Some legend says that the Victorious Buddha in Phitsanulok cried blood when the Ayutthaya kingdom annexed the Sukhothai kingdom. Phra Buddha Chinnarat is highly regarded as the most beautiful Buddha statue in Thailand. Second in reverence only to the Emerald Buddha in Wat Phra Kaew.
Wat Yai or Wat Phra Sri Rattana Mahathat is a significant pilgrimage destination, and the temple is under normal conditions very sprightly. When you approach the temple, there is a vast market ground to pass through, making the temple visit even more enjoyable.
The Victorious Buddha – casting a masterpiece
The Wat Yai Temple is home to the “Victorious Buddha”. This is supposed to be one of five Buddhas cast similarly at an identical time. A white-clad hiker was alleged to have appeared and helped launch the Buddha statue. In the first instance, one sees that this statue is unique. Just observe the dragon-shaped halo framing the oval and gently smiling face.
The Victorious Buddha has arched eyebrows, and his hair is twisted into delicate curls in the hair knot. Additionally, the black wall background decorated with angels helps enhance the impression of the Phra Buddha Chinnarat figure. The exact time for this statues casting varies from source to source.
Moreover, the temple floor is made of marble. The doors dating from 1796 have mother-of-pearl inlays against a black background. Then on the walls, the life of the Buddha is illustrated in the Jataka stories. The temple pillars are lacquered and gilded with gold leaf.
Furthermore, inside the temple, there is also a statue of the national hero Naresuan. He was born right here in Phitsanulok. Naresuan has expelled the Burmese from Ayutthaya in the late 16th century.
Finally, the corn cob-like style of the temple tower proves Khmer influence and is called a prang. It is said to enshrine relics from the Buddha. The actual vihara(viharn) dates back to the 1750s.
The Princess of Subhankanlaya
Around the market, there a pictures/paintings depicting a princess that we know relatively little about. She is part of a popular cult. Claims were made during the Asian Financial crisis that a famous business personality in Bangkok had been saved from bankruptcy by praying to the princess. In history, she was the sister of the hero-king Naresuan and supposedly sent as a hostage to King Bayinnaung of Burma.
In the narrative, she is supposed to have been tortured and killed when king Bayinnaung’s son, the crown prince, Naresuan, was in a famous elephant duel. The Burmese story claims that the crown prince was killed in the battle by a bullet, so the story differs. The historian David K Wyatt mentions this as the battle of Nong Sarai in January 1593. These tales came very much to live with the epic film and drama series about Naresuan in Thailand.
Phitsanulok or Philok, at the crossroads in Thailand
Phitsanulok is often shortened to Philok, an exciting town, which is not on the tourist map. However, the city served as a historic capital briefly between the fall of Sukhothai and the rise of Ayutthaya. The old name is Song Kwae, the second Kwae river.
Modern “Philok” was built up again after a devastating fire in 1959. is an excellent place to relax and take in local Thai life with a culture of houseboat restaurants moored by the steep banks. The famous and revered Buddha in Phitsanulok is worth visiting this town, but it is also a pleasant place to relax for a few daws.
Topland hotel was our choice when we had tour groups to Phitsanulok; it is a well functioning, typical informal city hotel. Not the loveliest building but very convenient. It is connected to a small old fashioned mall with an excellent food court.
At the local night market, it used to be a spectacle to watch “flying morning glory” Phak Bung Lot Fa.
Phitsanulok has an airport, and there are trains from Bangkok that takes roughly 7 hours. From Chiang Mai, it takes about 6 hours by train. There are also daily buses.