At times, one wishes not to travel too far from the centre to explore the beauty of the countryside and Thailand is one of the many countries in which that is possible. Not too far from the country’s capital of Bangkok is the fascinating province of Ang Thong in central Thailand. Located a mere one hundred and five kilometres away from Suvarnabhumi Airport, it is a perfect location to spend a few days to soak in its rich history and culture.
Located by the calm Noi River and the famous Chao Phraya River, the province of Ang Thong was previously known as Mueang Wiset Chai Chan.
The province played a vital role during the eighteenth century at the glory of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. As a frontier outpost, this territory was mainly used to control the advances of the Burmese army during their Konbaung Dynasty, a time which saw several confrontations with the Kingdom of Siam. In all its might, Ang Thong was the last province to fall into the Burmese hands during the second Burmese-Siamese War from 1765 to 1767. It is situated right next to Sing Buri, where the famous resistance battle of the village of Bang Rachan took place, an event dear to Thai traditional culture as a demonstration of heroic determination. Dearest still, is the fact that Ang Thong was the hometown of the brave officers Nai Dok and Nai Thongkaeo, who led the aforementioned repel of the Burmese.
Ang Thong is geographically a small province compared to those in the rest of the country and mostly consists of prosperous agricultural land. It is one of Thailand’s largest rice producers and is known for the quality of it. In fact, the name Ang Thong etymologically means “Golden Bowl”, which gives us an insight into the importance that this province has in an agricultural sense and attests to the quality of the golden coloured rice it produces. It is also thought to derive from the concave shape of the basin in which it lies.
The province is most famous for the quantity of beautiful architectural structures and monuments that populate it with over two hundred magnificent and impressive temples.
Wat Phinittammasan, is a very popular temple because of its old Viharns, as they were constructed towards the latter end of the Ayutthaya Kingdom. Equally impressive is the large plaster-made seated Buddha image in a posture which sees him undertaking a subduing Mara. It measures twelve metres in width and is thus an impressive sight to anyone’s eyes.
Wat Muang is a must-see as it boasts the Big Buddha. This famous structure is the ninth-largest statue in the entire world. Painted in gold, it is made entirely out of cement and stands at an impressive ninety-two metres in height. It was constructed over a period of eighteen years, beginning in 1990 and completing in 2008.
Wat Saket, located in the Chayaphum by the Chao Phraya River, is a temple that dates back to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. Previously named Ban Sa, it is mentioned in the royal chronicles that when Phrachao Chiangmai led the army to camp in Ban Saket, King Naresuan the Great and Somdet Phra Ekathotsarot led an incursion to defeat Chaingmai. His Majesty, King Bhumibol, visited this Temple in 1970 to honour King Naresuan the Great.
Wat Inthapramun, located in the district of the same name, is also a renowned site that is very famous because of the reclining Buddha that it bears within its enclosure. This statue is the second largest in all of Thailand and is painted in a weathered white colour. This Temple was constructed during the Sukhothai period.
Built in the 18th century is Wat Thanun. This site is known for the standing wooden Buddha inside that measures a commanding two metres in height. The curious activity that is carried out in this location is the paying of homage with the standing of eggs in front of the statue. Those who achieve such feat are said to be granted good fortune, and thus many travel to this location in order to have a go.
While in Ang Thong, you’ll want to visit the drum making village. The name of the village is Ekkarat, and it is known for the artisans that hand-make drums. The drums’ quality is optimum, and the recent Four Star OTOP Award is proof of this. Drum beats are an essential and primordial part of Thai culture, and being able to make them is seen as a prestigious honour. Teachers of drum making are very highly regarded, held at the elite of Thai society. For this reason, a ceremony is held every year to honour the careers of past drum making masters. Ekkarat is genuinely a wonderful place to visit for those interested in the traditional Thai drum making industry.
One of the most extraordinary attractions of the area is Sang Kra Thai. This gem is one of the most special of them all as it combines nature with the eighteenth century’s architectural brilliance. The ruins of this beautiful Temple were the perfect blooming location of a number of large trees that grew engulfing the enclosure. Today it looks like a magnificently coalesced relationship that Mother Nature established with this sacred location.
Intertwined around the walls, creeping up the edges, the vines and roots climb and cover most of the structure. As spring comes, the leaves flourish wonderfully, making it look like the bricks and cement always belonged there.
Ang Thong boasts many festivals that occur annually. The more famous are Ngan Mueang U – Khao, U Nam, and the Annual Red Cross Fair, which is held late December to early January. Perhaps the most exciting festival is the Dragon Parade Procession, held in December of every year. This invites god Kuan-U to the Ang Thong Market and attracts many curious onlookers because of the extravagant parade.
In terms of accommodation, Ang Thong is an affordable place to go to, with small hotel prices ranging between four hundred to eight hundred baht a night. Do not expect too much luxury, as this is more of a place for outdoor cultural heritage instead of indoors extravagance.
As a whole, Ang Thong is a small province of incredibly rich and diverse history, ranging back to the Kingdom of Ayutthaya. Be it to visit its many beautiful temples or indulge in its traditional drum making ceremonies, Ang Thong is a province you cannot afford to ignore in your Thai travel itinerary.