Published: 18th June, 2016
The centrepiece of Si Satchanalai, Wat Chedi Cet Thaeo boasts an impressive collection of Buddha images and chedis crafted in at least five different artistic styles, making it quite unlike any other site from the Sukhothai kingdom, and the cremated remains of Sukhothai royalty may have been enshrined here.
The name means Temple with Seven Rows of Chedis, referring to 33 subordinate chedis leading to a tall lotus-shaped chedi that resembles the one found at Wat Mahathat down in Sukhothai. Either Thai artists got very creative or artists from other kingdoms were brought in to add their various styles to the complex: the chedis feature the styles of Sri Lanka, Burma, Srivijaya and Sukhothai, often with more than one style blending on a single chedi.
Buddha images in various states of disrepair stand in niches on four sides of several mondops, complemented by detailed stucco nagas or archways shaped like Bodhi leaves and bell-shaped chedis at the top. Built atop sturdy laterite bases, some of the minor chedis have undulating ridges that get narrower towards the top, a style that’s rare in the Sukhothai area.
Fronting the imposing lotus-shaped chedi, a highlight of the complex is a mondop with a stucco depiction of the Buddha seated in meditation on the coiled body of a naga. The mythical serpent’s nine heads stretch over the Buddha like a hood. The entire piece is in pristine condition -- even the end of the naga’s tail can still be seen pointing downwards off the rest of the body.
Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo is a large complex surrounded by an ancient well, the remains of an ordination hall and demarcation walls pierced by the snaking roots of banyan trees. The bright-yellow flowers of golden flower trees drape over the grounds for much of the year, providing beautiful backdrops for some of the most intriguing artwork found in Si Satch.
From the back end of the complex you could walk a little further southeast to Wat Nang Phaya, featuring a relief that shows some faded floral patterns.
Wat Chedi Chet Thaeo is located at the centre of Si Satchanalai Historical Park, a short walk from the northern gate.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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