Bang Rajan: From movie to real life?

One of the joys of visiting a country is the opportunity to get a feel for the history first hand. In preparation for my April trip I watched two movies based on important events in Thai history: “Suriyothai” and “Bang Rajan”. Both involve conflicts with Burma, the former a victory, the latter the “last stand” in the 1760s, before the Burmese finally conquered Thailand and destroyed the capital, Ayuthaya. The “Thai Alamo” is one way of describing it.

The monument to these events is in Sing Buri, at Khai Bang Rachan. This was only a short drive from where I was staying in north-west Ang Thong so late one morning I set off with one of my hosts.

The site includes an impressive monument, with characters immediately recognisable to anyone who has seen the movie. What is even more impressive is how many Thai people who turn up to this monument to pay their respects, which you can gauge from the number of incense sticks in the photograph.

Around the monument is a reconstruction of the village. The bamboo floors of the sleeping huts looked familiar from the movie, and were much more comfortable than I expected! There is also a building with various posters and models.

As well as the reconstruction there was, of course, a pleasant restaurant. Some lunch fortified us for some more sightseeing.

Across the road there are more artefacts and shrines. The weapons below are supposed to be from the period.

The images in the foreground of this photograph are also supposed to be originals from the time.

And, of course, there is a shrine to the chief monk of the village. Note the prominently-featured sword. Engaged Buddhism?

Of course, you do not need to see the monument to feel the history of central Thailand. The entire countryside in this area reminds you of the movie. The heat, the rice, and the flat landscape that seems to go on forever. It is not difficult to imagine the villagers frantically harvesting rice between Burmese attacks.

It is interesting to put these events into the historical context that we are more familiar with in the West. This was just before Cook’s voyages to New Zealand. Not long before the American revolutionary war and the French revolution. This was not some event of prehistory.

I was interested to have a close look at the Bot. I posted some photos of the recent ordination of a Bot in my home town here. Our Bot does not yet have the markers that you see here in front of and to the side of the building, above the buried Sima balls. The eight markers outside a Bot indicate the consecrated area.

I was pleased to have seen this monument to Thai history. Without some pre-trip preparation it might not have been so compelling. Of course, my preparation was watching a movie, a reconstruction. Still, for whatever reason, it was a moving experience.

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