Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat

The Si Ratana Mahathat Temple (วัดพระศรีรัตนมหาธาตุฯ) is a complex of buildings constructed over several periods. It is believed to have been founded in the 12th century when the Khmers ruled the city. Inside the complex, you can admire a prang from this period, which was and still is the highest prang in the city. Later, a number of chedis and prangs were built representing Sukothai- and Ayutthaya style respectively. There is also a viharn from the time of King Narai inspired by Persian architecture.

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.

Wat Phanan Choeng

The Phanan Choeng Temple (วัดพนัญเชิงวรวิหาร) is situated at the confluence of the Chao Phraya and Pasak Rivers and it is one of the oldest temples in Ayutthaya. The centre of the temple complex is the 19-metre tall Buddha figure from the 14th century. Round the figure, there are hundreds of other Buddha figures, especially in the many recesses. If you give a donation, you can have a figure placed here.

On the grounds, there is also a nice, little temple in Chinese style, which was built in the 18th century. The temple is particularly important to Thais of Chinese origins.

Wat Phutthaisawan

Wat Phutthaisawan (วัดพุทไธศวรรย์) is one of the small temples of the city and it is especially the white, corncob shaped prang that makes it a place worth seeing. The temple was built at the end of the 14th century in the place where the founder of the city, King Ramathibodi I, originally lived.

It is also worth it to have a look at the cloisters, where you will find a row of gilded Buddha figures. Notice, how the construction of the pillars creates the illusion that the room is longer than it actually is.

In the temple parking ground, there is a statue to commemorate King Ramathibodi I, King Naresuan and King Ekathotsarot.

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.

Wat Phra Kaew Chiang Rai – วัดพระแก้วเชียงราย

At Thanon Trairat, this temple has a special history. It is said that lightning struck its octagonal chedi and a fragment fell off a Buddha figure made of plaster. A green colour became visible under the plaster and the figure was immediately called the Emerald Buddha, as emerald was the most valuable, green material. It turned out, however, that the figure is made of jade. In the course of time, the Emerald Buddha has been here in Chiang Rai, in Chiang Mai and in Vientiane, the present capital of Laos, before it was placed in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, where it can be seen today. In 1991, a copy of the original Emerald Buddha was made and it can now be seen in the temple in Chiang Rai. This is actually the best place in the country to see it, because it is possible to get real close to it.
In the temple complex, it is also possible to see the beautiful Buddha figure called Phra Jao Lan Thong, which is made of copper and brass. The figure is said to be around 700 years old.
Wat Phra Kaew is in itself a fine example of a traditional building from the Lanna period. This is clearly seen in the fine woodcarvings and the building style with the low hanging roof constructions.

Wat Chai Wattanaram

The Chai Wattanaram Temple (วัดไชยวัฒนาราม) was built in 1630 by King Prasat Tong on a bank of the river.

Seen from the front, the complex could resemble a small version of Angkor Wat with its central prang in the shape of a corncob placed on an elevated terrace surrounded by minor prangs. The resemblance was intentional, as the central prang here, as in Angkor Wat, was erected as a symbol of the holy mountain Meru, which, according to the Hindu mythology, is the dwelling of the gods.

On the inside of the temple wall, there are a number of interesting Buddha figures.

Wat Phu Khao Thong

The beautiful Golden Mount, Wat Phu Khao Thong (วัดภูเขาทอง), with its tall, white chedi is one of the unforgettable sights of Ayutthaya. The Burmese built the first temple here in 1569 during a short- lived invasion of the city.

According to Buddhist law, the Burmese temple could not be demolished, so the Thai had to wait almost 200 years for the temple of their enemy to collapse due to lack of maintenance. The new Thai temple was built only to be destroyed by the Burmese a few years later in 1767.

The present chedi is a reconstruction of the building from the 18th century, and on the same occasion, a monumental statue of King Naresuan on horseback was built on the road leading up to the chedi, the Golden Mount, from where there is a spectacular view over Ayatthaya.

Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Wat Phra Si Sanphet (วัดพระศรีสรรเพชญ์) This temple is the biggest in Ayutthaya and with its row of chedis, it has almost become the landmark of the city. The Phra Si Sanphet Temple is situated on the area of the former Royal Palace and it was used during royal and religious ceremonies.

The temple was established on the palace area in 1491 and it was since extended several times, for instance with the big chedi that can still be admired today. The chedi contain the ashes of three of the kings of Ayutthaya.

In 1499, the temple viharn was added and the following year, the king had a 16-metres tall Buddha covered with 340 kilos of gold erected. When the Burmese entered the city in 1767, they melted down the gold so that it could be used elsewhere

In its heyday, the temple complex consisted of a large building at either end of the row of chedis, which was also encircled by a wall. Today, the place is a ruin with only three of the big chedis in a relatively well-kept state. Of the other buildings only scattered remains of the foundations are left.

Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit

Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopit (วิหารพระมงคลบพิตร). This beautiful viharn was built in the 1950s to replace the one that was destroyed in 1767. Inside the fine building, you can see one of Thailand’s biggest Buddha figures in bronze. It dates back to the 15th century and was originally placed out of doors.

Wat Chet Yot – วัดเจ็ดยอด

Thanon Chet Yot When visiting the Wat Chet Yot Temple, you must see the beautiful chedi with seven spires. Like its namesake in Chiang Mai, the chedi is built like the temple in the Indian city of Bodghaya, where Buddha achieved enlightenment. The spires symbolise the seven weeks the Buddha spent in the Indian temple.
Another interesting building is the temple viharn and in the adjoining building, you can see a ceiling painting.

Chao Sam Phraya National Museum

The collections of the Chao Sam Phraya National Museum (พิพิธภัณฑสถาบเเห่งชาติเจ้าสามพระยา) contain primarily arts and crafts from the Ayutthaya Period, including Buddha images,beautiful woodcarvings and some of the few treasures that survived the Burmese attack on and destruction of the city in 1767. The most brilliant treasures were found in 1957 during the restoration of the Wat Ratcha Burana prang.

Wat Phra Ram

The Phra Ram Temple (วัดพระราม) was built in 1369 in a typical Ayutthaya style on the very spot where King U-Thong was cremated. The temple complex is a ruin, just like the other historical relics in the city. In the area, there are remains of the various temple buildings and the most striking is the high, rounded and well proportioned prang from the 15th century.

Wat Phra Mahathat

Wat Phra Mahathat (วัดมหาธาตุ). This temple dates back to the decades following the foundation of Ayutthaya. Allegedly, the temple was erected by King Boromaraja I (1370-1388) to house some relics of the Buddha. Today, you can see remains of the old prang and there are ruins of several chedis. The state of the temple ruin makes it an impressive place for a walk.

Wat Ming Muang – วัดมิ่งเมือง

The Ming Muang Temple is one of the less visited temples of the city, so it is a place characterized by a very peaceful atmosphere. The temple itself has beautiful buildings in the traditional Lanna style of northern Thailand to show. The viharn has a beautiful interior of dark wood. Note also the nicely ornamented entrance to the temple.

Wat Ratcha Burana

With its brick buildings and its big prang, the ruin of the Ratcha Burana Temple (วัดราชบูรณะ) looks rather like a church building. The temple was founded in 1424 by King Boromaraja II in remembrance of the two princes of the ageing king who killed each other duelling for the throne on elephant back. The temple was built by the third and younger prince to contain the ashes of his two brothers and of the recently deceased king. The ashes of the king were placed in the big, central chedi, while those of the princes were kept in two small chedis.

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.

Wat Phra Singh – วัดพระสิงห์

The Phra Singh Temple at Thanon Tha Luang (Tha Luang road) was built in the latter part of the 14th century and it houses one of the oldest figures of the Buddha in northern Thailand. There are many beautiful buildings in the temple compound, including the viharn that contains murals and the golden chedi.
The Buddha figure inside the viharn is a copy of the one in the Phra Singh Temple in Chiang Mai the one that originally came from Chiang Rai in 1400.

Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng

Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng lies on a 20-m high hillock on the north side of the town and is reached by a laterite staircase of 144 steps. It comprises a Ceylonese-style chedi, a large seated Buddha and some stone columns. Recent excavations at this site have revealed an early animist shrine, the Sala Chao Mae Laong Samli, which predates both the Khmer and Tai periods here, showing that Si Sat was occupied – and important — long before the rise of the Sukhothai Kingdom. To the west of Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng and linked by a path and staircase, on a higher hillock, are the remains of Wat Khao Suwan Khiri.

Wat Chedi Jet Thaew, Wat Nang Phaya and Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayanyai

Wat Chedi Jet Thaew (วัดเจดีย์เจ็ดแถว) (30 m south of Wat Chang Lom) stands within a ditch and two rows of laterite walls pierced by four gates. The Wat contains the remnants of seven rows of lotus-bud Chedis, some 34 in total, which house the ashes of members of the Si Satchanalai ruling family.
South of here is Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayanyai land the southern most wat within the walls, Wat Nang Phaya (Monastery of the Queen). The latter is enclosed by single walls of laterite, with four gateways. A Ceylonese-style Chedi dominates the compound. The fine stucco floral motifs (now protected by a shed) on the westwall of the large laterite viharn are early Ayutthayan in style (15th century), and are the best preserved of any such decoration in either Sukhothai or Si Sat.

This temple is found south of the central chedi. One of its preserved chedis has a top in the shape of a lotus bud.