Geographically located in the Lower North on the bank of the Ping River, Kamphaeng Phet is 358 kilometres from Bangkok. To its East are riverine flatlands while the western areas are made up of high mountains lush with fertile forests where a number of national parks have been established.
Areas along the river bank at present-day Mueang district used to host several ancient towns which had played a major role as strategic front-line frontiers since Sukhothai was the kingdom's capital down through the times of Ayutthaya and the early Rattanakosin (Bangkok) eras. In fact, the name Kamphaeng Phet actually means as strong as walls or forts make of diamonds. Kamphaeng Phet covers an area of 8,607 square kilometres.
Established as a national park in 1982, the area of Khlong Lan National. Park was formerly controlled by Communist insurgents and inhabited by a number of ethnic hilltribes that were relocated to outside the park area. Highlights include the 95-m Klong Lan Waterfall, easily accessible from the parking lot. At the foot of the trail leading to the fall is a small market selling Hmong hilltribe handicrafts.
Adjacent to that is the Mae Wong National Park , ideal for hiking, wildlife viewing, and birdwatching. Initially inhabited by Hmong tribe people, they too were relocated in the late 1980s.
On the east bank lies the impressive remains of the Old City that was once a satellite city of the Sukhothai Kingdom in the early 15th century, and is now part of the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park. Within its walls is the Kamphaeng Phet National Museum boasting a collection of 16th century bronze Hindu dieties and fragments from the many ruins around the city.
Also within the walls are 2 important ruins from the late Sukhothai period. Nearby the museum is Wat Phra Kaeo , the largest site in the Old City containing the ruins of several wiharns, a bot, a chedi, and remains of numerous Buddha images. Wat Phra That has an octagonal-based chedi.
The city contains many half-forgotten monuments that have fallen into considerable disrepair, such as the brick chedi of Wat Kalothai from the Sukhothai era. Yet, the sheer quantity of these monuments attests to the city's importance during the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods.
The red-earthen, square-shaped Phra Isaworn Shrine , located behind the provincial court, contains the sacred Phra Isaworn Buddha image. During the reign of King Rama V, Germans visiting the city stealthily cut off the image's head and hands and sent it to Bangkok. In 1886, the province governor requested the missing parts be returned in exchange for a replica of the intact Buddha image. Presently, the replica is on display at a museum in Berlin.
West of the city, Wat Phra Boromathai contains a large, white Burmese-style chedi that was built in the late 19th century on the site of threee 13th-14th century chedis. A Sukhothai king (1240-70) constructed the earliest of those chedis to house Buddha relics.
Also in the western part are the walls of Thung Setthi Fort , once used to protect the city from invaders.
Northwest of the Old City, but still located in the Kamphaeng Phet Historical Park are the Aranyik Ruins , covering an area of many forest wats used by a meditative sect. Built during the 14th-16th centuries, the sheer number of ruined temples here attest to the popularity of this sect, which achieved prominence during the Sukhothai period. Many Buddha images in the various Wats have been badly destroyed, and are barely recognizable. Parts of the site have been restored and beautifully landscaped, with the aid provided by UNESCO.
Most impressive of the Aranyik Ruins is Wat Chang Rop. It contains the remains of a very large, square-based chedi with the forequarters of elephants protruding from the base, though little of the Sri Lankan-style bell-shaped chedi is left. Many of the other two dozen or so temples are hidden by thick undergrowth. One of the few that has been cleared of vegetation is Wat Awat Yai.
Talat Kluai Khai is on the Kamphaeng Phet-Nakhon Sawan highway at Km.343. Scores of roadside stalls display and sell both raw and ripe Kluai Khai (a type of banana).
The Kamphang Phet National Museum , located on Pindamri Road in Mueang district, houses ancient objects and other antique arts articles from various eras found in the provincial town. These include sculptured and earthen designs, heads of Buddha statues, traditional celadon products, sculptures of demons and celestial and human beings, used to decorate Chedi bases or Vihans. It is open Wednesday-Sunday from 9.00 a.m.-4.00 p.m. More information at Tel: 0-5571-1570.
The Kamphang Phet Chalermphrakiat Museum nearby is made up of groups of Central Region applied architectural style structures. There are exhibitions on the local history with replicas of the city, lifestyle and urban and hilltribe customs and traditions. It also displays the development of Kamphaeng Phet votive tablets and other resources. The museum is open daily. For more information, call 0-572-2341.
Major features in the Kamphang Phet Historical Park include archaeological remains of ancient sites such as Muang Chakangrao to the east of the Ping River, Mueang Nakhon Chum to the west and Muang Trai Trueng some 18 kilometres from the town to the southwest. Services from the Tourist Centre are available, the centre itself being located some 5 kilometres from town on the Kamphaeng Phet-Phran Kratai route. Chakangrao, the ancient Kamphaeng Phet town, has the same town planning concept as the old Sukhothai and Si Satchanalai, with separate zones for religious sites both within and outside of the town limits. Structures are usually large and made of laterite. Religious sites on the west bathenk of the Ping River at Nakhon Chum are built of bricks and are smaller in size.
Ancient Sites within City Walls
City Walls and Old Fortifications mark the boundary of the rectangular town area, measuring 300-700 metre wide and 2,200 metre long.
Wat Phra Kaeo is a large royal temple in the town centre near a site believed to have been a palace. The temple itself was used during important city events and had no monks in residence. Major features include the principal Chedi with a lion-adorned base and a round Chedi with an elephant-adorned base. There are also other Chedis of different bases and remains of several chapels. It's boundary is marked off by laterite walls.
Second in size to Wat Phra Kaeo is Wat Phra That. Here, the principal Chedi is built of a mixture of laterite and bricks with a 15-metre wide square base. The style is of Kamphaeng Phet architecture.
Sa Mon is the site of the palace located to the north of Wat Phra Kaeo with a square earthen wall almost touching the northern city wall. Surrounding the walls on three sides are moats with a pond in the middle. There are no standing structures remaining today.
Wat Phra Non is fenced-in by laterite walls on four sides. At the front of the temple is a square-shaped pond, bathrooms and an ancient floating pavilion which is supported by a large laterite column. The entire column was cut out in one single piece from its source, and measures 1.1 meters on each side and 6.4 meters in height, the largest such stone in the country. A lion sculpture and Sema stones (boundary stones) can still be discerned. The large Vihan, which once housed the Reclining Buddha, has crumbled entirely.
Wat Phra Si Iriyabot is located to the north of Wat Phra Non and has a similar pond and bathroom facilities as its neighbour. Walls on the four sides are of laterite materials with an entrance also made of laterite. A Mondop structure houses Buddha statues in four postures-walking, sitting, standing and reclining in the Sukhothai artistic style. Today, only the statue in the standing posture still remains.
Wat Phra Sing, is believed to have been constructed during both the Sukhothai and Ayutthaya periods. With laterite walls, it has a square-shaped principal Chedi with arches on four sides. In front of the Ubosot are ornamental lions and Naga figurines.
Wat Chang Rop is a large temple situated on a high hill. Its main chedi in the Ceylonese style, is in the middle of the yard but its top part has broken. The base is adorned with 68 half-elephants between which are Bhoti-shaped designs. There are also traces of demon and female dancers figures remaining.
Apart from these temples, there are also several ancient sites on the east bank of the Ping River, including Wat Arwat Yai, Wat Kalothai and Phra Ruang Road.
Muang Nakhon Chum is an ancient town on the West- bank of the Ping River. Its 2-3 metre-high earthen walls run along the waterway. It is in this area that the famous religious tablets of Kamphaeng Phet were discovered. Within the city walls are a couple of ancient sites, such as the Kamphaeng Pom Thung Sethi located on Phahonyothin Road, just before entering the town. It is part of laterite fortifications 83 metres long and 6 metres tall.
Wat Phra Borom That is a temple situated in the centre of Mueang Nakhon Chum featuring a Burmese-style Chedi. To the south is an Ubosot housing several Sukhothai- and Ayutthaya-style bronze Buddha statues. The Chedi itself is believed to originally have been a Sukhothai-type structure, its style having been altered during restoration work, financed by a wealthy Burmese about a century ago.
Another ancient town is Muang Trai Trueng. It was built by King Chaisiri of Chiang Rai who fled an invading enemy in 1542 B.E. (circa 999). Today most of the structures are in disrepair with only ruins of Chedis and ramparts. The town is about 18 kilometres from Kamphaeng Phet on the Kamphaeng Phet-Khlong Lan road.
The Mae Wong National Park forms the border between Kamphaeng Phet and Nakhon Sawan, and covers an area of about 894 square kilometres. Most of the land is rich in various types of plants. Along the Khlong Lan -Umphang route passing through the park's area, which leads up to the mountains, are several viewing points between Kms. 81 to 115. At Km. 102 there is a beautiful road-side waterfall. Other falls within the park include the Mae Krasa , Mae Liwa and others. To visit these attractions, tourists need to go on foot and stay overnight in the jungle.
The Khlong Lan National Park covers an area of some 300 square kilometres over mountain ranges to the west of the province. The highest peak is about 1,400 metres. Of mainly virgin jungles, it is the source of several streams, which flow into the Ping River.
The park headquarters is near the Khlong Lan waterfall about 60 kilometres from town on the route to Khlong Lan district (highway no.1117). Attractions within the park include the 95-metre high Khlong Lan Fall with scenic surroundings, and the Khlong Nam Lai Fall , a 9-level cascade, located off Highway no.1117 at Km. 35 (10 kilometres further on). The Kaeng Ko Roi (off Highway No.1117 at Pong Nam Ron intersection) features a group of rock formations jutting out of the stream, looking somewhat like small islands. Visitors can camp overnight within the park.
The Nop Phra Len Phleng Fair is held during the celebrations of Makha Bucha (around February). A tradition since the times of Sukhothai, it is described on the inscription stone found at Nakhon Chum, of how processions were organised to pay homage to the town's major religious sites. The fair today consists of colorfully decorated parades of participants, dressed in ancient attire crossing the Ping to pay homage to the Holy Relic on the Nakhon Chum side of the river.
The Kluai Khai Fair is held in September each year to promote the local banana for which the province is famous. There are banana contests and competitions on the making of Krayasat (a local sweet), as well as many entertainment performances.
Hotels and accommodation
- Chakangrao : 123/1 Thasa Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5571 1325-6, 0 5571 1315 Fax: 0 55711326 Bangkok Tel: 0 2279 5322] : 520-2,000 baht
- Ko Chokchai : 7/31 Soi Ratchadarmnoen Road Amphoe Mueang [ Tel: 0 5571 1531, 0 5571 1247] : 210-310 baht
- Navarat : 2 Soi Prapanthesa Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5571 1106, 0 5571 1211 Fax: 0 5571 1961] : 600-1,800 baht
- Phet Hotel : 90 Wichit Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5571 2810-5 Fax: 0 5571 2927] : 500-2,500 baht
- Ratchadamnoen : 114 Ratchadamnoen Road Amphoe Mueang [Tel: 0 5571 1029] : 160-310 baht
- Local Cuisine
- ChanTong : Sai Kamphaeng Phet-Nakhon Sawan Rd.
- Kamphaeng Phet Pochana : Ping River Bridge
- Kitti Pochana : 2 Wichit Kamphaeng Phet Rd., Tel: 0-5571-1229
- Klong Lan Cafe : Petch Hotel, Tel: 0-5571-2810-4
- Kuay Kai Muang Kamphaeng Phet : Tesa Rd
- Pilin : Nawarat Hotel, Tesa Rd.
- Prayao : Tesa 1 Rd., Tel: 0-5571-2174
- Pruek Mai : Opposite Ratchadamnoen Hotel
- Ruan Pae Mae Ping : Soi 1, Tesa 2 Rd., Tel: 0-5571-2767
- Safety Cafe : Tesa 1 Rd., Tel: 0-5571-2594
How to get there
* By Car
From Bangkok, take Highway No. 32 to Nakhon Sawan via Ayutthaya, Ang Thong and Sing Buri and then proceed along Highway No. 1 to Kamphaeng Phet, a total distance of 358 kilometres.
* By Bus
Both air-conditioned and non air-conditioned buses leave Bangkok's Mochit 2 Bus Terminal every day. Call 0 2936 2852-66 for more information.