It says in Exodus 34:21 that a man shall work for six days and on the seventh day he shall rest. Women, it seems, were expected to follow suit! So, after being on the road for 6 days, we had a rest day in the wonderful, ancient town of Kamphaeng Phet – hereafter referred to “KP” – not to be confused with a certain producer of nuts. We only belatedly realised this was ” Friday 13th”; but that does not appear to be a thing in Thailand – or not so far as we noticed.
We have covered about 350km from Bangkok so far and have about another 350km to get to Chiang Mei. So, as this town has UNESCO World Heritage Site status, it seemed a good place for a day off and a look around.
The town of KP was founded in the 11th century and built up into a fortified town to protect the Siam kingdom from the northern barbarians – in this case the Burmese. It’s heyday was the period 1350 to 1750 when the city was protected by huge and extensive walls, containing a massive area with numerous temples. Water was diverted from the river Ping to create a moat and there were guarded gates every few hundred metres, protecting both the city population and the temples inside the walls. The temples were mostly from the Theravadra strand of Buddhism which originates in what is now Sri Lanka, but there is also a Hindu shrine here; showing the cultural diversity of the town in its prime and the extent of trade between different parts of Asia.
It all fell when the Burmese swept south in 1767 – leading to the destruction of the then capital of Ayutthaya (which we saw a few days ago). We ambled out on our trikes in the early morning sunshine to collect a few bits from a bike shop – where we met the owner, his wife, his daughter and her daughter – all bike nuts and keen to talk about the roads ahead. It was a sophisticated operation and one that had everything we needed.
The KP Historical Park is over two sections. The first involved a walk around an area of temples, Budda statues (both upright and reclining) and lots of chedi (closely related to “stupas” which we have seen in other places – the pointy up bits). The buildings were made of laterite rock – a hard, reddish volcanic rock with holes like Dutch cheese. There is extensive evidence of fire damage and all of the roofs of the buildings have fallen in, but the remaining stones are hugely evocative of a sophisticated civilisation. The rest of the description is far better shown in photos than in text – so this posting is more pictures than words.
The afternoon was a time for getting a few niggles sorted on the trikes, mending a punctured tyre and lots of reading and drinking tea. The guesthouse is very relaxed and is perfect to while away the hours in contemplation. However, it is nearly empty. Holidays to the Thai beaches have resumed after the pandemic but there are far fewer independent travelers than pre-pandemic. That is great for us but a challenge for anyone whose livelihood depends on servicing the needs of those who travel under their own steam.
Tomorrow we follow the River Ping northwards and, I fear, have more hills to climb than we have had to date.