SST 2012 Update #12 is written by Max Adamitis, Junior Sociology-Anthropology Major from Messiah College.
On March 11th we left our host families’ care to embark on our road trip fieldtrip to Bangkok. After some heartfelt goodbyes, the group members prepared themselves to once again be together as a whole for the first time since the first week of the program. We would be traveling, rooming, and living together.
The first day, we traveled into the mountains (which for some of us with weaker stomachs was NOT enjoyable) to Lampang. This approximately 60 mile trip took a significant amount of time but we were rewarded with time to explore the expansive grounds and museum at Wat Prathat Lampang Luang. IMG_9224_900x600 A famous of temple in the area, the Wat houses a crystal Buddha older than the famous Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. Its museum has a large collection of ancient money and weaponry. After visiting the temple we traveled to Sukhothai. We enjoyed the pool and our free time at the hotel; this would become the routine for our evenings.
Sukhothai was once the most powerful kingdom in all of modern Thailand. The ancient ruins and vast grounds hold many ancient temples and Buddha images, notably the towering Talking Buddha. Because of the sheer size of Sukhothai, we traversed it by bicycle.
In addition to the ancient, we also saw a modern museum before traveling to Pitsanulok. There we saw a Buddha casting factory and the area’s famous temple, Wat Pra Si Rattana Mahatat. The Wat has a unique and well known Buddha image in its main Viharn. After spending the night in Pitsanulok the group saw a local folk museum that showcased everyday life in Thailand. It contained artifacts from all over the country dealing with the seemingly mundane but forever lost day-to-day experiences of those that came before us. We then journeyed to Lopburi and went to a temple overridden with monkeys. We somehow managed to enjoy them jumping all over us and being cute and fun. After that, we stayed the night at a monkey-themed hotel in Lopburi.
Ayutthaya was our next destination. We first visited a local museum and cultural center to get acquainted with the area before venturing to the ruins of Ayutthaya. The recent flood (last few months of 2011) had rendered certain parts of the area unexplorable. We still managed to climb onto the Chedis and explore the rest of the ruins. After that we went to a famous site where the head of decapitated Buddha image (conquering armies would do this to show their superiority to the conquered people) actually grew into the tree it was placed at the feet of.
That night we stayed in a beautiful hotel in Ayutthaya after enjoying a boat cruise with dinner, karaoke and views of the city at night.
The next day we awoke and ventured to the summer palace of the royal family. We first visited a Victorian/European influenced Buddhist temple and spoke with the abbot. The temple looked like a European Cathedral and was gaily colored. After that we had the chance to explore the larger palace grounds which included the palace, throne room, view tower, and other interesting sites. We departed for Bangkok after that and spent the night in a hotel with balcony views of the Chao Phraya River. We took a boat cruise through “The Venice of the East” and saw many quaint Bangkok river homes and other locals – monitor lizards. Later that night, we took a night tour of the city in a bus and saw things like the Victory Monument and the Cult of Rama V before returning to the hotel.
On the last day of our field trip we went to the Royal Palace in Bangkok. We saw the Emerald Buddha (actually made of jade), which is one of the most famous Buddha images in all of Thailand. Other interesting things at the palace included: the palace itself, a museum of ancient and modern weaponry, the royal guard performing drills, a miniature of Angkor Wat, and the Chedis constructed for each of the former kings in the Rama era (8 in total; the present King is number 9).
Finally our field trip had come to an end and it was time for a much needed spring break!