King Naresuan the Great

One of Thailand’s greatest heroes was King Naresuan, the warrior king. When he was only nine years old, he was handed over to the Burmese as a kind of hostage when his father lost a battle. It was traditional in those days to do this in order to keep the defeated subdued. Young Naresuan spent most of his informative years in Burma where his likeable personality and excellent fighting skills made him a favourite of the Burmese king. However, Naresuan never forgot his Thai roots. When an opportunity arose, he returned to Thailand where he declared independence from the Burmese. After a series of battles the final showdown came in Suphan Buri on January 25th, 1592. King Naresuan, who was sitting atop a war elephant, spotted the Crown Prince of Burma. They had been childhood friends. Both elephants charged towards each other. After several minutes of hand-to-hand combat, the Crown Prince was fatally stabbed with a lance. With their leader dead, the Burmese troops retreated and didn’t return to Thailand for a very long time.

This day is now known as National Armed Forces day and the event is celebrated every year in Don Chedi for just over a week. On Saturday I went up to Suphan Buri to meet Steve and his good wife. He showed us around his fine city and then took us to the fair in nearby Don Chedi. The place was packed with thousands of people. It was much like the temple fair we have here in Samut Prakan every year. Apart from all the food stalls, there were Thai dancing shows, singing, likay and boxing. However, the highlight was certainly the light and sound show which recounted the life of King Naresuan. This culminated with the spectacular elephant battle which you can see in my photograph at the top. It was certainly an impressive event and only cost us 100 baht each ($2.50).

Over the weekend I did visit a few tourist attractions in Suphanburi and I will tell you about these later. Strangely, you won’t find this province mentioned in the Lonely Planet. Yet another oversight as we saw some pretty amazing stuff. However, hats off to Carl Parkes, a regular visitor to our blogs, as we took along his Moon Publications guidebook to Thailand. He had several pages on this province which helped us greatly. Thank you Carl.

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