W http://www.sapoyrana.net/seasia/kamphaeng.html



 
Kamphaeng Phet


       With the bike finally back together we decided to head towards Kamphaeng Phet north and east of Kanchanaburi. Our goal was to head up to the Mae Hong Son loop which was roughly straight north. There was really no direct way to get there though without chancing some pretty remote roads, and with the bikes misbehaving we thought it best to opt for a direction where we had some info on hotels. We took back roads that paralleled Thailand's big north/south superhighway figuring we could always get over to a populated area if we got into a jam. We had no firm destination in mind, but the bikes actually behaved quite well for most of the day, and the roads were a vast improvement to what we were accustomed to in India. We were able to make it on nice country roads more than 400 kilometers to Kamphaeng Phet, a distance that would be extremely difficult in India.
       It wasn't till we got into city traffic where we were doing a lot more braking that the rear brake heated up and started to get tight again. When we got out of the hotel in the morning we also found a small gas stain under the bike. With the gas shutoff valve not working properly there was no way to stop the force of gravity, and gas was flowing down to the fuel pump and then coming out in a small drip. Among the spare parts that Yut had set us up with was another fuel pump. We decided to wait until we got to Sukothai, a bigger town, to have the spare installed. Sukothai is only about ninety kilometers north of Kamphaeng Phet, so we figured we could see the Historical Park in Kamphaeng in the morning and then scoot up to Sukothai in the afternoon.


Kamphaeng Phet's Historical Park consists of a main section that is the old walled city, and another section in a wooded area north of there. Kamphaeng Phet was an outpost and first line of defense for the Sukothai Kingdom north of here. It is not as well preserved or restored as the site at Sukothai, nor is it as expansive, but when we arrived there just as the gates opened in the morning we were alone there for the first hour or so. This Wat near the ruins of the royal palace has a remarkably preserved parade of small figures around its base. The structures at most of the ruins from this period, including the statues an figures that adorn them, are made from blocks of laterite and clay brick that were covered in a type of terra cotta. Below, are part of the ruins of the royal palace.


One of Kamphaeng Phet's most famous groupings is the reclining Buddha with two seated Buddhas. You will note the laterite blocks showing through where the coating has weathered away.


Clockwise from top left. There were a number of Buddha images here that were carved from solid blocks of laterite before being plastered. With their coating gone, erosion has given them the appearance of abstract art. Near Wat Phra That this elephant buttress is the best preserved in the entire complex. Inside the main walls of the Old City this interior wall of laterite columns partially surrounds the the palace and Wats. Finally, we chased these black song birds around the site trying to get a better picture. They have two long black tail  feathers with a lone tuft at the end that waves behind them as they fly like the tail of a kite. We saw a half dozen or more of these birds here. This is the only place in all of Thailand, or all of Southeast Asia for that matter, where we encountered them.

In the wooded area north of the walled Old City the most popular structure is Wat Chang Rawp (Elephant Encircled Temple). It is buttressed by more than sixty terra cotta elephants. It was early enough when we arrived to get an uncluttered photo. Moments later it became home to an exuberant group of Thai school children.

This excited group were scurrying out of the bus until their teacher realized that we were photographing them and quickly organized them into an orderly line to pose for us. In moments, the temple was overrun (below).



The back side of the temple has a few elephants that are a little more intact than the others, but the real cultural jewel of Thailand, like everywhere else we have traveled in the region, are the unselfconscious and delightfully curious children that eagerly pose for us.

It wasn't only the boys who were enthralled by Karen's big bike. Perhaps we have a future woman RTW biker in the making.