Exemplifying the evolution of religious arts in the Sukhothai area, Wat Phra Phai Luang was second only to Wat Mahathat in size and prominence during the Sukhothai period. It was also an important site centuries earlier when the Khmer empire was in charge.
Covering a vast tract of land ringed by moats, the site is thought to have marked the city centre back when it was still under Khmer control. The highlight is a remarkably well preserved prang with Lavo-style lintels depicting scenes from the Buddha’s life and images of Shiva and Brahma. The details are among the finest found in Sukhothai. Two other prangs also stand at the front of the complex but are in far more dilapidated states.
Wander further back and you’ll find a huge rectangular base studded with several different types of lopsided chedis, including the remains of an unusual pyramid-shaped chedi that’s peppered with broken Buddha images.
All the way in back stands a brick mondop with the remains of large stucco Buddha images in the walking, standing and reclining postures. Though only bits and pieces are left of these today, it’s easy to see how they were added around the same time as other distinctively Sukhothai-style Buddha images like the ones found at Wat Chetuphon and Wat Saphan Hin.
Compare them to the Buddha images engraved on the Khmer-style prangs to see two very different types of art depicting scenes from a single religion at the same site.
How to get there
From the central zone’s eastern gate, head north and bear left (west) before hanging a right (north) on Highway 1113. Just after passing the old city gate you’ll see a sign pointing left (west) to Wat Phra Phai Luang. It’s also possible to get here by heading east out of Wat Si Chum’s parking lot and taking a left (north). Admission is 100 baht, which also gets you into Wat Si Chum.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 15th June, 2016.