Some of the venues for the Bangkok Art Biennale 2022 Exhibition were inscribed by UNESCO as ones of the World Heritage sites. This has become a springboard for projecting the prosperity and elegance in our minds, and also led our thoughts and imagination to travel far beyond the actual site of Bangkok to the culturally rich spot of Sukhothai, the ancient city with over 700 years of history.
Perhaps the ancient culture, including the old way of living that was closely attached to religious beliefs or holy places, could be the true and strong spirit of Thai people – the spirit that will always be reflected through the course of different eras. Let’s step back in time and enjoy the culture reflecting Sukhothai arts simultaneously.
We will start this trip with the afternoon visit at Wat Prayurawongsawas Worawihan. Similar to Sukhothai, the Main Chedi (Great Stupa) here won an Award of Excellence in 2013 from UNESCO. This large white bell-shaped Lanka style chedi was constructed in the period of Rattanakosin. Displayed in the compound of this temple, there are totally 6 pieces of art works from Bangkok Art Biennale 2022(BAB). Visiting this site gives you the ‘Treasure Hunt’ mood where you will hunt for these pieces of art works that are hidden in the unpredictable spots.
For the exhibition at Wat Prayun, Leave Here Your Fear by artist: Alicia Fram is is strongly recommended. This stainless Pyramid Sculpture is displayed in the area of Khao Mo in this temple’s compound. This piece of arts is developed based on the sacredness of this temple. Visitors will write down their fears on the provided paper and put it into the sculpture. In the end, the artist aims to encourage visitors to release their concerns, issues and fears in order that true happiness is brought to their life.
Then, let’s try hunting for the artist Be Takerng Pattanopas’ works around the area of the Main Chedi. His Mortalverse AR discusses gay marriage and Buddhist’s endless cycles of birth-and-death with spiritual practice for salvation. It has been well blended in with the surrounding of the Main Chedi.
Takerng has intended for the audience to interact with his artwork via Instagram that leads to interactive animation. The artist deliberately criticizes how limited and inaccessible the contemporary arts could be. Meanwhile, spiritual aspect is conveyed through modern technique and technology.
Displayed inside the sermon hall is the mixed media installation of the Malay artist, Yee I-Lann, comprising the “Pangkis” video, the “karaoke” mats – Water Floods the River Bank, Hello from the Outside”, the long ritualistic white mat. I-Lann’s artworks address the engagement of the local community.
Many elements you experience at Wat Prayun, be it the Lanka-style Chedi or religious belief, are the heritage of the Sukhothai Kingdom. Plenty of evidences including stelae, ancient sites, or chronicles are there for us to dive deeper into the inquiries. This quest has turned “Sukhothai” into one of the most desired spots for tourists and travelers all over the world. Nowadays, the 430-kilometer distance from Bangkok to Sukhothai is no longer the barrier to exploring this ancient city. It is now convenient to reach the Sukhothai airport in just 1.20 hour.
Plenty of evidences including stelae, ancient sites, or chronicles are there for us to dive deeper into the inquiries. This quest has turned “Sukhothai” into one of the most desired spots for tourists and travelers all over the world.
“The Dawn of Happiness” is how Sukhothai is known for. It is recommended that you take a further trip to view the dawn over the Chaophraya River at Wat Arun Ratchawararam - the ancient temple boasting its name after the beauty of the dawn.
The main Prang of Wat Arun is iconic amongst tourists. Apart from this, there is Sukhothai’s sacred Buddha statue which has been housed in the Vihara of this temple. This Buddha image owns a an important history. In the past, this statue had been enshrined in the old sermon hall, which no longer exists at present. It is believed that this statue had been completely plastered to hide from the enemy during the evacuation by boats to Thonburi led by King Taksin in the 2nd Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767. Later the plaster on the statue was cracked and flaking revealing the ancient bronze Buddha image gorgeously made in the Sukhothai art style. Afterwards, this statue was enshrined in the Phra Vihara of Wat Arun so that visitors are able to pay homage while praying for good fortune for their life and family.
In the courtyard close to the bank, Nawin Nuthong’s Aleaf Project is displayed. The artist has raised questions on the accuracy of the of history that have been verbally passed on.
Aleaf by Nawin Nuthong
After Wat Arun, we recommend a little journey on a ferry boat across the river to enjoy the elegance of Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimon Mangkhalaram (Wat Pho) and its pleasant atmosphere.
In the courtyard of this temple, Antony Gormley’s sculptures artworks: “Contain” and “Connect” are eye-catchingly displayed. This area around the cloister of the Vihara of Phra Nagaprok isstrategically chosen to encourage audiences to take a sight-seeing tour around the temple at the same time.
In the complex of Wat Pho, apart from the most visited Reclining Buddha, the 4-direction Phra Viharas is also the place not to be missed. This is where Buddha images from different parts of Thailand are enshrined. Two of these statues are from Sukhothai; one is housed in the West Vihara, Nagaprok direction with Phra Budha Chinnasri and the other in the South Vihara, Pancavaggiya Direction with Phra Budha Chinnaraja performing his first sermon to the five disciples.
Placed inside the Vihara is anonymous Buddha head casted in aluminum the artwork: Melting Void: Molds of the Mind, created by Montien Boonma during the last phase of his life. Visitors are able to go underneath and smell Thai medicinal herbs. This reflects history about Buddhism and the traditional medicine.
Boonma’s Arokayasala presented in the form of metal boxes filled with herbs. These boxes have lung-like shape, referring to Buddhist temples as sanctuaries where people found their inner peace.
To whine down your day, you may want to take a walk at Tha Tien community and hang around by the river fora million-dollar view of the sunset over the Chao Phraya River with Wat Arun in the background. Many riverside restaurants are available for you to chill out. And if you would like to dine while making plan to visit Sukhothai, that would end this trip perfectly.