Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Isaan Odyssey, Part 19: Phu Prabat Historical Park

Placed by nature, there were dozens of these huge stone "displays"

Although there was no discernible evidence of pee (ghosts) at Phu Prabat Historical Park, there was an eerie feel to the place. For a start, it was very, very quiet on the day I visited; we encountered few others on our trek along well-worn, dusty paths through the somewhat sparse forest areas, but also the ancient sites encountered along the way.

Up and down the hilly (but easy) walking path to the site itself

We'd left the hotel shortly after my friend arrived somewhere near 10:00 that morning, Suphot again driving the other two of us along the minor highway up into the slightly elevated country area where the park is located around 40 miles/70Km from Udonthani. With two stops it took us a little over an hour and a half to get there.

Many, many things to see - it took us a couple of hours to merely make the basic tour

My friend had visited the park previously so he served as leader for the three of us, and after I paid my 30 baht entrance fee we were off through hill and dale. Thai living in the area consider this a place of pilgrimage as the history recorded there (surrounded by legend and decorated by ancient crude rock paintings) encompasses several cultures reaching back to prehistoric times. One legend has it that the 75-foot stone tower Hoh Nang-Usa below was where a very protective King Phaya Kong Phan kept his beautiful daughter Nang Usua out of the reach of suitors he didn't approve of. They probably weren't deluxe accommodations back in the time, but it's probably safe to say she had a decent view...

That's not to say there weren't signs that procreation wasn't celebrated and beliefs in sexual strength and prowess weren't something just as admired then as now - as the phallus to the left would give testimony to, if it could tell tales - but naturally the head honcho wanted to have some say as to who his daughter would be doing it with. It must have been an uncomfortable and perhaps lonesome life for her if she was required to spend much time up in her room. As at many older sites there were quite a number of these stone phallus around.

There were dozens of other sites and spots of interest in the park, too, of course; surreal natural rock formations, small Buddhist installations and paintings estimated to be around 3,000 years old on the walls of "caves" (although they were really just overhangs and outcroppings - not what you'd normally think of as caves). You'll see more of these tomorrow - there are just too many pictures for one post.

Something that often impresses me while visiting ancient sites, temples and other examples of Thai artistry is the fact that the Thai themselves respect the places enough that there isn't often the need for ropes, barricades, glass cases and security to keep people from putting their hands on things - or carrying them away somehow as a souvenir, either by sample or in whole.

At home you can't often visit a site such as this without seeing "DJ/DaLoveMan" or some other such stupid thing scratched, felt penned or painted around or on it. The practice is called "tagging" here in the USA, and it's such abhorrent behavior I can't say what I really think of people who participate in it on a polite web site such as this. The one group of young people we ran into (above) were there to observe, read the numerous and informative signs and learn about the history of the place. It was both heartening and refreshing.

Next up in Part 20: Phu Prabat dwellings and paintings from 3,000 to 6,000 BC

Suphot does as thousands probably have before him and poses, holding the rock up

[By the way - this is Part 19 of a series. If you found this via a search or just happened upon it some other way you can find parts 1 through 18 by clicking HERE.]

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