Wat Pha/Pa Bandai Sawan and Wat Khao Chong Chat

I am taking a short break from sharing our travels to Phuket to show you through a couple of local temples that we have visited since our return from the beach a week ago. A friend of mine originally discovered one of them and suggested that I might like to add it to the blog. As I had pretty well given up on finding new quality temples in the area I was definitely interested. The opportunity occurred last week because on Thursday we had to visit Udon Thani Immigration to extend my visa for another 12 months and the route to this wat and one other we also discovered on this trip was an alternative way to get home.

For those readers who don’t live here and will never visit the area the detailed instructions I always provide on how to find the places I write about are probably boring so skip to the next bit. I make the effort because there are people who do use the blog as a practical reference point and actually visit the same places we have. I really hate the vague and often useless directions other travel blogs provide on the basis you obviously know what they are talking about so am pedantic about being helpful with mine. Thailand is not the place to expect signs and maps to get you where you want to go. GPS with coords programmed in beforehand is your friend as is my blog 🙂

Please refer to the map below as a reference. To return home from Udon Thani we would follow highway 210 (centre top) until we got to Nong Bua Lamphu (far left) and then join the 228, which brings us to Si Bun Ruang our home town.

However we can also get back to Si Bun Ruang by exiting the 210 at a town called Nong Wua So (the only set of traffic lights between Nong Bua Lamphu and the outskirts of Udon Thani and just under the 210 sign on the map above) and get onto a rural road called the 2315. At an intersection (Google Earth photo below) maybe 30 km (sorry – I didn’t take note) take the right turn and then you will come across both of the temples covered in this post.

There maybe signage but its not immediately obvious.

The road has now changed to be called the 4022. Keep on going and just after the second wat the road will drop off the plateau and back onto the plains of Isaan and you will end up at the 2146, which you see on the map above. From here you can do the loop back to Nong Bua Lamphu or cut across to the 228 and Si Bun Ruang.

You can see the road zig zagging down the edge of the plateau to return to the flat below after Wat Khao Chong Chat. I have a photo of this later.

Wat Pha/Pa Bandai Sawan

I don’t know if this wat is actually called this. The sign at the entrance is in Thai only and Gaun tells me it is a totally different name. However the maps have it labeled as I have shown so who knows. Whatever (ha!) the entrance is easy to miss and it looks like this thanks to Google Maps.

In itself I wouldn’t go out of my way to see this wat. However as part of the “package tour” of doing this circuit it is worth a little time. The few temple buildings are nothing so ignore them and continue until you reach the top of the hill and find this chedi at the top (Chedi is an alternative term for a Buddhist stupa, mainly used in Thailand) with views over the surrounding area.

The usual built but never maintained Thai effort that you will discover is the norm here. There is money for the new but never the money or perhaps the inclination to look after what is already there.

Looking down on farmland and across to the second wat we will get to shortly on the far hill, which is only a dot in this photo.

We are well into the dry and smoky season here, the latter caused by the burning of just about everything this time of year described with words pinched from another topic stating:

The regional haze in Northern Thailand, Burma, and Laos involves several different types of slash and burn agriculture, including rice cultivation, converting forest land into fields, burning undergrowth by foragers, or simply getting rid of organic matter and garbage on farms while it’s dry.

This was a particularly bad day for smoke so what looks like mist in the photos is smoke and the washed out sky colour was exactly as shown.

I am on a roll with my occasional outbursts on Thai matters after having a slight go at the Big Buddha wat in Phuket, which you can read about in my last post HERE so I will continue to work through it using the following photo as an example.

Where else would you put the lightning conductor cable, which is what I presume this is?

In a vastly generalised statement I will say that having lived here for nearly four years I believe that Thais on the whole have a very different attitude to presentation than many of us westerners. I suspect that developing an eye for the way things look as well as how they work is the result of societies with more money to spend on such things than Thailand, which in only more recent years has become more affluent and that’s still not so widespread especially in Isaan.

For example, as a westerner I choose and can afford to spend 300 baht to have an electrical cable hidden behind the wall in my house for a powerpoint. A Thai will take the 150 baht option and have the cable nailed to the outside of the wall. Both methods achieve exactly the same thing but one looks “nice” while the other doesn’t (in my opinion only). Where 300 baht for a day’s work is common the half price powerpoint looks pretty good and the eyes can disengage from the visuals.

This theory explains so much of what you see here, which is the practical taking priority over the way things look. As you can see from the photo above a cable has been attached to the wall of the chedi. The ugliness of it would never have been questioned or thought about. The main object was to do a job, that has been achieved, mission accomplished. It is an attitude that so many farang struggle with on a more everyday basis when trying to build a quality western standard house in Thailand. I am someone who has been through this process so I can well relate.

Off my hobbyhorse and back to the chedi (regular readers are used to this sort of diversion). The highlight of this building is inside where you’ll find a number of simple statues and paintings of the Buddha’s life. Nothing extraordinary and all within a very small space but a more solid expression of the building’s purpose than you see sometimes.

I liked the simplicity of the presentation.

And as a final “see what I mean” to my previous outburst where else would you put the fans but right in the middle of the paintings? It does the job…………..

The death of Buddha as depicted in one of the paintings.

Just outside the chedi on the left side you will find this scene below, which you will see in many examples across Thailand.

Here the monkey offers a honeycomb to the Buddha while the elephant sometimes fruit or water but a lotus flower in this instance. You can read more about this offering HERE.

What I do enjoy about travelling to out of the way places like this is that firstly you will never see a tourist bus, another farang or often even another Thai. And secondly despite the lack of supervision it is extremely rare to see any vandalism, graffiti or interference with places that are totally unprotected. Can you imagine what would happen in many western societies with an empty building as I have shown you above or this display just sitting in the open? They wouldn’t last the week.

Poor Gaun. She looks after her plants and garden with so much care and yet often finds examples of nature doing better just left to itself. This was a classic example. We have similar bulbs given to us by a French neighbour while we were living in Chiang Mai. Ours are not blooming despite intensive care but these ones are happily flowering stuck on the edge of a carpark.

Why?

Next stop. One more Big Buddha.

Wat Khao Chong Chat

The name of this wat matches the sign I think although Google Earth/Maps also only has the Thai script.

A week ago we were visiting the Big Buddha overlooking Phuket and today we find another one in the hills of Nong Bua. Odd.

And funnily both this one and the one in Phuket are in exactly the same construction phase. Rather than finish the existing Buddha structure all the new money is going into building a grand staircase.

Phuket.

Isaan. You can tell that I have spent time dealing with Thai bureaucracy to extend my 12 month visa can’t you. Those arent my normal sightseeing clothes.

Looking back to the previous wat across the valley. Telephoto so it is actually a fair distance away.

Work has started on the area underneath the statue but interest has been lost and all activity has moved to the stairs. Gaun pays her respects as Thais will at any temple stop.

The coloured columns aren’t as grand as they may appear. That is a sort of stick-on wallpaper not some intricate tile work. Maybe this will happen later once the effort returns to complete this part of the wat.

Part of the ceiling that’s been completed. Some of this effect is peeling off so I can only think/hope it is a temporary stage because this monument deserves better.

If you rub the gong correctly it will “sing” to you for good luck. You will pick the gongs that do sing by the shiney marks under the front “nose” or often the best place to rub is the concave on the back.

Gaun gets this one to sing. I couldn’t.

Hand carved from a single piece of timber.

You can see the potential can’t you.

And a smaller version of the Buddha and his mates. The elephant has water this time while the monkey has stuck with honey.

Big Buddha, little Buddha mixed in with past and current Thai royalty.

More Buddhas on the slopes leading up to the edge of the plateau.

And the smoky view beyond. Si Bun Ruang is out there somewhere.

You can get glimpses of the 4022 road on the left as it heads down the side of the plateau. Definitely worth a return visit say in July/August post smoke and when the vivid green rice paddies are happening.

As is so often the case one wonders at the process that ended up with a huge Buddha structure that’s being raised in the middle of nowhere.

Whatever the motivations it is always a pleasure to come across something like this often when and where one least expected it.

Thanks for reading.