Phetchaburi - Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park
Phetchaburi town is a medium-sized town (by Thai standards) that can be reached from Bangkok in less than 2 hours.
While a small and unpretentious town, Phetchaburi (Phetburi) has a long history dating back at least to the time when the Khmer ruled over most of present day Thailand. Khmer monuments, and temples dating back to the Ayutthaya era, are scattered around town.
A main more recent attraction is Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park. It is located on a few hills looking over Phetchaburi and houses Phra Nakhon Khiri (also called Khao Wang or Palace on the Hill). Its construction was completed in 1860 during the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut).
The historical park contains three hills with the palace itself and temples built on all three. It is possible to walk up to the Historical Park, but we recommend taking the cable car, since, once arrived, walking up and down from hill to hill will be taxing enough for most.
The Western hill contains the royal residential complex. Altogether the place is modest in size but with an outstanding location and view over the surrounding hills and town of Phetchaburi.
Phra Nakhon Khiri palace in Phetchaburi. Western Hill.
The middle hill contains a chedi called Phra That Chom Phet, which is believed to contain relics from the Buddha.
Phra That Chom Phet, Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, Middle Hill.
The eastern hill contains Wat Maha Samanaram and Wat Phra Kaeo, which resembles the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in Bangkok. Walking between the hills is very pleasant.
What is a of some nuisance while visiting Phra Nakhon Khiri Historical Park, is that down below (in the city) some people create a real racked of noice (by megaphones). Walking in the park is pleasant, but all visitors could do without being called upon to visit the local market.
The other important monuments and temples in Phetchaburi are within close distance.
Like a lot of other cities, Phetchaburi also has a Wat Mahathat. Typical of Wat Mahathats (which date back to Sukhothai influence) is that the ordination hall is located in the front compound, with a prang monument towards the rear. The prang at Wat Mahathat in Phetchaburi is presently being restored.
Buddhas at Wat Mahathat.
The Khmer period of Phetchaburi history is best presented by the prangs at Wat Kamphaeng Laeng. Presently four prangs are still standing in this temple compound. It is believed that they were constructed during the early Angkorean period of the Khmer empire.
One of the Khmer prangs at Wat Kamphaeng Laeng, Phetchaburi
There are two temples which have mural paintings as an important attraction : Wat Yai Suwannaram and Wat Ko Kaeo Suttharam.
We have to elaborate a bit and tell you that mural paintings in Thai wats are much in decline.
Most important is that there is a problem of 'engineering'. The paintings obviously are on the walls of the temples. Therefore they suffer badly when water is allowed to creep up the wall structures.
Secondly, there is a tendency in Thai temple compounds to regurlarly rebuild important temple structures. When this happens, an old ordination hall may simple become abondoned and not receiving any more necessary maintainance.
Thirdly, (we presume), the value of preserving these mural paintings is not well appreciated.
We found the mural paintings at Wat Ko Kaeo Suttharam to be most striking and better maintained than the ones at Wat Yai Suwannaram.
At Wat Ko, the Buddha's lifestory as well as celestial beings are illustrated.
Mural painting at Wat Ko Kaeo Suttharam, Phetchaburi.The paintings also show (see examples) depictions of foreigners.
Mural painting at Wat Ko Kaeo Suttharam, Phetchaburi
The mural painting at Wat Yai Suwannaram have a different theme. At Wat Yai Suwannaram celestial beings and dvarapalas (door-Guardians) are displayed. The paintings reportedly date back to the early 17th century. Despite being restored in the 1960's we found that most of the mural painting at lower locations are in bad need of repair again.
Buddha images at Wat Yai Suwannaram, Phetchaburi
We want to tell you again the Phetchaburi is within easy reach of Bangkok and well worth a visit. The main attractions we described are located relatively close together. It is not certain however that you will be able to visit the temples with mural paintings easily, as often old temple compound are closed off for casual visitors, and the temple abbot should be contacted for permission to enter.