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Bromsgrove International School, Bangkok, Year 11

12-16 February 2018

Exploring Sukhothai

Students from Bromsgrove where whisked by the Barge Program back in time to the year 1239, the beginning of the Phra Ruang Dynasty, when Pho Kuhn Sri Indraditya fought the Khmer ruling the city, driving them from the area and establishing Sukhothai as the first true Kingdom of Siam.

After a visit to the famous Wat Sri Chum and it’s Whispering Buddha, our historical exploration took us to the Ramkhamhaeng Museum, with students uncovering the development of the first Thai alphabet and Thai language and the establishment of Theravada Buddhism as the countries official religion by King Ramkhamhaeng. Further investigations uncovered the early Khmer and Hindu influences on design in the region and the development of the region, leading to the famous and distinctive “Sukhothai” architectural and design style. Observation of artefacts including a large ceramic and pottery collection in the museum also told the story of the establishment of trade in the area by King Ramkhamhaeng, with the locally made and distinctive Sanghalok pottery proving an extremely valuable trading commodity.

It was then time to take to Sukhothai Historical Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, to undertake first hand observation and investigations. A cycle round the park revealed further evidence of early Khmer influences at Wat Si Sawai, originally a Hindu temple built in in the Khmer style with a rounded central prang similar to the famous Khmer capital, Angkor Wat. Development of a more distinctive style was shown by the lotus bud shaped chedis of Wat Mahatat, Sukhothais’ largest temple and centre of the ancient city.

After exploring the ancient city and learning about the establishment of the first kingdom of Thailand, and it’s importance in developing Thai language, architecture and religion, it was time to find out what local culture still survived and a homestay at Baan Na Ton Chan was a perfect opportunity. After being welcomed by our host families, students spent time preparing a shared meal, which was followed by a display of the local traditional dances and music and an official welcome with a Bai Sii ceremony, bringing good luck to visitors.

After a very comfortable night with the families and a delicious breakfast of locally grown produce traditionally prepared, the morning bought a chance to get involved with local crafts, including traditional weaving, creating natural fabric dyes using local plants and making jewelry from coconut shell beads, as well as cooking some delicious local snacks.

Our final day gave the students the opportunity to give something back to the community with a visit a local primary school and help to teach English classes and to build the beginnings of a new classroom. English lessons covered topics ranging from colours and how to order food to what I want to be when I grow up!

At 90 years old, Nongorbumpen Primary school has had an increasing number of pupils attend and teachers were grateful for the assistance to expand their classroom space. Working with construction students from Si Satchanalai Vocational College, the Bromsgrove team were put to work with a pile of 600 bricks to start off the new classrooms. Not a group to shy away from a challenge the group rolled up their sleeves and proved to be an excellent group of wall builders! With the Bromsgrove students and teachers guided by the college students and working alongside the Barge team and head teacher and staff from the primary school it was truly a communal effort with much shared knowledge and laughter!

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