Sunday, September 27, 2009

District museum Thonburi

One of the local district museums I should mention here is the one of Thonburi. It is relatively easy to reach, has several nice exhibits, but most of all the caretaker was that much concerned about me getting most of the museum it was nearly annoying already. As she did not speak much English, she instead read the text on the plates next to the exhibits.

The museum is located in the 3rd floor of the temple school of Wat Prayurawongsawat, most famous for the replica mountain known as "turtle mountain". It is located right across the river at Memorial Bridge. The temple itself is also worth a visit, but one wouldn't find this museum at all strolling around on the temple grounds. It has a sign on the street outside the temple complex, but not a single hint inside to guide to the school. In the brochure of the temple it has a photo of a sign in front of the school, but I did not notice that one in there. So once I found the school building I asked at the kiosk in front and it quickly had someone guide me upstairs to the rooms occupied by the museum. Felt quite odd to pass the school rooms full with pupils to reach a museum.

The museum itself consists of two rooms, and since it was a very hot day and I was on a walking tour visiting several of these museums the fact one of it was acclimatized was quite comfortable. Since the district shares its name with the historical capital - though the actual palace back then is in Bangkok Yai now - and the former province covering the area west of the Chao Phraya river, these histories are prominently displayed on the posters. It was one of these posters where I learned that the former province hall of Thonburi is located just around the corner of the temple.

Of course the local artisans are featured as well, music instruments from (if I recall correctly) Lao settlers including audio recordings to listen, or the Khon mask shown to the left. Also, photos and descriptions of the main religious sites in the district are shown - apart from the Buddhist temples Wat Kanlayanamit and Wat Prayurawongsawat the Santa Cruz church and the only Mosque built like a Thai temple building are the most prominent ones. These alone already gave me enough ideas of places to visit next time I am out for a walking tour in Thonburi.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Prasat Phanom Wan

Prasat Phanom Wan (ปราสาทหินพนมวัน) is a Khmer temple ruin located between the more famous and big one in Phimai and the city Nakhon Ratchasima (Khorat). It consists of a about 50x50 m big area enclosed by a stone wall, with a single shrine in the middle.

I went there on the return way from Phimai, so this much smaller and less reconstructed site failed to impress me that much after seeing Phimai, but the fact that I was the only one exploring there and the more ruined state also has a lot charm. Since I did a lot of photos in Phimai already, I only did very few there, and only one turned out good enough to show here. But on Wikimedia Commons it has several more from other visitors.

I only came to go there because I bought a book on Khmer sites in Thailand in preparation for the visit to Phimai, and noticed that there a second place which nearly on the way. According to that book, this temple was built between the late 9th and late 11th century, and was used for Shiva worship, and at other times Vishnu worship and finally Buddhism was practiced there. It was rediscovered by the French explorer Henri Mouhot in 1861.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

City pillar shrine of Suphanburi

As I am fascinated by the city pillar shrines, which it has in almost every provincial city and also some others, after I saw the photos of the shrine in Suphanburi in the tourismthailand blog this particular site not too far from Bangkok was quite high on my list of places I need to visit. The dragon museum showing an exhibition on the history of the Chinese, located right next to the shrine, made the place even more interesting.

However already when we were underway in Suphanburi I could get a brochure from the museum, and once seeing the entrance fees the interest shrinked a lot. No one of my Thai family was considering it worth the 300 Baht, and as a foreigner I would even have to pay 500 Baht - the infamous Thai double pricing. As a little reality check - the Louvre in Paris is 9 Euro for a normal day ticket, or as of today close to 450 Baht. And I doubt it has anything spectacular like the Mona Lisa in the dragon. So I only took a few views from the outside and will delay the inside until the pricing gets more reasonable. Yet if you're interested in a report on what to expect inside, Richard Barrow was there already.

But even skipping this museum the site definitely was worth the visit, as the city pillar shrine is probably the most lavishly decorated one of all Thailand. But this is also due to the fact that it is one of the few city pillar shrines built like a Chinese temple, which are known for their colorful decorations. The central part are of course the pillars, two gold-covered statuettes. In front of the shrine many people pray, light the incense candles, just like in the Buddhist temples.

But not just the place in front of the shrine and the inside of the building is worth looking at, even on the backside it has paintings. There are also some additional buildings in the behind - the furnace for burning larger gifts to the ancestors is a standard found in every Chinese temple. It further has a large meeting hall, and still partially under construction at my visit a huge tower,

Since I have taken more photo than would fit into this posting, I have created an album in Flickr to show the whole set.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Wat Khao Suwan Pradit, Don Sak

Most tourists only know Don Sak, the easternmost district of Surat Thani province, only because the main ferry from the mainland to Ko Samui leaves near this small town. Though it is not that spectacular, a stop-over in the town is a worth it, not just the sea food restaurant directly at the mouth of the small river into the sea. On the hill overlooking the town is the temple Khao Suwan Pradit (วัดเขาสุวรรณประดิษฐ์) - literally the "hill of artifical gold".

The buildings at the entrance, the area usually used for parking the park, are not much spectacular, the only interesting was a smaller shrine with the mummy of a monk inside. I guess this is Luang Pho Choi (หลวงปู่จ้อย), who founded the temple in 1982. To me it seemed quite strange to have him laid out in that glass shrine.

But the much more interesting place is reached after walking up the long stairs. These lead to the hilltop pagoda, a beautiful white chedi surrounded by a building. This chedi enshrines a Buddha relic, originally from Chiang Mai. But for me as a non-Buddhist, apart from the beautiful building the view from the hill to the sea was much more breathtaking. One can see the Ang Thong archipelago and Ko Samui easily, as well as look down to the town center.

As this temple and especially the chedi is the most important landmark of Don Sak, it is no wonder the municipality Don Sak (เทศบาลตำบลดอนสัก) uses it in their official emblem. Quite nicely to see in the top of the street signs, like the one of the road from the town center to the temple.