Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mueang Sing

Mueang Sing (เมืองสิงห์) is one of the ten historical parks in Thailand, but even though it is not that far from Bangkok and close to the River Kwai bridge visitied by almost every tourist coming to Thailand, it seems a very quite place. The day we went there I did not see any other tourist, except a group of Thai pathfinders who were camping next to the river.

While some historians identify the site with Srichaiya Singhapura mentioned in a stone inscription praising the Khmer king Jayavarman VII, however the first historical reference to this site dates from the reign of King Rama I at the end of the 18th century. At that time Mueang Sing was a fortified town, located on one of the major routes invading Burmese troops used when invading Siam. It is located near the end of the valley of the Kwae Noi river, thus protecting the way from the Three Pagoda pass to Kanchanaburi. But as it was just a minor town, it was reduced to a subdistrict (Tambon) when the administrative system of Siam was modernized by Prince Damrong.

The site is a Khmer temple complex, contemporary with the world-famous Angkor Wat. The most impressive and best restored building is named monument 1, with the main temple building (prasat) in the middle surrounded by a gallery wall with an entrance (gopura) in each of the four cardinal direction.

Next to it is a second large monument, however only the large foundation is preserved. In the past it also had three towers and a gallery wall, but these haven't been reconstructed.

Not all of the sites within the complex are as impressive as the main one. So called monument 4 is just a few foundation stones visible on the ground. The brochure from the park does not say much about it, but it was probably a religious building as well as a few artifacts were found in it. I did not stop at monument 3, which according to the brochure is just a little bit more than the foundation of a religious site.

In Michael Freeman's Khmer Temples of Thailand and Laos the author gives this temple only one star out of three, while the similar Phimai historical park in Nakhon Ratchasima get the full three stars. One point the author criticizes is the fact that the main monument of Muaeng Sing was reconstructed with too much haste and thus probably does not show the original architecture. Nevertheless I also enjoyed the trip to both sites, Phimai has much more to see but if you're around Kanchanaburi then Mueang Sing is worth a visit as well.

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