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Si Satchanalai Historical Park: a city of 1250 through which we rode 8 km on bicycles and managed to miss 80% of the buildings

Table of contents

0. Travel failures

1. The oldest cities that have survived to this day in Thailand

2. What is Si Satchanalai Historical Park

3. How to get to Si Satchanalai Historical Park. Bicycle rent

4. Is Si Satchanalai Historical Park worth visiting? Is Sukhothai Historical Park or Si Satchanalai Historical Park better?

5. How much are tickets to Si Satchanalai Historical Park?

6. Si Satchanalai Historical Park Map

7. Main attractions of Si Satchanalai Historical Park

7.1 City wall

7.2 Wat Khao Suwankhiri

7.3 Wat Kudi Rai

7.4 Wat Suan Kheo Utthayan Noi

7.5 Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng

7.6 Wat Chang Lom

7.7 Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo

7.8 Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Yai

7.9 Wat Nang Phaya

7.10 Wat Chao Chan

7.11 Wat Chom Chuen and Wat Chom Chuen Archaeological Excavation Pit

7.12 Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang

7.13 Thuriang Kilns в Бан Ко Ной

8. Applications for Augmented Reality (AR)

9. Nice restaurant near Si Satchanalai Historical Park

Conclusion


Travel failures

With all the experience and thoroughness of travel planning, we have probably never been able to achieve 100% results. Well, that is, visit all the interesting objects of a certain place and take beautiful photographs of them. In some cases, it is immediately clear that the result was not achieved, as, for example, in Ramkhamhaeng National Park, where out of four planned viewpoints we visited only one (because we ran out of energy and time – we were finishing our descent from the mountain at night).

For details, see the article: Ramkhamhaeng National Park – the most beautiful views from the mountain and the most difficult hiking route in Thailand

Sometimes the realization that we have not visited an interesting place comes much later, when after a few days or even weeks, having already rested, I select photographs for an article and write the text. It may turn out that I missed something a little or didn’t turn somewhere and, as a result, missed something that would be worth seeing. And I understand this when I am already far away, sometimes hundreds of kilometers away.

Sometimes it happens that you manage to find everything and see everything, but are unlucky with the weather.

See also: Is it worth traveling in our digital age?

But I have never had such an epic failure as with Ramkhamhaeng National Park. We rode bicycles around the park, rode about 8 km, I took more than 700+ photos, and stayed there for several hours. It seems to be a common story.

A few weeks later, I am writing this note about a trip to Ramkhamhaeng National Park, comparing the places visited with the map and suddenly I understand: out of 42 places marked on the official map of the park, we actually visited only 8…

In general, read my post if you want to visit Ramkhamhaeng National Park and don’t want to fail like this.

The oldest cities that have survived to this day in Thailand

The history of Thailand goes back centuries and several ancient cities have survived from those times. More precisely, not the cities themselves, but only the stone buildings of those times, as well as the stone walls around the city.

The buildings are usually of a religious nature.

The time of construction of ancient temples, as well as who exactly built them, are not known for certain and are estimated tentatively.

Same with the names of temples. I’m not one to find fault, but when a temple surrounded by statues of elephants is called literally (if translated from Thai) “temple surrounded by elephants,” and a temple with seven rows of stupas is literally called “temple with seven rows of stupas”, then I have doubts about the extent to which these names are authentic or were given after the decline of these territories, when no information remained about the original names.

If you start looking at the ancient buildings of neighboring countries, for example, Myanmar, then to my untrained eye they have a lot in common with Thai ancient buildings.

Some ancient buildings (for example, in Si Satchanalai Historical Park they date back to about 1250) are located on other stone buildings, about which even less is known and can only be said for certain that they are more ancient because they are located deeper in the ground. Here the older stone structures date back to the 11th century. But graves were also found there, which indicate that this place has been inhabited since at least the 3rd-4th centuries AD.

The ancient buildings (or ruins) themselves are impressive in that they stood for 800 years.

What is Si Satchanalai Historical Park

Si Satchanalai Historical Park is a city built around 1250 as the second center of the Kingdom of Sukhothai, now a historical park.

These are stone buildings, mostly temples, of varying degrees of integrity: some have been preserved almost completely, some have little more than a foundation left.

The views of these ancient buildings (those that are more complete) are impressive. The architecture does not resemble anything modern. That is, there is a real opportunity to touch the heritage of other civilizations that lived many years before us.

Among the 283 surviving ancient sites, the most important include Wat Chang Lom, Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo, Wat Nang Phaya, Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang, the archaeological site at Wat Chom Chuen, as well as the Sanghalok kilns, and the Thurian kilns at Ban Pa Yang and Ban Ko Noi. These properties are spread over a total of 45.14 square kilometers and spread over four sub-districts including Si Satchanalai.

In 1990, the Si Satchanalai Historical Park was officially opened, and in 1991, the ancient city of Si Satchanalai was included in the UNESCO list of world cultural heritage sites.

How to get to Si Satchanalai Historical Park. Bicycle rent

Si Satchanalai Historical Park is located in the Thai province of Sukhothai.

Coordinates of Si Satchanalai Historical Park: https://www.google.com/maps/@17.4260762,99.7862706,17z/

Do not confuse this place with Sukhothai Historical Park which is also located in Sukhothai and generally has many similar features.

The distance from Sukhothai City to Si Satchanalai Historical Park is approximately 50 km. This place can be visited as a day trip from Sukhothai. Or, as we did on our trip to the north of Thailand, this place can be visited as a stopover on the way to Lampang.

You can move around the park on foot, by bicycle or on a tourist tram. You can rent bicycles here, the price is only 30 baht, the time is unlimited.

I didn’t find out how much a tram ride costs, but I’m sure it’s inexpensive. There are several trams, they carry tourists in small groups.

Is Si Satchanalai Historical Park worth visiting? Is Sukhothai Historical Park or Si Satchanalai Historical Park better?

If you have already been to Ayutthaya or already visited Si Satchanalai Historical Park, then in Si Satchanalai Historical Park you may have the feeling of “I’ve seen all this before somewhere”.

But, in fact, I really liked Si Satchanalai Historical Park, and I liked it more than Sukhothai Historical Park (more expensive and more crowded with people and, for my taste, less spectacular).

And although Sukhothai Historical Park is closer to the city of Sukhothai (10 km), I would still recommend that you choose to visit Si Satchanalai Historical Park, which is located at a distance of 50 km. Or visit them both.

How much are tickets to Si Satchanalai Historical Park?

Entrance fees:

  • for foreigners – 100 baht
  • for Thais – 20 baht
  • for bicycles – 10 baht

Before you buy tickets, you can see many temples for free – they are located near regular roads, outside the area for which you need to buy a ticket.

When purchasing tickets, you can take a free flyer with a map and brief information about the most interesting places.

Si Satchanalai Historical Park Map

This map is from the flyer:

Please note that objects assigned numbers from 1 to 8 are located in the territory for which you need to buy an entrance ticket. This is not a small area; in 2 hours we drove about 8 km there.

And objects with numbers from 9 to 42 are available for free access – they are located next to regular roads. And it was all these ancient ruins that I missed. Somehow it didn’t occur to me that there might be something here for free, even though I saw a couple of objects right from the parking lot and then I thought: “Wow, how far have you been taken”. Moreover, when I was returning to the parking lot, a random driver of a minivan with tourists tried to explain something to me and pointed to the ruins near the parking lot – apparently, he wanted to say that the sights were not over yet. But I didn't understand him.

The ancient city was quite large and the temples were also scattered outside the stone wall that runs along the perimeter of the main buildings.

Don't think that all free places are uninteresting. Among the free places there is a real gem, namely Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Rajaworaviharn (called Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang on the flyer). I really regret missing this place.

In fact, not all places are indicated on the maps. Poorly preserved or small temples are not shown on the maps, but you can see both the ruins themselves and signs for them in the park.

And one more card from the stand. On it you can see the perimeter of the wall – to get inside you need to buy tickets. Tickets must be purchased at the location marked with a red pin.

You may notice that there is a through road running along one of the walls. Yes, indeed, you can enter the territory of the ancient city along this road without a ticket. You can easily drive through and outside the city wall, on the other side of the ancient city, to look at yet another ancient ruins. But at the forks in the roads leading into the park there are barriers.

Main attractions of Si Satchanalai Historical Park

City wall

The ancient city is fenced off from the outside world by a moat and a city wall.

The wall is very well preserved and serves as a natural barrier for ticketless tourists.

In some places on the walls there are openings – these are gates that have been partially preserved.

We started our movement clockwise.

At first we came across small, poorly preserved buildings. They have signs with a brief description, but these buildings are not marked on the maps.

We continued moving and along the way we encountered a steep hill.

At the top of the hill I noticed a path with steps that led somewhere away from the main road. We went there and found Wat Khao Suwankhiri.

Wat Khao Suwankhiri

The name of the temple is sometimes written as Wat Khao Suwankhiri and sometimes as Wat Khao Suwan Khiri.

To the west of Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng there is a hill called Khao Suwan Khiri, on which the temple of the same name was built. The bell-shaped stupa stands on a square laterite base. Its cylinder, supporting the spire, is decorated with stucco decoration in the form of a walking Buddha circumambulating the cylinder (Kanchat in Thai).

There are two large stupas, one of which is located on a significant hill of several pedestals stacked on top of each other.

Next to them there are gates for access to the internal territory and several buildings, one of which is better preserved.

You can climb onto the platforms and get a closer look at the stupa. It seems that in front of the stupa there are something like passages (portals), but in fact they do not lead anywhere and do not allow you to rise higher.

In this video I approach the stupas of Wat Khao Suwankhiri and enter the gate between them:

And in this video I am walking on one of the upper platforms of the stupa. Towards the end you can see a portal that leads nowhere.

The terrain here is quite flat and only the views from the edge of the hill remind us that we are on a hill.

I wonder what the other poorly preserved buildings were used for? Perhaps, in addition to stone buildings, there could also be wooden ones.

Wat Kudi Rai

We continued our ride, went down the hill, and turned along the city wall.

We were admiring the scenery, and then suddenly we ran into a barrier.

This barrier leads to the road that runs through the park and along which “free riders” travel. Accordingly, a barrier has been installed in case one of the free riders decides to turn into the park.

We crossed the barrier and went through the gate outside the city wall. Here we saw Wat Kudi Rai. That is, this is one of those places that you can see for free.

The ruins of this temple are not very large. More precisely, the pedestal is not small, but little has been preserved from the temple itself.

Nearby is the Ban Pa Yang Kilns Site.

A short video of two very similar buildings at Wat Kudi Rai:

There is also a river passing through here.

The river runs along one of the city walls and apparently served as a natural water barrier. In addition, the water for the ditches around other sections of the walls may have been taken from the same river.

By the way, when driving through the gate (which is very narrow) there is a blind spot. Therefore, when you approach the gate, you must signal your horn so that pedestrians or oncoming traffic are notified of your approach.

There are many large and ancient trees here.

And in general the landscapes here are very beautiful.

Wat Suan Kheo Utthayan Noi

We returned to the ancient city through the same gate, but decided not to make our way through the closed barrier again (to turn inside the park), but to drive a little forward along the road.

This was the right decision – we were able to turn into the park at another fork, where the barrier was open.

I stopped several times to take photos of the scenery – this park is very beautiful.

The first place we came across on the way was Wat Suan Kheo Utthayan Noi. A small temple (“Noi” literally means “small” in Thai).

The reconstruction allows us to understand how this place might have looked in ancient times.

Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng

From a distance I saw a staircase going high up and we turned there.

It turned out that we are at the foot of Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng.

This temple is located on the top of a hill. The main features of the temple are the bell-shaped stupa and the seated Buddha subduing Mara, made of laterite blocks. The steps leading from the foot of the hill to the temple are also made of laterite blocks. Khao Phanom Ploeng literally means “Mountain of Fire Sacrifice”. According to the chronicles of the northern region, a seer (Rishi) named Rishi Satchanalai lit a fire on the top of the hill. It is believed that the name of the city Si Satchanalai was given in honor of the seer.

When I saw the ladder, I immediately wanted to climb it. To which my wife, who was not feeling well that day, told me: “you want – you climb in, and I’ll wait downstairs”.

At the top there is a large Buddha and a stupa. Overall the space is quite small.

Video at the top near Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng:

Video of the descent from Wat Khao Phanom Phloeng:

Wat Chang Lom

I came down the stairs somewhat disappointed and we continued on our way. Almost immediately I forgot about my disappointment due to high expectations from the previous place, as we saw Wat Chang Lom – a large and beautiful temple.

If translated from Thai literally (I know that there is no need to translate proper names), you get “Temple surrounded by elephants”.

This temple is located almost in the center of the historical city. The highlight of the temple is the bell-shaped main stupa surrounded by a square laterite wall. The base of the stupa is high and square in shape. The base is surrounded by thirty-nine standing elephants covered in stucco. The sculpted elephants are very different from those found in other temples: here the elephants are created entirely and are taller than their life-size counterparts.

On the second floor of the base there are twenty niches, each of which contains an image of Buddha subduing Mara, covered with stucco.

The square platform that forms the base of the stupa spire is decorated with many images of walking Buddha circumambulating the round base of the spire.

Scholars believe that this was the temple mentioned in the text of the inscription dedicated to King Ramkhamhaeng, which states that the relics of the Buddha (Phra Maha Dhatu) were dug up by King Ramkhamhaeng to pay homage to them, and then reburied under a specially built stupa.

This is a photo of a reconstruction of the temple's exterior – note the elephants around building number 1.

Another photo of the reconstruction.

In this video I get closer to Wat Chang Lom:

Photo of the main building of Wat Chang Lom:

The elephants were not completely preserved; their trunks were especially badly damaged.

Having climbed the temple, I again admired the surrounding landscapes.

Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo

This temple is located opposite Wat Chang Lom. The important buildings of this temple are the main lotus bud stupa, the main assembly hall (vihara), twenty-seven subordinate stupas (chedi) and five mandapas. The subordinate stupas bear numerous foreign influences, including Lankan, Khmer, Mon, Bagan, Srivijaya and Lanna ideas.

All buildings are surrounded by a laterite wall with vertical balusters and a ditch surrounding the temple.

As the name Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo, which literally means a temple of seven rows of Chedi (Stupa), suggests, this temple has five rows of stupas from southeast to northwest, and two rows from northeast and northwest.

The late Prince Damrongrajanuphap suggested that this could be a temple where the cremated remains of the Sukhothai royal family were kept.

Video of Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo:

Wat Suan Kaeo Utthayan Yai

Wat Nang Phaya

The main stupa of the temple is shaped like a bell, made in the Sri Lankan style. This stupa is supported by a high base that was once decorated with sculpted elephants similar to those found at Wat Chang Lom.

The stucco on the west wall of the assembly hall is intricately carved with floral scrollwork intertwined with delicate leaves set in lobed or diamond-shaped frames. These motifs are a masterpiece of the Ayutthaya period. However, it was greatly influenced by Lanna and Chinese art.

Wat Nang Phaya Video:

At this point, the exploration of the city inside the city walls can be considered complete. More precisely, there is also a territory that is designated on the map as the “Royal Palace”. But very little remains of the palace.

I also counted about a dozen foundations of small structures – perhaps they will be interesting to you from a historical point of view.

To continue exploring the park, you need to head to the road that goes right through the park and turn right. Then leave the park and continue moving forward.

Wat Chao Chan

This place is placed on the map at number 39.

Behind Wat Chom Chuen is a temple with outstanding architectural features that predate the temples of the Sukhothai period. An important building is the laterite “Prang” or “Prasat” in the Khmer style. These two terms are commonly used in Thai and Khmer to refer to an architectural form that is a square structure with a porch on each side and a tall body comprised of many levels that terminate in a rounded point.

Brick buildings may have been used in this area before the laterite Prang at Wat Chao Chan.

Evidence from recent archaeological excavations at the site indicates that brick fragments and artefacts are associated with the Dvaravati tradition and date back to the 6th to 10th centuries AD. It is assumed that they were replaced by Khmer Prangs.

Wat Chom Chuen and Wat Chom Chuen Archaeological Excavation Pit

On the map these places are numbered 40 and 41.

A bell-shaped stupa, influenced by Sri Lankan style, is located behind the mandapa in good condition and at the base of the laterite assembly hall (Vihara) with columns located in front of the mandapa.

Based on archaeological excavations in front of these buildings, it is believed that settlement at this site took place before the founding of the Kingdom of Sukhothai.

Fifteen burials excavated here at a depth of about 7-8 m suggest that the area around this temple was first inhabited in the 3rd-4th centuries AD. The settlement of this territory continued until the 6th-7th centuries. Structures from the 11th century CE have been found, meaning that brick buildings were built here before the Sukhothai period.

The entrance to Wat Chom Chuen Archaeological Site Musium is also located here (on the map this place is indicated as Wat Chom Chuen Archaeological Excavation Pit).

Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang

This place is called slightly differently in different sources. Even on one flyer there are two spelling variants.

Name options:

  • Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang
  • Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Rajaworaviharn
  • Wat Phra Si Ratanamahathat

On the map this place is number 42.

This is a large temple complex located southeast of the city of Si Satchanalai. The stucco figures that decorated the top of the main gate of the temple are reminiscent of the Bayon style of Khmer art.

Archaeological evidence from excavations at the site shows that Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat Chaliang was originally founded before the Sukhothai period.

Scholars suggest that it was first built during the time of Pho Khun Si Nao Nam Thom, or around 1237 AD.

Important buildings that can be seen are the following:

a) Main assembly hall (vihara). The hall with octagonal columns and the room of a seated Buddha subduing Mara, covered with stucco, is built of laterite blocks covered with lime plaster and red paint. The architectural features of the assembly hall indicate that it can be dated to the Ayutthaya period. However, evidence suggests that it may have been built to cover an earlier structure. Opposite it is the Assembly Hall (Vihara) of Luang Pho To.

b) Phra That Mutao. The octagonal remains have been identified as a Mon style stupa. It was built from laterite blocks.

c) Mandapa (open pavilion) Phra Attharot. This building is located just behind Phra That Mutao. The mandapa (Mondop in Thai), a pyramidal superstructure and square building, was built from laterite blocks to house a standing Buddha image known as Phra Attharot, literally meaning “Eighteen”. As some scholars have suggested, the original Mandapa may have had Buddha sculptures on each outer wall and a roof made of ceramic tiles.

d) Phra Song Phi Nong Assembly Hall (Vihara of two Buddha images). This building, located to the left of the Mandapa, was built from laterite blocks directly on the ruins of a brick building.

d) Ordination Hall (Uposatha). In front of the Main Assembly Hall (Vihara) is a new building, built directly above the old one.

f) Kuti (monks' quarters) Phra Ruang Phra Lue. Locals call this building San Phra Ruang Phra Lue and use it to house Phra Ruang Phra Lue statues, which are considered sacred by the locals. The building was reconstructed during the construction of the present-day ordination hall.

Thuriang Kilns in Ban Ko Noi

These kilns are located about 5 km from the ancient city of Si Satchanalai. Now there are about 200 kilns on an area of about 1.5 square kilometers. Currently, 2 groups of kilns have been excavated and turned into local museums. They are as follows.

a) Group of kilns No. 61. This group includes 4 underground kilns dug into the banks of the river. The main products of these kilns were large jars in which water and other dry materials could be stored.

b) Group of kilns No. 42. Nineteen kilns have already been discovered in this group. These kilns can be divided into 2 main types; namely the types of upward and cross-draft types.

Archaeological research carried out on the ceramic kilns at Ban Ko Noi has yielded much knowledge about the development of ancient Si Satchanalai ceramic technology.

The earliest type of kilns to appear at Ban Ko Noi around the 11th and 12th centuries AD were underground shore kilns. This early type of kilns looked like a round hole dug into the bank of a river. There were no fired walls separating the ceramic firing chamber from the fuel chamber.

The second type of above-ground kilns was built from brick. Glazed pottery produced in these later kilns, dating from around the 14th to 15th centuries AD, came in a variety of types and shapes. During this time, Si Satchanalai glazed pottery, known as Sangkalok, was exported to Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines.

Applications for Augmented Reality (AR)

At the stands you can see QR codes for information about historical objects in different languages.

You can also see QR codes with links to augmented reality applications for mobile phones. That is, according to the idea, you point your phone’s camera at a historical site, and on the screen you can see the actual ruins with an augmented image from restorers.

Something didn’t work out for me with this application, but I saved the link for you: https://ar.finearts.go.th/

Nice restaurant near Si Satchanalai Historical Park

Near the Si Satchanalai Historical Park parking lot you will find bicycle rental shops and a gift shop.

Nearby you will see several food shops and a restaurant. At this place you can order a set of steaks for 369 baht. It includes pork, chicken, fish and smoked sausages, as well as fried potatoes and salad.

This is not the only dish – there is a choice of Thai and European cuisine.

I really liked the food and the staff – I recommend it.

Conclusion

Overall, I really liked Si Satchanalai Historical Park. This place put me in a good mood for the rest of the day (for us this was just the beginning of a trip to the neighboring province).

It was interesting, there were few people, the price was much lower than in a similar historical park near the city.

Be sure to explore the area outside the ancient city.

If you like historical-themed souvenirs, I saw a couple of shops – one next to the parking lot, and the other along the road towards the buildings that are numbered 39-42 on the map.


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