Monday, January 31, 2011

Heavenly Aspirations

Religion permeates Thailand like a constantly burning joss tick. Historic empires built great  monuments and replicas of heaven amongst the celestially governed rice fields. The glittering Buddhist temples are the modern-day repositories of divine rulers, while more humble household shrines honour the mid-level managers of the spirit world.
1) Bangkok
Bangkok is the seat of the government, the monarch and of the Buddhist religion, claiming the country’s most exalted Buddhas image at Wat Phra Kaew and several royally associated temples of architectural beauty and significance.

2) Ayuthaya
The fabled fabled kingdom, Ayuthaya was a golden capital ruling Thailand’s central plains and beyond. Today only the brick and stucco ruins remain, punctuated by headless Buddhas still meditating through the trials of history and the weight of gravity.

3) Sukhothai
One of the original Thai kingdoms, Sukhothai’s ancient ruins survived with fewer battle scars than Ayuthaya and inhabit a quiet, car-free historic park, creating an idyllic setting for contemplating the past.

4) Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai is deeply rooted in spiritual traditions. It was founded beside a mythical mountain now bearing a holy relic and the old city is decorated with antique temples more akin to those found in Myanmar than the central plains of Thailand.
5) Lopburi
The imposing monuments of the Khmer empire reside amidst the provincial business of Lopburi, one of Thailand’s oldest cities. The most intact ruin is best known for its resident troop of macaques, who eclipse the temple’s architectural merits.

6) Phimai
Nearly 100 years older than Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Prasat Phimai is a stunning example of the Angkor kingdom’s obsession with monument building and is one of Thailand’s finest surviving temples from this ear.

7) Phanom Rung
Facing east towards the Angkor capital, this hilltop sanctuary commands an authoritative view of what was once the kingdom’s western frontier. The temple’s Hindu reliefs and elaborate naga-punctuated avenue are hallmarks of Angkor’s artistic apex.

8) Nong Khai
Breaking the ‘spiritual spaces’ mould, Nong Khai’s Sala Kaew Ku Sculpture Park is a three-dimensional journey through Hindu-Buddhist mythology built by a Laotian immigrant whole life story has taken on mythic elements.

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