Forest of Faith

Story offer: words & pictures

Location: Kamphaeng Phet, Thailand

Subject: ancient city and temple ruins shrouded in forest

Title: Diamond Walls / Forest of Faith

History, nature, art, faith, peace: an ancient royal city offers all. Set beside the lazy Ping River in the northern reaches of Thailand’s rice-growing Central Plains, Kamphaeng Phet is a significant place in Thai annals. In the 14th century, it was a major city of the Sukhothai kingdom which was the first great political and cultural manifestation of the Thai nation. A great walled city arose – Kamphaeng Phet means “Diamond Walls” – but its military might was matched by the spiritual power of an astonishing array of Buddhist monasteries in the adjacent forest.

The city subsided into obscurity as the national capital moved south. Today that leaves a wonderfully relaxed environment of ancient fortifications out of whose weathered sandstone spring enormous trees, and of richly atmospheric temple ruins scattered amongst forest greenery. Especially characteristic of Kamphaeng Phet are laterite Buddha images which have been worn away into strangely modernist forms recalling, by turn, the sculptures of Henry Moore – smooth, organic -- and of Giacometti – spindly, jagged. Wandering this deeply evocative but little visited landscape is one of Thailand’s secret pleasures.  

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