Phetchaburi Tourist Attractions
Phetchaburi (town of diamonds), the main town of Phetchaburi province, is surrounded by impressive mountain chains and lies south-west of Bangkok, approximately 10 km (6 mi.) from the mouth of the river of the same name in the Gulf of Thailand.
Khao Khlang mountain with King Mongkut's palace towers above Phetchaburi and dominates the townscape. The temple sites in the valley bear witness to a great past; the Chinese quarter points to the fact that Phetchaburi was once a center of overseas trade. There are some beautiful, quiet beaches only a few miles away.By car: from Bangkok Highway 4 (about 123 km (76 mi.), alternatively Highway 35.By bus: from Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal.By rail: on the Bangkok-South Thailand line.The town of Phetchaburi was probably founded by the Mon people in the 8th c., although there was an important base here even earlier on the trade route from Europe via India to China. In the 11th/12th c. Khmer people seized the town and established a religious center here. Around 1350 Phetchaburi became part of the Ayutthaya kingdom. In 1610 the town fell temporarily under the control of Japanese pirates whose leaders declared themselves independent princes. That, however, was not in accordance with the quite liberal-minded kings of Ayutthaya who had previously allowed numerous European trading companies to settle here. After several confrontations King Petraja drove the farang (foreigners) out of the kingdom; for the next 130 years Thailand was closed to all foreigners.
Set atop the Khao Khlang mountain, the Phra Nakhon Khiri Royal Palace reflects a European Neo-Classical style of architecture. When the royal family is not in the residence, the Palace is open to visitors.
Wat Yai Suwannaram
Of the many interesting temples in the town of Phetchaburi, Wat Yai Suwannaram to the east of the center is one of the most beautiful. Dating from the 17th c., the oldest buildings are examples of the best Ayutthaya style. The wiharn contains murals, mainly horizontal friezes of gods praying to Buddha. The delicate coloring, the self-assured lines and careful attention to detail are striking. Also of note are a marvelous coffered ceiling and the figure of a seated Buddha. During the reign of King Chulalongkorn a gallery was laid out, which is decorated with sculptured lintels. There are two charming wooden libraries, one dating from the early days of the temple, the other from the end of the 19th c. The large sala with its beautifully ornamental decoration and its bold proportions also warrants attention.
Wat Ko Kaeo
Wat Ko Kaeo, called Wat Ko for short, is situated in the south of the town on the east bank of the river and was built at the beginning of the 18th c. It is famous chiefly for the marvelous paintings on the walls of the Bot. The very lively scenes depicting the life of Buddha stand out owing to their bold artistry and are particularly significant because they are triangularly framed, with the apex pointing downwards. The spaces form upward-pointing triangles, which imitate the form of the chedi; they are mostly filled with Jataka scenes (including more than 500 of the early life of Buddha). The wall painting behind the sacrificial altar shows Buddha's temptation by Mara and his victory over the temptor.
Wat Mahathat on the market place dates from the Ayutthaya period but was not completed until the 19th c. The scenery here is dominated by a tall Khmer-style prang, to which a gatehouse has been added, and the three smaller prangs grouped around it. Several beautiful statues of Buddha stand in the encircling gallery. The exterior of the large wiharn is decorated with stucco, while the interior has restored wall paintings and several statues of seated Buddhas, of which the very top one on the Ayutthaya-style altar is particularly noteworthy. Very beautiful stucco also embellishes the small building next to the wiharn in a separate courtyard.
Wat Phra Bat Chai
Small and atmospheric, Wat Phra Bat Chai has beautifully carved wooden doors.
A number of attractive Chinese temples in Phetchaburi's Chinese quarter are worth visiting.
Wat Kamphaeng Laeng
Already partly ruined, Wat Kamphaeng Laeng lies to the south-east of the town. It has a high Lopburi-style prang built from heavy laterite blocks (12th c.) and to which the door has been added. It is surrounded by three smaller prangs and some small buildings.
There are a number of attractions to visit within a short distance of Phetchaburi.
After a further 18 km (11 mi.) northwards of Tham Khao Luang Cave,on Highway 4 travelers will reach Khao Yoi, the "mountain of stalactites", with several dripstone caves. Some are used as shrines and are furnished with figures of Buddha.
Tham Khao Luang Cave
Of the countless caves and grottoes found around Phetchaburi, Tham Khao Luang Cave, also a Buddhist place of worship, enjoys most fame (Highway 4 to the west, turn right on to Highway 3173, 3 km (2 mi.)). It comprises several high and wide halls, with a number of Buddha figures in the entrance hall. Steep steps lead down into a very large hall filled with dripstones and countless statues of Buddha. The light entering the hall through holes and cracks in the vault conjures up a magical atmosphere.
Kang Krachan Reservoir
South of Phetchaburi a road turns off Highway 4 at Tha Yang and passes through cotton fields and sugar-cane plantations to the mountain- encircled Kang Krachan Reservoir. It irrigates the fields and also provides the water supply for Phetchaburi.