Si Satchanalai Tourist Attractions
Si Satchanalai, former twin town of the first Thai capital Sukhothai, lies in the extreme north of the central plain (420 km (260 mi.) from Bangkok) on the right bank of Menam Yom, which makes its way through rocky green countryside here.
The old town, somewhat off the tourist trail and less well known than Sukothai, is one of the most interesting seas of debris in Thailand. The magnificence of the young Thai empire found expression in buildings of high quality. The new town of Si Satchanalai, about 11 km (9 mi.) from the ruins, and the modern Sawankhalok (18 km (11 mi.)) were founded in the 19th c.By car: from Sukhothai route 101 (55 km (34 mi.)).By bus: regular connections from Sukhothai and Phitsanulok.By rail: nearest station Sawankhalok (29 km (18 mi.)).By air: nearest airport Phitsanulok (114 km (71 mi.)).Si Satchanalai was founded around 1250, at the same time as Sukhothai, as a second seat of the Sukhothai empire (for the viceroy, usually the crown prince). Two Thai princes from the surrounding area had defeated the Khmer governor of Sukhothai in a bloody war; one of them pronounced himself king of Sukhothai, Si Satchanalai and the surrounding area. He was succeeded by his son and then King Ramkhamhaeng, one of the most powerful personalities in Thai history. In the 17th c. Si Satchanalai fell to the kingdom of Ayutthaya, was renamed Sawankhalok and declined in importance. In the 18th c., when the Burmese threatened to attack again, it was abandoned by its inhabitants.Si Satchanalai was laid out roughly in the shape of a right-angled triangle; parts of the once 5-m (16-ft) high wall from the 16th c. and the moat still remain. Two hills, once crowned with wats, dominate the surrounding region and offer good views of the ruins.
The old Khemer town of Chaliang sits along the Menam Yom, not far from Si Satchanalai. A lovely chedi, a restored seated Buddha, and temple with a bronze footprint of Buddha are among the attractions.
Wat Chedi Chet Theo
The seven rows of 32 stupas in differing styles and forms of the Wat Chedi Chet Theo, which housed the ashes of members of the viceroys' families, present a magnificent picture. Particularly noteworthy is the central stupa in the shape of a lotus bud in Sukhothai style (as in the Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai) and some Srivijaya style stupas, which found their way into the Sukhothai empire when King Ramkhamhaeng conquered parts of southern Thailand in the 13th c. Many of the stupas which combine a mixture of styles, erected chiefly by King Loei Thai (ruled 1347 to about 1370) around the mid-14th c., are distinctive for their elegant proportions. Fine stucco reliefs can still be seen; one for example, on the stupa in the middle of the northern row, of a beautiful meditating Buddha below a naga which shows the influence of the Srivijaya style. In a chedi in the north-west corner and in another behind the lotus bud stupa are remnants of wall paintings.
Wat Chang Lom
One of the most remarkable temples in old Si Satchanalai is the centrally located Chang Lom wat with its well-preserved chedi of laterite and stucco. It was probably begun by King Ramkhamhaeng in 1285 and completed in 1291. The bell-shaped chedi, entwined with lotus leaves stands on two high square pedestals; the higher one is decorated with 20 niches that used to house 1.4-m (41/2-ft) high Buddha statues. Some are still present and depict Buddha in a position of submission to Mara; on the lower pedestal 39 life size elephants have been sculptured, separated by candelabras, giving the impression that they are supporting the building. During excavations and restoration work columns with capitals were discovered behind these sculptures. It is assumed that the walls of the lower pedestal underwent alteration either in the Sukhothai period or in the Ayutthaya period.
Wat Nang Phaya
The Wat Nang Phaya, the "temple of the queen", has a bell-shaped chedi on a high square base, while highly decorative stucco ornaments of plants surround the long narrow windows like fine carvings on an external wall of the ruined wiharn.
Wat Khao Phleung
A colossal partly preserved staircase leads to the ruins of the Wat Khao Phnom Pleung (meaning "temple of holy fire") on the top of the eastern hill.
In the north of Si Satchanalai are the remains of the ovens in which the famous Chinese-inspired Sawankhalok ceramics were fired (Highway 101 towards new Si Satchanalai, then left and by boat across the Menam Yom; 4 km (2 mi.)).As early as the 13th c. the ceramics from the ovens of Ban Ko Noi (thought to be the oldest in Thailand) were known as "Chaliangware". The hard clay earth found here was well suited for the firing process. Chaliangware is relatively coarse and usually has a dark brown glaze. King Ramkhamhaeng saw this pottery on a visit to China and decided to introduce it in Thailand. He brought Chinese potters with him who settled around Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai.Whereas Chaliangware was primarily functional, under Chinese guidance "Sawankhalokware" developed which was more completely finished with a delicate, silk glaze. It matched the quality of Chinese Seladon ceramics and became an important export of the Sukhothai empire to Indonesia, Japan, the Phillippines and Borneo. As well as jugs, teapots, bowls and crockery figures for toys and consecrated gifts to protective spirits were produced.The Thais have retained the art of making ceramics over the centuries although style and shapes have not changed since the 15th c. Chiang Mai is a center of modern ceramic production but the artistic perfection of the ceramics from Si Satchanalai, Sukhothai and Sawakhalok is no longer achieved.
Wat Khao Suwan Kiri
On the other hill the remnants of the Wat Khao Suwan Kiri include a beautiful bell-shaped chedi with remains of stucco ornament and a giant Buddha statue.A third hill, Khao Yai, stands to the west of the town walls; only the ruins of a rectangular building with sculpture on the tympanum remain from the Chet Yot Wat, which once crowned it.
Wat Khok Sing Karam
A tranquil path leads about 2.5 km (11/2 mi.) along the river to the town of Chaliang with its important Wat Phra Si Ratana Mahathat. The path passes the 14th c. Wat Khok Sing Karam, of which several columns and chedis remain. There are interesting ruins of a bot enclosed by columns, which unusually was not built above a statue of Buddha but over a small chedi which has a Buddha statue in a niche.
Of the former Royal Palace, only scarce remains survive apart from a few chedis. To the south of this district is the Lak Muang shrine, which was built on the foundation stone of the town and is crowned with a lotus bud, surrounded by four Sukhothai style chedis.
Wat Chao Chan
A few hundred meters past Wat Khok Sing Karam stands the Wat Chao Chan, its laterite prang reconstructed with old stucco ruins. In one of the ruined temples are remains of a standing Buddha, in another those of a seated Buddha.
Wat Utthayan Yai
A chedi and the ruins of a temple remain from the Wat Utthayan Yai.
The 1-m (3-ft) thick wall built from cylinders between 1285 to 1288 by King Ramkhamhaeng is noteworthy. Heavy roof-shaped laterite caps rest on the pillars; three higher pillars form the gates, the top part of the center one is decorated with stucco figures and ornament. Rather unusual are the large impressive faces in the four corners, possibly influenced by the formative style of the towers with faces in the temple at Angkor Thorn (in Cambodia).In the vicinity is a large chedi from the second half of the 14th c. clearly influenced by the Singhalese and erected for Mon monks. Right in the east of the site is a mondhop, called Phra Ruang and consecrated to the son of a snake goddess.
Map of Si Satchanalai Attractions