Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A day touring in Lop Buri

Phra Prang Sam Yod, Lop Buri

For our final day in Thailand, Dan and Chingchai drove us out to Lop Buri.  Although there has been a Thai settlement in this location for longer than almost any other current city, and was a center of Mon civilization as early as the sixth century AD, it gained particular prominence when two Thai kings – King Narai in the 17th Century and King Rama IV in the 19th century made it the capital of Thailand.  On the way, we noted this brightly painted bus


and, in the distance, a huge golden seated monk in a posture normally seen for a Buddha  

There were a series of stored selling lawn ornaments of various kinds, such as spirit houses
or, in on example that really captured our imagination, some gigantic garudas.  I was tempted gto stop and ask whether they ship to the United States.
Arriving in Lop Buri, we passed a traffic circle featuring this statue of King Narai

and eventually found our way to the central area where most of the major sights are located within walking distance of each other.

We walked up to San Phra Karn, which has the ruined base of a large Khmer prang

San Phra Karn, Lop Buri

next to a more modern shrine
San Phra Karn, Lop Buri

   Before we went in for a look inside, taking off our shoes as is customary,

Inside San Phra Karn, Lop Buri

Dan warned us to “carry your shoes” rather than leaving them on the steps.       

We soon found out why: the place is known as :the monkey temple” and it is, indeed, overrun with monkeys – and aggressive monkeys at that

The monkey sitting on this elephant was tugging at the cloth decorating the elephant and chomping on it

Outside San Phra Karn, Lop Buri

And some monkeys were playing with what appeared to be other tourists’ shoes
Mischievous monkey on the grounds of Phra Prang Sam Yod, Lop Buri

One of the monkeys grabbed Nancy’s hat right off her head; it was playing with it on the ground and I was lucky to be able to stomp on the hat and hold it down while chasing the monkey off.  Another jumped onto my camera bag, perhaps expecting that food could be found within; I brushed it off

We stepped across a busy street to visit Phra Prang Sam Yod; a temple of three prangs, originally built in the thirteenth century in the Bayon style as a Hindu temple and symbolizing Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, then later converted to Buddhist use

Phra Prang Sam Yod, Lop Buri
Monkeys were running all over the place in along the side of the street that we had to cross,

 and we had to dodge them, as much as the cars, as they got into fights among themselves, then followed us inside the gate – one monkey left me alone only after I had picked up some stones and pantomimed throwing one of them.

Indeed, monkeys were found on the streets throughout tourist areas, though once we got away from the Monkey Temple they were not so numerous or so aggressive

Some of the stucco work has been restored


By the side of the temple, was this monkey seated this way to imitate the Buddha behind?
We were able to go into the temple, closing the iron gate behind us to keep the monkeys out

On the way to our next destination, we passed the ruins of Wat Indra
before arriving at Phra Narai Ratchanivet, the former palace of King Narai.  The guidebooks listed is as being closed Mondays and Tuesdays, but admission was free, presumably again in honor of deceased King Bumibol.

We walked through the outer  Phayakkha gate

and passed these bushes on the right pruned into the shape of an elephant herd and a bird

Here were some interior gates

This Dyospyros tree was said to be more than 300 years old, dating to the time of King Narai

We looked at the ruined Dusit Sawan Thanya Prasat – a hall for receiving ambassadors

There was a raised niche where the king received ambassadors because the Europeans, in particular, refused to prostrate before him; so he made them stand below him.

Here is a model of palace grounds as they once appeared


Chandra Phisan Hall had several exhibits on ambassadorial presentations to King Narai, for example, the ambassadors from Louis XIV of France
The main exhibition Hall was a fabulous museum of the history of the Lop Buri area, including geological and pre-history on the first floor, and an extensive collection of statuary and other art from Lop Buri since the sixth century

This Vishnu form the 7th to 8th C came to the museum from Phra Karn, our first stop in Lop Buri

This Surya is also from the 7th to 8th century

I did not catch the dating of this lovely lintel

Or this Buddha defying Mara

This Buddha in absolution pose from the late 13th century, in Bayon Style
This triptych of steles
have hundreds of niches holding buddha votive tablets

These prehistoric bronze kettle drums were used in a ritual to summon rainfall
Finally, this manuscript cabinet with a Buddha footprint is more recent, from the era of Rama III

Walking to see our next destination, we cut through a large market, pausing outside to get a container of ground pork balls wrapped in a rice dumpling blanket, then stopping inside at a small restaurant where we had Mou Kua Gling, a tasty ground pork dish

We emerged to see Prang Khaek, a  Hindu shrine dating from 8th century

 Some preserved detail

It was getting late, and I had to sacrifice one more ruin I had hoped to visit in Lop Buri sothat we would have time to stop at the Wat Phra Phuttabat, the Temple of the Buddha’s Footprint, on the way home.  This has been a major pilgrimage spot for Thai people, and as we drove there, Chingchao recounted his memories of going there with his parents and his siblings when he was growing up.  The first tepmle was built there in the early 18th century, but the Burmese destroyed it in 1762; the current temple was built after the capital moved to Bangkok

Wat Phra Phuttabat: Temple of the Buddha Footprint
Here is the site as it appears from where we arrived, with pair of Garudas guarding the entrance


A garuda from the side

There are bells beside the mondop, the hall containing the Buddha footprint; observant Buddhist’s ring the bells to tell the Buddha that they are present

Or, they ring the gongs

Two separate naga staircases run fro below up to the mondop

Here is one of them, with a detail of one of its feet

Here is the other, with even more fantastic foot detail


Here are the rock forms around the mondop           

These finials were spaced along a railing running around the mondop

Here is the lintel and wall of the mondop 

and an outside gallery

Inside the mondop, the footprint sits under a canopy

worshipers placed gold leaf or cash on the footprint

Outside the building was a second footprint; the trick was apparently to make a coin balance on its end   

There were several other buildings on the grounds, including a Chinese temple

Here were some other buildings



this is the interior of that last building


and a doorway


A collection of the buildings
Here is the back of the hood of a naga guarding one of the buildings

And lions guarding another one

Here is a nice finial

There were pruned bushes in the shape of deer and elephants

Driving home, Dan and Chingchai tried to take us to a favorite place along the river in Bang-In, south of Ayutthaya, but we arrived to find the restaurant was closed

So we went back to our hotel and had one last meal at the nearby Ban Sansuk instead.  Another delicious meal to cap off our week in Thailand.

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