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6 November: Walking Through Thai History in Phitsanulok

THAILAND | Monday, 6 November 2017 | Views [243]

Phra Buddha Chinnarat, Phitsanulok, Wat Yai, Naresuan

Phra Buddha Chinnarat, Phitsanulok, Wat Yai, Naresuan

Today was a day to first explore history with some of the family and then spend time with even more family.

Phitsanulok is rich with history. While many casual readers of Thai tourism books become familiar with the Kingdoms of Sukothai, Ayutthaya, and Lanna, they are less likely to know the vital part that Phitsanulok played in the history of Thailand.

I cannot do it justice here in a paragraph of two -- or five. Ayutthaya is to the south, just north of what is now Bangkok. King Borommatrailokanat moved the capital of the Ayutthaya kingdom to Phitsanulok in 1463 to strengthen the northern boundary of the kingdom. As such, Phitsanulok served as the northern outpost from which wars were waged with the enemies of the Ayutthaya. The great warrior King Somdet Phra Naresuan freed the Ayutthaya kingdom from Burmese rule and occupation from the mid to late 1500s. If you have ever seen a portrait or tapestry in a Thai restaurant depicting a battle on elephants, then you have seen part of his story that is revered in Thai history.  Here's a little more on it...

In 1593, Burmese General Mingyi Swa was attacking Naresuan’s troops. Naresuan feigned retreat and then met Mingyi Swa with a lesser army. Nearly surrounded, he threw down the gauntlet that no man of honor at that time could refuse. Commander vs. Commander on elephants. Winner take all.

As the elephants charged at each other Naresuan nearly had his head lopped off in the battle, but was able to dodge Mingyi Swa’s attack. His skill proved to be the difference as he killed Mingyi Swa with a swipe of his battle lance, dropping him dead on the neck of his elephant. The Burmese retreated, taking the body of their commander home. Naresuan through this – and many other battles – solidified his place in history.

Naresuan embodies the spirit and people of Phitsanulok. Shrines, statues, even the university here in Phitsanulok bear tribute to the man who worked his entire adult life to free Thailand from oppression. Today we explored a museum that was largely dedicated to the Naresuan’s defense of Thailand as well as a shrine to him. The grounds around the museum were going to be turned into a school, but around 20 years ago, as they began clearing the grounds, they found remnants of a foundation. Turns out, it was the foundation of the former palace in Phitsanulok – the birthplace of Naresuan. Through the years, the foundation has been excavated. Much of what was there was destroyed by invading armies after Naresuan’s death. But it is still sacred ground for the people of Phitsanlulok.

Following our time at the museum, the shrine, and the former palace grounds, we crossed the river to Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat, better known as Wat Yai (The Big Temple) founded in 1357.  The temple is very famous because of Buddha image, Phra Buddha Chinnarat, one of the most (if not THE most) revered Buddha images in all of Thailand.

I have been to many temples in Thailand. Some of the structures are extremely large and very impressive. Many of the Buddha images are very beautiful. There is just something about the temple at Wat Yai and the Buddha Chinnarat that sets it apart. The temple is not small, but it is not huge. So you are somewhat up close and personal with the same Buddha statue that King Naresuan himself would sit in front of and pray to before going into battle. Want a front-row seat in history? It awaits you here. From the former palace grounds, to the shrine, to Wat Yai – you can literally walk through Thai history in Phitsanulok.

After our historical tour, we readied for dinner. My brother-in-law and his wife drove an hour to see us. My father-in-law came in from the village to join us as well. We had dinner in what is my favorite restaurant in Phitsanulok – Krua (“kitchen”). The service there is always great and we had the same main waitress we have had for 3 or 4 years running now. She knows us well. Great food, good conversation. My sister-in-law came up with the idea to get my wife a cake as her birthday is next week. It was a great ending to the evening with family and friends.

After dinner, our travel crew and my youngest sister-in-law headed over to the hotel where my wife worked years ago to show where we met. Her best friend still works there, so we visited with her as well. It was a bit late, so we were brief. But it was time well spent for my wife to see her.

Tomorrow we will head out to the village to see my father-in-law some more as well as expose our friends to village life in Thailand. While it has changed for the better quite a bit in the last 20 years or so, I’m sure it will provide a new and exciting experience for them while giving us some more time with my wife’s dad.

Thank you again for reading today’s journal. Cheers!

Tags: chinnarat, naresuan, phitsanulok, thailand, thailand, wat yai

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