – the Phra Buddha Chinaraj. Through the centuries, successive Thai kings have come to Phitsanulok to pay homage to the bronze image and to make offerings of gifts. The Buddha is a superlative example of late Sukhothai style and is said to have wept tears of blood when the city was captured by the Ayutthayan army in the early 14th century. The three-tiered viharn was built during the Ayutthaya period and shows a fusion of Ayutthayan and Lanna (Northern) Thai architectural styles. The low sweeping roofs, supported by black and gold pillars, accentuate the massive gilded bronze Buddha image seated at the end of the nave. The entrance is through inlaid mother-of-pearl doors, made in 1756 in the reign of King Boromkotto replace the original ones of carved wood. The smallviharn in front of the main building houses another significant Buddha image, known as the “Remnant Buddha’ because it was cast from the bronze remaining after the main image had been produced. The 36-m-high prang in the centre of the complex has stairs leading up to a niche containing relics of the Buddha but access is often locked. Also in the wat compound isthe Buddha Chinnarat National Museum, with a small collection of Sukhothai Buddhas and assorted ceramics. Wat Yai is a very popular site for Thai tourists/Buddhists. Most buy lotuses and incense from a stall at the gate to offer to the Buddhas. There’s also a large antique, food and trinket market next door to the compound plus rows of lottery ticket sellers; the trick is you gain favour by supplicating yourself to the Buddha and then get lucky.

Free entrance but donation of B50 is recommended

Story of Phitsanulok

Phitsanulok was the birthplace of one of the heroes of Thai history: King Naresuan the Great of Ayutthaya (reigned 1590-1605) (there is a shrine to the king on the west side of the river facing Wat Mahathat). Shortly after his birth, the young Naresuan was 197 bundled off to Burma as a guarantor of his father’s – King Thammaracha – good behaviour. He did not return to Phitsanulok until he was 16, when he was awarded the principality by his father. Here he developed the military and political skills which were to stand him in good stead when he assumed the throne of Ayutthaya 19 years later in 1590. For the short period of 25 years, during the reign of King Boromtrailokant (1448-88) of Ayutthaya, Phitsanulok was actually the capital of Siam, and over the four centuries prior to the fall of Ayutthayato the Burmese in 1767 it was effectively the Kingdom’s second city.