A memorial with a sprinkle of temples

Lone Rider

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A memorial with a sprinkle of temples

Had seen a picture of a memorial somewhere in the north of Thailand which somehow was related to the fighting in Thailand in the seventees between the Communists and the Thai forces. Having a lively interest in such things I decided that I should go and try to find it and above all to find out what it was all about. As I had no real idea of where the memorial was located other than on a long dirt road quite a bit west of Chiangkhong I shot of a message to David and Mai - the Chiangkhong Gurus - as they might have an inkling about its location. Got a message back saying "Have not seen this but do know of the village and also how a dirt road links it from one paved main road to another" so at least a bit more than my info of that it was somewhere out there along a dirt road.

So, on Wednesday morning it was again an early morning start for Chiangkhong but with a detour through Chiangkham to see some temples and visit my good friend Marcel also known as Brake034 on the forum who lives with his lovely wife Pun in Thoeng which is more or less on the way to Chiangkhong at least if you come from Chiangkham.
7620

It is getting already quite hazy and the burning has started everywhere in the forest. This is near Mae Kachan


Along the way I saw a sign for "Phratat Puk Nong Wua" and, as it was very close to the road, I had a quick look but I did not really find it attractive so I continued to Chiangkham.

Wat Phratat Puk Nong Wua


It took some time to find Wat Nantaram in Chiangkham as it is not directly on the main road but in the end I found it (N19 31.712 E100 18.164). The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) describes Wat Nantaram as "An interesting Burmese-style site built entirely with teak. The woodworks on the windows, gables, corridors and other parts are beautifully chiseled in elaborate designs." The temple appears not to be very old and little is known about the origins of the temple. Formerly this temple was known as Wat Chong Na or Wat Chong Nue as it is located in the northern part of Chiangkham city but later on it got its present name or Wat Nantaram. This name is derived from Pho Thao Nanta, a wealthy and devout man who supported the temple’s restoration and construction and he was accorded the name Pho Chong Taka Nanta (Pho Chong means temple founder, and taka is a man who perfroms good deeds). In commemoration of Pho Thao Nanta, the name of the temple was changed from Wat Chong Kha to Wat Nantaram in order to honour him.


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It is indeed a beautiful temple and if you are in the neighbourhood it is certainly worthwhile to have a look.







Inside the temple there are several Buddha statues but the main statue is carved from a huge golden teak log which was then coated with black lacquer and then gilded. This statue was brought here from the deserted Wat Chong Ma Tha in Ban Don Keao.


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This new chedi has been built over an older Thai Yai chedi which was built in 1955. I tried to take a picture of the old chedi inside but there was to much scaffolding around it that it was impossible to get a good "shot" at it


Within the temple grounds I found again many magnificent flowering trees which I had seen also in other temples but for which I never was able to find its name. According to knowledgeable people this is a "Shorea Robusta Roxb"





Fruit of the Shorea Robusta Roxb. If anyone knows the local name of this tree please let me know.


There are a few other important temples in Chiangkham like Wat Phranangdin (N19 29.896 E100 19.451) or the temple with "a Buddha Statue which sits on the ground" and Wat Phratat Sop Waen (N19 32.197 E100 17.546 and an important temple for the Thai Lue people) but, after having spent quite a bit of time at Wat Nantaram, these temples could not really get me fired up.

So, after the Chiangkham temples and a chat and a very nice lunch in Thoeng (thanks Marcel and Pun) it was time to head north along Rd 1020 in the general direction of Chiangkhong. Along this road there are numerous temples and stupas built high up in the mountains - not sure why that is done - but the views from these temples at the moment are not really worth the time it takes to head up to them due to it being very hazy. Just before Chiangkhong I took a small detour to have a look at the new border crossing to Laos (replacing the old ferry crossing between Chiangkhong and Huayxai).





While on my way to Chiangkhong I got another message from David and Mai that they had found someone who knew exactly what I was looking for and during dinner and a few beers I was told where I would be able to find the memorial as well as the reason for the memorial. It appears that in 1970/71 the Thai Government got more and more concerned about the influence of the communists in northern Thailand but there were conflicting views of how to deal with that threat. The military was more or less in favour of using brute force but others like the counter-insurgency people were more in favour of an approach which put more emphasis on economic development in combination with improvements in local security using local paramilitary forces like the Kuomintang (KMT) remnants whcih had found a safe heaven in the north after having been routed in China and Burma. Lengthy negotiations and discussions followed and on 17 September 1971 it was basically decided that some of the KMT soldiers would be allowed to stay and resettle in the areas which were under the influence of the communists. Although the Thai military was not really in favour of this solution, both the governors of Chiangmai and Chiangrai province favoured this option as this would be less disruptive of the status quo in the area.

It was therefore somewhat ironic that on 20 September 1971 or only a few days after that decision the Governor of Chiangrai Province together with the head of the police and the intelligence department of the army in Chiangrai Province were ambushed and killed by the communists (The Secret Army - Chapter 23 - Chiang Kai-Shek and the Drug Warlords of the Golden Triangle by Richard M. Gibson with Wenhua Chen).

So, the next morning I set off from Chiangkhong trying to locate the monument but not before doing some additional sightseeing.

Sunrise in a very hazy Laos


The construction of a new temple with a view (Wat Thepnimith) just outside Chiangkhong along Rd 1129









Panoramic view from the new temple

Access road to the new temple which is right above Naka Kiosken's coffeeshop


Naka Kiosken Coffeeshop (N20 19.299 E100 22.759)


The simple instructions about how to get to the memorial - take a left turn and another left turn a bit further on and you will find it - were a bit more complicated than I thought as there were tons of side roads going to the left after the first left turn so it was a bit of a gamble which road would bring me to the memorial. So after quite a few turns and deciding halfway that this turn would not get me there I finally managed to take the right turn to the left and while the road started of nicely paved, it soon became a rutted and very dusty dirt road. After quite some time there was a village and not being sure if this was the right place, I asked a nice young lady who spoke surprisingly good English, if the monument was somewhere near the village. Lo and behold, I was standing only 50 meter from it but, as it was hidden from my view by a huge tree, I did not realize I finally had reached it.





Chiangrai Governor Prayat Somanmit


Head of Chiangrai provincial Police - Police Lieutenant General Sridej Bhumipramarn


Head of the Intelligence Department of the Army in Chiangrai province - Lieutenant General Jamnien Meesa-nga




Every year on 20 September a ceremony is held to commemorate the killing of these three Government Officials by the communists at that area




Once the mission of my trip of finding the monument was completed I headed back in the direction of Chiangmai. Along the way I did visit Wat Phalat to contemplate what I had seen that morning. Wat Phalat is a quite new but also very peacefull temple in the middle of the forests







Peace and quiet in the forests around Wat Phalat
 

brake034

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Auke, it was a pleasure to welcome you again at our place.

So sorry because every time you come we seem to be in the middle of a construction project, this time codename "beergarden". :p
Lunch was indeed nice and in a relaxed atmosphere right next to the 1020 (and the weekly Thoeng (hilltribe influenced) market), lucky us our favorite lunch place was open......

Pun checked with the monks at the temple where I ordained on the Thai name of the "Shorea Robusta Roxb", as they have one such tree at their temple ground. The senior monk says that in Thai "Ton Shala Lanka" should be the right name?! Have a look here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shorea_robusta
Ton = tree, Shala the name as per Wiki and Lanka = Sri Lanka?!

Great to read the history of the monument, it's like collecting a jig saw puzzle isn't it?

Look forward to the Chiang Kham plan we discussed!
 

Lone Rider

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Location
Chiangmai
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Thanks Marcel for the additional info on the "Ton Shala Lanka". With regard to the monument, I started with a picture and slowly by slowly you get a few more pieces of the puzzle and things start falling into place. My lucky break came when I met the guy who had been a teacher in that area and he provided the info on the where and why. I have sent you the info on the Chiangkham museum in an email with a map showing where the museum is located.
 

The Bigfella

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Great report, thanks Auke.

I've not spent much time looking at the temples in Thailand... but that teak one is a stunner. I must take a look during my next ride (mid-April / May)
 
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