Sunday, January 10, 2010


Today we check out of our hotel and head for Sukhothai Thailand's largest National Park. It contains a huge complex of ruins of Ancient Siam, temples, shrines and palaces. On the way we visit this old rice mill. It still employs a steam driven hydraulic system of wheels and belts that defy modern mechanization. Still efficient and readily repairable, now considered "old" green technology.
Rice has many forms. Between chaff and rice flour is the skin, nose, broken pieces, and full grain. All command a different price and use in the market. This mill uses the husks to fire the steam, and the ashes for fertilizer. Nothing is wasted.

At the Ruins, Panu hires a ride for those who choose not to bicycle. The weather is hot and the bike ride cooling, invigorating and enjoyable.

Ancient Siam in the Utria period, had no written language. The ruins here start in the 1100's and cover the layers of history of the 1200's and 1500's, three different Buddhist temples.

Here we see the main Chedji, (old Stupa), that hold the ashes of deceased Kings.
Above, one of several giant sitting Buddhas. The old population around this area was laid waste by a cholera epidemic and when King Ramkamhaeng took the throne, he brought great architecture, art and stones inscribed with a chonicle of his achievements. He is credited with inventing the Thai script. He was a skillfull combatant from elephant back for which the Thai's have a long, interesting history. He spread Theravada Buddhism and developed relations with China.

Our next stop is 40 miles away to visit a local school, one of the high points of an OAT trip. On the way, we watched for several minutes in fascination as a farmer worked his ride paddy with a motor. Thai's have mechanized from the water buffalo to machines. Now, with gas prices so high, some farmers are returning to the water buffalo.
We arrive in time for lunch with a local teacher. She set up this lovely lunch, all cooked in banana leaves.
We were invited to eat in the "old" style, with our fingers, from our banana leaf plates. She demonstrated taking a pinch of sticky rice and using it to pinch the more liquid pork and gravy entre and bring it up to your mouth. There was fruit and the traditional coconut milk tapioca, dessert. This teacher spoke good English though we tried to communicate in Thai. And, of course, we had the option to eat with chop sticks rather than our fingers if we chose.

After lunch, we walked a short distance to our teacher's house and met with her 83 year old mother. We asked her questions about her life, her children, her husband and traditions. A delightful encounter.

At the school, Mason, the only boy, was a hit with the kids. The older girls broke into giggles and shyly peeked, quite entranced by this "foreign" boy come to visit. After the kids entertained us, we paired off with younger students and listened to them read in English.
Susan and Sheila had this instant rapport with the children, while my student was tongue tied and could barely speak. They are endearing and sweet. It is obvious they went through excited preparations for our visit and put their best foot forward. After the entertainment, we taught them to do the Hokey Pokey.
And, of course, Flat Stanley met the students after they danced and played musical instruments for us. How cool is that?
After our school visit, we drove on to Phrae, which is in the Province where the current Queen was born and raised. Thai's are very conscious of their royals and hold them in high esteem. This province was at one time covered in ancient teakwood trees which were logged. The queen headed up the project to reforest the slow growing teakwood which is now on the endangered list.

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