Lopburi Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Lopburi
Lopburi, on the Menam Lopburi, is a city with a great and glorious past. On the northern rim of Thailand's central plain, it is the capital of a burgeoning province and its people live from growing rice, maize and cotton on the fertile river plain.
Towering over the impressive scenery north of the town is Khao Wong Phra Chan, recognizable by the three jagged peaks that form its summit.By car: Highway 1 from Bangkok which makes a big loop, and one that is highly recommended, via Saraburi (see entry) and Wat Phra Buddhabat (about 153 km (95 mi.)). The alternative is via Ayutthaya - Highway 32 to just before Singburi then 311 to the east.By rail: about 2 hours on the Bangkok-Chiang Mai line (133 km (83 mi.) from Bangkok).By bus: regular service from Bangkok Northern Bus Terminal (3 hours).Lopburi, or Lavo as it was then called, is supposed to have been founded in 468 by King Kalavarnadis of Taksila. Until about 950 it was the capital of the great Mon kingdom of Dvaravati, the name given it in the part Mon, part Sanskrit inscriptions on coins and stone tablets. This kingdom stretched north-east from the Menam plain to the Mekong and lasted until the 11th c. when the Khmer, under their king Suryavarman I (1002-50), captured large parts of what is now Thailand. Lopburi became a Khmer fortress and the seat of a provincial governor. The Khmer style that shaped art and architecture until the 15th c. became modified by contact with Dvaravati to form the Lopburi style, a blend of the two.Following the end of Khmer rule the land in the southern Menam plain was occupied by the Thai king, Si Dharmatraipitok. The kings of Lopburi ruled the kingdom for about a hundred years then power was assumed by various different royal houses, including the Burmese King Annarudha and the Thai King U Thong who, when he moved his seat in 1350 from U Thong to Auyutthaya, installed his son, Prince Ramesuen, as Governor of Lopburi.The city was of strategic importance in the fighting with the kings of Sukhothai. When this became a vassal state in 1376 and then part of Ayutthaya in 1438 Lopburi lost its importance, only regaining it when the city experienced a new heyday in the reign of King Narai (1656-88). Ten years after coming to the throne Narai chose to adopt Lopburi as his second capital alongside Ayutthaya. It was less prone to flooding but at the same time, with the river, had a guaranteed water supply for city and palace alike. When Ayutthaya, close to the Gulf of Thailand, was threatened by a Dutch naval blockade Narai moved temporarily to Lopburi and built a palace here, an interesting mixture of Thai and European styles.As king, Narai also opened up towards Europe, establishing diplomatic relations with France. He received King Louis XIV's ambassador, the Chevalier de Chaumont, and it is to his reports that we owe much of what we know about Lopburi. The king also appointed the Greek ambassador, Constantine Phaulkon, to serve as his adviser. When the king died in 1688 his Minister of War Luang Sorasak, later King Petracha, seized the throne, murdering Phaulkon and many of his predecessor's other supporters, local traders and the French diplomats among them. Not liking Lopburi he returned to Ayutthaya, abandoning the palace to dilapidation and ruin. This lasted until the 19th c. when King Mongkut (1851-68) ordered the restoration of the only still relatively well preserved building in the palace precinct, the Chanthara Phisan pavilion, and erected new palace buildings, some of which can be seen today and have been made into interesting museums.
Phra Narai Ratcha Niwet is also known as King Narai's Palace. The complex is surrounded by impressive walls and contains a mix 17th C buildings, and 19th C buildings added by King Narai.
Wat Phra Prang Sam Yot
Wat Phra Prang Sam Yot in Wichayen Road - the "temple of the three towers" - is probably the town's finest ruin. A classic example of Lopburi architecture, it has three prangs, joined together, each on a cruciform base with doorways on each side and connected by what was once a covered walkway with a long brick building that was faced with stucco. Plenty of its remains are still visible, such as pieces of decoration and the grotesque faces on a corner of the base wall. Console vaulting appears in the rooms and the towers, and in the interior there are some fragments of old Buddhas and the well-preserved figure of a seated Buddha from the Sukhothai period. Originally it was presumably a Hindu temple, with the three prangs symbolizing Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, and only later converted to a Buddhist wat.
Phaulkon's Palace (Chao Phaya Vichayen) is near the river on the Wichayen Road north of Wat Sao Thong Thong. A number of buildings had been erected for Chevalier de Chaumont. Phaulkon's palace is a large three-story building in a mixture of European and Thai styles. The compound, surrounded by a 2-m (61/2-ft) high wall, also had in it a kitchen (at the back on the left), stables (right) and baths, a church with a house for the Catholic priest, with a free-standing belfry, and a single-story audience pavilion, all now in ruins. The three monumental gateways in the southern wall, which were once the entrance to the palace, have been well preserved and the central one now serves to gain admission to the very pleasant precinct.
King Narai Monument
The monument to King Narai (Sa Kaeo Ratkrai), the greatest king in Lopburi's history, stands in the middle of the first traffic intersection on Highway 1 into the town. Further on, in a road to the right, are remains of the city wall and an old gate, the Pratu Phaniat. The arena that once stood here was where King Narai showed Chevalier de Chaumont and the other French diplomats how elephants were trained.
At the third roundabout, just before the railway line, stands the ruin of the 10th c. shrine of Kala, the Hindu god of death. The new temple from 1953 stands on the foundations of the old shrine - the massive substructure is all that is left of the once very high laterite prang - and contains images of the god. It is worth noting the relief on the lintel which shows Vishnu lying on a snake. The hordes of monkeys, for which the shrine is famous, scamper around it, in and out of the banyan tree roots and the streets nearby, seemingly oblivious to the traffic.
Wat Nakhon Kosa
At Wat Nakhon Kosa, along the street to the left before the Kala Shrine, there are still some remains of a fine Khmer brick prang, probably part of a Hindu shrine before it was made into a Buddhist wat in the Ayutthaya period. An Ayutthaya style chedi and the ruins of a wiharn are also worth looking at.The ruins to the west are of Wat Indra, probably dating from the Ayutthaya period.
Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat
This large and impressive wat, on Nakala Road in the western part of town, was probably already an important shrine when the Khmer built it in the 12th c. A very tall slender laterite prang, in the Lopburi style, stands in the center, decorated with beautiful stucco work. The main entrance to the prang is marked by a small lobby with a tower on top, and there are still signs of a gallery laid out as a quadrangle. Within this, leading to another gallery, stands the wiharn. It has bow windows, a very unusual stylistic feature showing that it was added by King Narai.In the second courtyard and outside the second gallery there are a number of large and small chedis of different styles but mainly Ayutthaya, some of them with niches containing Buddha figures. The temple precinct has been remodeled several times, but mainly during the reign of the Ayutthaya kings.
Wat Sao Thong Thong
Wat Sao Thong Thong, an early Ayutthaya temple, lies north of the palace near the river bank. In King Narai's time the wiharn, on a high plinth with long narrow lotus-blossom shaped windows and a stepped roof, was used as a Christian chapel and the large seated Buddha inside still carries the crucifix. The pillars are decorated with leafy capitals and there are Lopburi-style Buddhas in the wall niches. King Narai built the pavilions near the monastery buildings to house his foreign guests.
North-west of Phaulkon's Palace the Lak Muang stands guard over the city's foundation stone.
Fort Tha Po in the north-west, and Fort Chai Chana Songkhram and Pratu Chai in the south still remain from the massive fortifications that surrounded Lopburi. French engineers also built dams and sluice-gates in the north of the town for a large reservoir. King Narai built a pleasure palace, the Phra Thinang Yen Kraiso Sahavarat Pavilion, or the Yen Pavilion for short, on an island in the lake, now filled in. With imagination it is still possible to get some idea from the ruins of how beautiful it must have been.
Wat Mani Cholakhan
Right of Highway 311 to Chainat there is another fine chedi, full of niches, in the Ayutthaya style, which was once part of Wat Mani Cholakhan. Further along the road, at Ban Tha Klong, stands Wat Klai which has very fine stucco reliefs on the wiharn and bot and a seated Buddha in the Ayutthaya style.
Map of Lopburi Attractions