We, as consumers of Indian cinema, would know how difficult it is to break out of stereotypes. Thailand, as a tourist destination, is not an exception to this rule. We have always looked at Thailand as a destination that is full of parties, beaches and a lot of other entertainments. Little do we realize that Thailand, just like any other East Asian Nation, also has a rich history, and the vestiges of it are still visible all along the country in their fullest awesomeness.
Here are a few places in Thailand that one should consider visiting if they are history aficionados.
The Rattanakosin island
With a Legacy of over a couple of centuries, this Island takes the credit of being one of the first planned cities in Asia. This Island houses the Royal Residence of the king of Thailand, also known as the Grand Palace. The motive of this Island been chosen as a destination for a plant city was the intention to fortify the Royal premises.
In addition to the Grand Palace Complex, this Island also houses the what who temple of the reclining Buddha which is considered to be one of the most sacred places when it comes to Buddhist worship. The golden Mount and the what sweetheart are also some of the places of pilgrimage that need to be considered while visiting the Rattanakosin Island. This Island is also the home to the giant swing which was once an integral part of the culture of Thailand.
Thailand, apart from India and Indonesia, was another place where Hinduism and Buddhism peacefully co-existed, and the Phimai Temple Complex is a resounding testimony to that confluence. Considered to be a Khmer landmark that’s even holder than the torchbearer – the Angkor Vat – this temple marks the end of the Khmer Highway.
Though this temple is predominantly Buddhist, there are signs of Hinduism and Animism in the sculptures of the Temple. This temple houses a sanctuary, two pagodas, a war-field and above everything, the World’s largest Banyan Tree!!
Doesn’t this sound like a place where you can play your live Temple Run!?
The Death Railway
Thailand’s history was not always about the gold-studded palaces and peace-loving monks. They’ve had their fair share of the dark ages as well, the worst of which came in during the World War II when the Japanese occupied the lands, and forced all the Allied Prisoners and the Romusha Workers to work on a 415 Km long Railway Line connecting Thailand and the Erstwhile Burma.
Over 12000 Allied POWs and over 90000 Romusha workers lost their valuable lives during the constructions of the Railway Line. There are two points of interest on the Death Railway. One of them was called the Hellfire Pass, owing to the starved workers working in the flame-lights of torches, making it look like hell. And the other one in the Bridge on the River Kwai, which was immortalized in one of the greatest war-movies of all time!
So, the next time you hear the whistle of the theme-music of the movie, take a moment to think about this tourist paradise that braved the atrocities of a brutal Japanese Military!
Sukothai Historical Park
Imagine a place that is dotted with an abundance of temples for Hinduism, Buddhism and Animism, spanning about five dynasties – the Sukothai, Ayuttha, Khmer, Lanka and Dvaravati! Doesn’t the very mention of these make you go wide-mouthed with awe? This is what the Sukothai Historical Complex is all about!
Being a home to 21 temples constructed across many centuries, this place is also blessed in multiple dimensions with a plenty of lakes and trees!! This is a place that has to be a must-visit on your trip to Thailand!
No wonder, the name of the place ‘Sukothai’ translates to ‘Dawn of Happiness’ in the local language Pali!
Some cities have had a historic importance pertaining to a ruling dynasty, and some of them have disappeared in the annals of time! Some of them, however, stand out by defying all the powers that try to subdue their awesomeness. Here’s one such pinnacle – the Chiang Saen!
The Chiang Saen was one of the earliest settlement in Thailand, boasting of a legacy that predates the present by about 1500 years, when the Chinese and the Mongoloids moved into the rainforests of Southeast Asia. Having had its heydays in the time of Lanna kinks, this place was ransacked by King Rama I, and it had remained a ghost town left with a few remnants of its glorious past until the 19th Century. It sits on the banks of the Mekong, and today, it is one of the most sought-after places to visit in Thailand! One add-on to the attraction-quotient of the place is the 1200 Kg-heavy Buddha Statue!
Pu Phra Bat
No, this place has got nothing to do with the Cricketing world or the DC Comics World. This is a piece of history in Thailand that is way ahead of what we know as ‘history’. The Pu Phra Bat is known for its unusual rock formations that are over 6000 years old. Research suggests that these rock-formations might have been results of continuous erosions. The earlier human inhabitants of Thailand used these rocks are canvasses to showcase their artsiness, the vestiges of which can be seen on the rocks even today!
These rocks also carry with them, some history from the Khmer and Dvaravati empires. There’s a ‘Tangled’ like legend that says one king hid his beautiful daughter in one of the cave-rock formations until she managed to escape with her Prince Charming!! And we thought Disney was innovative!!
The Phanom Rung
The Phanom Rung is what a loud trumpet of the prosperity and power of Khmer looks like! Built between the 13th and 14th centuries, this is essentially a Temple Complex. It was started as a center of Hindu Worship, and later transformed into a Buddhist Shrine, but retaining the elements of Hindu Architecture and worship.
The temples are lined in such a way to reflect the structure of ‘Kailash’ or the Abode of Lord Shiva. There are some spaces where the importance to the deity Vishnu is also seen! Thailand, it seems, is not only a place where Hinduism and Buddhism co-existed, but even Saivism and Vaishnavism co-existed!!
In Civics… let’s not forget History:
Yes, it is true that today’s awesomeness of Thailand is built on parties, beaches and massage-parlors. However, in all this, let’s not forget that this quaint South East Asian country has a great history to boast about, and for us to visit – and this history is probably richer than that of Europe and surely richer than the ‘discovered’ lands on the West of the Atlantic!!