The Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, Thailand

The Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park, Thailand

The UNESCO ancient Buddhist town of Kamphaeng Phet is about sixty five kilometers southwest of Sukhothai.

Despite being an amazing archeological site, Kamphaeng Phet gets only a few thousands visitors per year.
Because of that, there are no apparent places to rent bicycles around town.

We hired a Grab taxi driver for the day, to take us to Kamphaeng Phet from Sukhothai, then wait for us and take us back in the evening.
It was more expensive than hiring a taxi each way, but in rural Thailand the availability of taxis is not great nor are they frequent, and we didn’t want to be stranded in Kamphaeng Phet.

Our driver asked around trying to locate a place for us to rent bicycles.
He got directions to a small cafe and minimart that had no sign nor visible bicycles, but upon inquiry they brought from the back of their house two bicycles with baskets attached to the handlebars.

They warned us that there are no places to buy water or food inside the historical park, so we loaded the front baskets with water and bought a small bag of homemade pineapple cookies.
In a nearby roadside stand, we also bought a small bunch of mini bananas.
We ended up giving both the mini bananas and the small cookies to a very hungry mother dog and her young son, who we met by one of the ruins.
Even though the bananas were delicious and we were hungry, the dogs looked much hungrier than us and they ate them with much relish, savoring every bite..

There are two old walled sections in Kamphaeng Phet town.
The smaller walled town is located inside the city, and you don’t even need bicycles to see it.
You can easily walk around it in an hour or two.

The bigger walled historical park is located in a wooded forest, and it is so large that the few visitors we saw, were driving to the temples with their cars.
Nobody walked nor cycled except for us.

The city of Kamphaeng Phet was a protective base for Sukhothai, the capital.
Built to fend off enemies travelling from the south, the city was strategically situated along the river, near the junction of other important waterways.

More than just a military outpost, Kamphaeng Phet was a vibrant city with a large royal palace and twenty temples.
Not much remains of the royal palace, but there are remnants of Chedi and pillars of the ancient temples in the Inner Zone of the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park.

The largest temple in the Inner Zone is Wat Phra Kaeo, which would have been next to the palace and was used for ceremonies.
A significant feature is that it has five pagodas on the same base, extending for about 300 metres.
The main stupa was adorned with lions, while another round stupa had elephant sculptures all around its base.

We saw workers working on scaffolding to restore some of the elephants.
I was happy to see that some restoration work was taking place.
These temples and archeological sites should be restored, in order to remain standing for hundreds more years to come.
In Bhutan and Japan, many of the old wooden temples and castles were burnt to the ground, and by using historical details were rebuilt, sometimes multiple times.
It is important that we do that, to keep the historical information alive for a generation living here a thousand years from now.

Around the historical city, there are large walls made from laterite stone that cover a length of 5.3 kilometres. There are 9 gates and 11 fortresses remaining along the wall, which was built in the 15th century.
It was so pleasant to cycle around the perimeters of the old wall and see the scale of it.

The temples and monuments in Kamphaeng Phet were built and later renovated, with both red-clay bricks and red Laterite stones.

Like the temples of that era, there is a main Chedi (Stupa), an assembly hall (Vihara), a pillared hall or pavilion for public rituals (Mandapa), an ordination hall (Ubosatha) and many subordinate chedis.

The Buddha hall with a big reclining Buddha and two sitting Buddhas was very impressive to behold.

At the end of the day, we had a bit of time to sit in a cafe in the village across the river.
We had good soy lattes and a delicious truffle pasta before returning our bicycles and meeting our driver, who took us back to Sukhothai.

Different fates befell each of the three historical kingdoms that we visited in the last week.

Sukhothai, once a glorious capital city, is still inhabited, but is now no more than a large village.
A new city called Thani is located only 12 kilometres west from the old kingdom of Sukhothai, which is where most people live and trade.

Once a very important kingdom, Kamphaeng Phet has a small modern development on both sides of the Mae Nam Ping river, and even thought it has ancient temples and monuments, it is a relatively isolated place which attracts very few visitors.

Sri Satchanalai, which had been the spiritual capital and was later abandoned, is now a rural site, cultivated by the inhabitants of the neighboring villages.

Jules suggested that they should try to make this region, with its three historical Buddhist cities, into a pilgrimage site, and attract Buddhists from Taiwan, Japan, China, and India, to help the place become vibrant again.
It is sure worth spending a few days exploring the glorious archeological remains.

From Kamphaeng Phet with love,

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