WAT PA FAI 2 (วัดป่าฝ้าย)
Wat Pa Fai or the Monastery of  the Cotton Grove (1) was a monastery located north of Ayutthaya at the extremity of the Pho Sam Ton fields in
Pho Sam Ton sub-district of Bang Pahan in Ayutthaya Province.

The monastery was situated on the left bank of the old
Lopburi River (aka Pho Sam Ton River) in Ban Khai. On the opposite river bank stood Wat
Wara Nayok Rangsan, called
Wat Khao Din in earlier times. Wat Pa Fai was the most northern temple on the eastern bank in the Pho Sam Ton
fields.

It was near this temple that the old Lopburi river bed  silted up and the waterway found a new track into Khlong Ko Loeng (a stretch called new
Lopburi River at present).

In the area stands an open commemoration pavilion (sala) with a Buddha image and next to it some broken image fragments. The Buddha image is
said to be reconstructed from the remnants of an old statue found at Wat Pa Fai. On the opposite side of the road, south of the pavilion, there is
another location with broken remnants of Buddha images, including a more or less intact Buddha head.

Wat Pa Fai is mentioned in the epic poem "
Khun Chang Khun Phaen": Phlai Kaeo received an order from the king to retake Chiang Thong from
the Lao (Chiang Mai).   

"They marched to the mouth of the Bang Lang Canal and crossed over to the side with houses. Porters dropped the loads which had
bounced up and down until the frames loosened. They untied the shoulder poles to take a rest. As soon as they had eaten some winged
beans, Phlai Kaeo ordered the troops to march on to the start of the route they would travel. ‘Unharness the elephant and horses and wait
for me at the sala of
Wat Pa Fai.’ The troops saluted their chief and moved off immediately." [1]

From the text we can deduct that the northern route in direction of Kamphaeng Phet started at Wat Pa Fai. Wat Pa Fai must have been a temple of
some importance. Locals stated that the size of the temple grounds was between 30 and 35 Rai. (2) The temple was situated in a bend of the Lopburi
River at a confluence of waters. Not to forget, the Lopburi River was in the 17th century the main river surrounding the island of Ayutthaya, called
Maenam. (See
Bellin's map)

I did not found out yet where the story was born, but locals in the vicinity of Wat Pa Fai stated that on a day King Naresuan (r. 1590-1605) went
into war, a monk called "Bamrung" recited for him "Phahung" (the Phuttha Chaya Mongkol kata) at Wat Pa Fai. Naresuan obtained thereafter victory
over his enemies. This story could also be linked to Wat Pa Fai being positioned at the starting point of the northern (war) route. (3) [2]

Wat Pa Fai is also mentioned in the Chronicles of Ayutthaya in the time the northern Burmese army came down from Kamphaeng Phet in 1766 to
attack the City of Ayutthaya. The General Nemiao advanced with his land and boat forces to set up a main stockade in the vicinity of Wat Pa Fai in
present Ban Khai (village of the camp) on the western (right) bank of the Lopburi River.

"Meanwhile, Nemiao, the grand chief marshal, accordingly led his land army and his boat army on down from the Municipality of
Kamphaeng Phet to join up with the army of Noekuancòbo and of the front brigades which had established a stockade at the Municipality
of Nakhòn Sawan. Then he accordingly led them on down to the Holy Grand Metropolis and advanced to establish his main stockade in the
vicinity of the
Monastery of the Cotton Groves at the Mouth of the Merging Rivers." (4) [3]

The Siamese set up stockades in the Pho Sam Ton fields to attack the Burmese defenses near Wat Pa Fai. The chronicles stated that "On that day
the groups of troops were so numerous they covered the entire surface of the plain.". The Burmese drove back their horses across the river and
sought refuge in their stockade. The Siamese turned towards the Burmese stockade, but were received with a cannonade. Five or six Siamese were
killed and the Siamese army retreated to their own stockades. In the evening the Siamese ended the campaign and returned to the city. In fact, it was
a very poor performance, which would cost Ayutthaya dearly after.

"When chief marshals, important persons and unimportant persons, advanced forth to attack the Burmese stockades which had been
established at the
Monastery of the Cotton Groves at the Mouth of the Merging Rivers and had their men  plait strips of sisuk bamboo
[together into lattices] and carry [the lattices] away with them on their backs. “Regardless of where you build your stockades each person
will take his sisuk bamboo [lattices], set them up in a line so they are close together, and then will dig up piles of dirt to  take to hide [the
lattices] to form stockades.” Now so many people advanced  that day they filled the plain. On the edges of whatever place the chief
marshals had their litters halted, they accordingly all halted together and  waited  to go on. When [the marshals] saw Burmese [from the
stockade] of the Monastery of the Cotton Groves riding many horses across the river and heading towards their main stockade on the
western banks, they thereupon drove their people forward to attack the Burmese. The Burmese within the stockade  thereupon  fired their
guns forth, hitting and felling five or six people. All those people [belonging to the marshals] accordingly retreated [to their stockades]
without exception. When it was evening they accordingly ended the campaign and came back."
[4]

Prince Damrong Rajanubhab mentions Wat Pa Fai in the recount of the 1766-67  Burmese incursion in one of his documents.

"As regards the forces under Nemiao Sihabodi which came down from the north, of those that came down from Muang Nakhon Sawan,
some proceeded by way of Muang Chainat and some by way of Muang Uthai Thani and Muang San. They entered the boundaries of the
circle of the capital in the third Siamese month (February) in the year of the cock, about the same time as the forces under Mang Maha
Noratha. They established their camp at
Wat Pa Fai at the mouth of the Phra Prasop river on the north side of the city." (5)[5]

The ruins of Wat Pa Fai were dismantled by the locals in the early 50's, as there was a demand for bricks in expanding Bangkok. Boats and trucks
came to the area to pick up all good construction material. Not only bricks were broken out, but also the large blocks of laterite used as foundation
of the monastic buildings. [2]

The former monastery was situated in Geo Coord: 14° 26' 1.15" N, 100° 33 '9.71" E.

Footnotes:

(1) The historian and writer Chris Baker doubts that the real meaning of "Pa Fai" is "Cotton Grove", as cotton fields seem always to be called "Rai
Fai". Pa is also used to indicate a location where something is made or sold (as we have many examples in the City of Ayutthaya: Wat Pa Fuk, Wat
Pa Thon, ...). [6] Another possible translation would be "
Monastery of the Cotton Quarter", indicating there was in this area cotton related
manufacturing or may be a cotton market. It could even have been a floating market, as often we found these markets at river or canal confluences
before. I followed here Cushman's translation in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya: Monastery of the Cotton Groves.
(2) I calculated the total surface of the former monastery on the directions given by the same locals on a map as approximatively 10 Rai.
(3) On the Pho Sam Ton/Lopburi River stood the
northern tax station. We will see further in the text that the Burmese army in 1766-67, at the fall of
Ayutthaya, encamped along this river; which means the river was strategically important for the movement of troops and logistics coming from (or
going to) the north.  A river was not only important for water transport, but also war elephants and horses as well troops needed water during their
march.
(4) Wat Pa Fai stood at the "
Mouth of the Merging Rivers". Near the monastery and in front of Wat Khao Din (Wat Wara Nayok Rangsan), the
Lopburi River made a bend and turned towards Hua Ro. In this bend, a part of the waters of the Lopburi flowed into a canal coming from the
direction of Maha Rat and called Khlong Ko Loeng in that area. This canal had its mouth at the
Khlong Khue Na in front of the Chan Kasem Palace
(Front Palace). See
Kaempfer's map.
(5) The
Phra Prasop River is in my opinion the old name from the canal splitting off from the Lopburi River near Wat Pa Fai and running towards
Wat Sop Sawan, where it joined the canal mentioned in footnote (4). Wat Sop Sawan was the place were the body was found of a princess, who
drowned after capsizing upstream. She was cremated on the spot and the Sop Sawan Monastery was established as her memorial on the cremation
site; hence the name of this stretch of water as the Phra Prasop River. "Phra Prasop" can be translated as the "Noble which suffered bad
luck/misfortune". (Read more on the page of Wat Sop Sawan).

References:

[1] The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen - Siam’s Great Folk Epic of Love and War - Translated and edited by Chris Baker and Pasuk
Phongpaichit (2010) - Chap 9: Phlai Kaeo leads the army.
[2] Interview with locals near Wat Pa Fai in Pho Sam Ton sub-district - January 2013.
[3] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 501 / Source: Royal Autograph - The Burmese Armies Join Forces
Around Ayutthaya.
[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 504 / Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum & Reverend
Phonnarat - The Resistance of Bang Racan (Village of the Scraping Can Trees) and Ref [2] - page 506 - Ayutthaya’s Resistance Rekindled.
[5] Our Wars with the Burmese - Prince Damrong Rajanubhab (1917) - White Lotus, Bangkok (2000) - page 329.
[6] Mail exchange - January 2013.
Text & photographs by Tricky Vandenberg - January 2013