2015 - North-Eastern Thailand and Laos - Day 18

North-Eastern (I-San) Thailand and Laos, 16 Nov - 10 Dec 2015 (25days)
We took this local bus to Phimai, noticed the fan on ceiling and the floor is of wooden plank. The bus looks very old, but still in very good condition.

Day 18 (03 Dec) Nakhon Ratchasima (Korat) – day trip to Phimai (120km)

This morning we took the 9.30am local bus north-east to Phimai (60km) to visit the Prasat Hin Phimai Historical Park. It is one of the most important Khmer Mahayana Buddhist temple in Thailand. It was built around 11th-12th century AD.

Phimai sanctuary is 565m wide by 1,030n long rectangle. Structures are made from sandstone and laterite. It is special as it is the only one facing south while others usually face east. This is probably because it was built to face the route that the Khmer made from the Khmer capital to the south of Phimai.


We had Kao Cluk Ka Pi and Song Tam Thai for lunch at Pornsilp Photo Studio shop in front of Phimai Historical Park and was surprised to have met the shop owner Mr Pornsak Sakdaenprai (aged 77 and his career spans 53 years) is of a Chinese Teochew clan. He was one of the forgotten masters of photography in Thailand. 
 
Sleeping at Tokyo Palace, Nakhon Ratchasima.




We spent some time at the information office beside the park entrance.

The office displays a large number of artifacts from various sites in the lower region of North East Thailand including sculpted lintels and a statue of Jayavarman VII, who was King of the Khmer empire during the end of the 12th century.

There is a remain of a rectangular building "Khlang Ngoen" to the left of "Naga Bridge". "Khlang Ngoen" means Treasury. It may have been used for King and elites to manage themselves before entering into a sacred ground to perform religious ceremony.

The Phimai historical park protects one of the most important Khmer temples of Thailand. It is located in the town of Phimai, Nakhon Ratchasima province. The temple marks one end of the Ancient Khmer Highway from Angkor, Cambodia.

The Naga Bridge is the first part you pass when visiting the site. The bridge and lion figures stand in front of the Gopura (porch) south of the main pagoda. The intention may have been to build a link between earth and heaven according to both Hindu and Buddhist beliefs concerning the universe.

The Naga Bridge leading to the southern outer gopura symbolizes the passing from the world of men into the world of the Gods.

After crossing the naga bridge, visitor can lead directly into the outer southern gopura (porch). The gopura here is the main entrance to this sanctuary and is lager than the other 3 gopuras. Gopuras in cruciform plan was adapted as the wall around the sanctuary.
There is a large corridor connecting the outer and inner areas of the main sanctuary and above each porch is a lintel of various designs.
The rectangular complex is completely surrounded by moats and outer walls.



There are 14 seven headed naga images placed on this naga bridge which represent Holy Spirits of rain or river.

After passing through the Naga bridge, the gateway or gopura through the Southern outer wall, it gives access to the temple complex enclosure as seen from the southern outer gopura.

Phimai, which is officially named Prasat Hin Phimai was built during the 11th and 12th century, during which time the area was part of the Khmer empire. It was constructed on the end of the ancient highway connecting it with Angkor (present day Siem Reap), with other Khmer temples like Muang Tum and Phanom Rung in between.

To the left outside of the inner sanctuary are two libraries where ancient sacred scriptures were kept.

A long walkway towards the inner sanctuary provides an impressive view of the temple structures with the massive prang in the center.

On the main entrance, there is a lintel which is carved with a giant holding a pair of elephants and standing on a "kala" image.

Noticed the false windows on the gallery.


The main sanctuary is surrounded by a gallery which has a Gopura in the center of each wall. Noticed the false windows on the gallery.


This Gopura behind us is built mainly of red sandstone while doors and windows in white sandstone. The lighter red stone are the newly carved sandstone resulted from the recent restoration. The original blocks have darkening color.

The rectangular complex is completely surrounded by moats, inner and outer walls. A number of ponds around the site symbolize the oceans surrounding Mount Meru.





The Prang Brahmatat was built during the 13th century. This tower is made of laterite at a height of 16 meters. The Jayavarman VII's statue was discovered inside. A replica is placed on the same position as this original statue is kept in the "Phimai National Museum". 
The Jayavarman VII's statue inside Prang Brahmatat.

The Jayavarman VII's statue was discovered inside the Prang Brahmatat.







The roof of Prang Brahmatat.



The Prang Hin Daeng was built during the 13th century. This tower is made of red sandstone at a height of 15 meters.




The view from southern entrance of the main prang (pagoda) and the inner sanctuary surrounded by galleries.

Entering the central courtyard through the inner southern Gopura entrance, a visitor will see the central sanctuary with good view of pilaster, pediment and main Prang (tower). The pilasters of this entrance are carved with figures of "Vajrasattva" and the carvings of each entrances are different.
The lintels and pediments on top of the gopuras contain finely carved depictions of dancing Shiva as well as stories from the life of the Buddha and the Indian epic Ramayana.


The inner sanctuary contains three prangs. The central and largest one represents Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Hindu cosmology. It enshrined the sacred linga, the symbol of the Hindu God Shiva.
The central prang contains inscriptions dedicated to the Buddha, indicating that Phimai was built as a Buddhist temple.

The Main Prang or pagoda is on an open area in the centre of the site and is made entirely of white sandstone and is different from the porches and walls that are made primarily of red sandstone. This is because white sandstone is more durable than red sandstone. The pagoda is 28 meters high, has a square base, a portico and stairways and 4 doors in all directions.

The eastern entrance.

On the eastern entrance, the pediment is carved the main gods, "Shiva", "Brahma", "Indra" and "Vishnu". The lintel is carved about one of the "Ramayana" epics.

Lintel over the northern entry to main shrine, showing dancing Vajrasattva.

The top of the main tower consists of five tiers. Each tire has an overhanging lip and is decorated by a serial of antefixs.

The carvings are of the Baphoun style and the Angkor Wat style leading to the belief that the main pagoda was built at the end of the 12th century.

These antefixs are put on the space between each tier to smooth the curved line of the tower.




The lintel on the entrance to antarala is carved a episode of the army of "Mara" (the forces of evil) and Buddha.

The lintels that mostly recount the tale of Ramayana from Hinduism and tales of the Mahayana sect of Buddhism.



The Buddha sits in the center and protected by the seven-headed naga. This statue is a reproduction, and it is placed on the same position as the original which is kept in the Phimai National Museum.


A number of ponds around the complex symbolized the oceans surrounding Mount Meru.























We had Kao Cluk Ka Pi and Song Tam Thai for lunch at Pornsilp Photo Studio shop in front of Phimai Historical Park and was surprised to have met the shop owner Mr Pornsak Sakdaenprai (aged 77 and his career spans 53 years) is of a Chinese Teochew clan. He was one of the forgotten masters of photography in Thailand.


Pornsak Sakdaenprai showing me his priceless, very old and large studio camera. Pornsak is totally self-taught at his Pornsilp Photo Studio in Phimai a traditional little family-run stores that takes passport snaps currently. A half century ago, he helped clients to realise their imagination in pictorial format.

This is truly a very old vintage studio camera owned by Pornsak Sakdaenprai.

Display of old cameras by Pornsak Sakdaenprai in the shop.

More display of old cameras by Pornsak Sakdaenprai in the shop.

As usual after dinner, this "tong shui" is a must.


Click below to view:
Day 01 (16.11.15) AirAsia AK 856 KUL. 12.45pm to Chiang Mai, (1738km)
Day 02 (17 Nov) Chiang Mai to Loei to Phu Kradueng to Khon Kaen (691km)
Day 03 (18 Nov) Khon Kaen City walk around
Day 04 (19 Nov) Khon Kaen City to Kalasin (80km)
Day 05 (20 Nov) Kalasin to Sakon Nakhon (129km)

Day 06 (21 Nov) Sakon Nakhon to Nakhon Phanom (92km)
Day 07 (22 Nov) Nakhon Phanom - day trip to Thakhek, Laos (62km)
Day 08 (23 Nov) Nakhon Phanom to Mukdahan (125km)
Day 09 (24 Nov) Mukdahan - trip to Phu Pha Thoet National Park (108km)
Day 10 (25 Nov) Mukdahan to Ubon Ratchathani by bus (194km)

Day 11 (26 Nov) Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse to Si Phan Don, Laos (291km)
Day 12 (27 Nov) Si Phan Don - a long walk to Somphamit Waterfall
Day 13 (28 Nov) Si Phan Don to Ubon Ratchathani by bus (291km)
Day 14 (29 Nov) Ubon Ratchathani to Si Sa Ket by van (67km)
Day 15 (30 Nov) Si Sa Ket to Buri Ram by train (148km)

Day 16 (01 Dec) Buri Ram - day visit to 3 places (219km)
Day 17 (02 Dec) Buri Ram to Nakhon Ratchasima by train (129km)
Day 18 (03 Dec) Nakhon Ratchasima - day trip to Phimai (120km)
Day 19 (04 Dec) Nakhon Ratchasima to Bangkok by train (264km)
Day 20 (05 Dec) Bangkok - Chao Phraya River boat ride to Khaosan Road

Day 21 (06 Dec) Bangkok - rest day and dinner at Royal Bangkok Sports Club
Day 22 (07 Dec) Bangkok to Prachuap Khiri Khan by train (320km)
Day 23 (08 Dec) Prachuap Khiri Khan
Day 24 (09 Dec) Prachuap Khiri Khan to Hatyai by night train (660km)
Day 25 (10 Dec) Hatyai to Butterworth by train and to KL by bus (555km)
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