The reason you will see so many posts about wats, or Buddhist temples, is that if you are looking for architectural attractions they are about all you will find in Thailand. This is a topic I will cover in my next and 200th post “Escape to Thailand”, which will update you on my thoughts about retirement in a foreign country so keep an eye out for it.
I have to say that having seen so many wats during the past two years I am a bit over them although I can still be surprised by occasionally finding a special one which keeps me following signposts and searching the internet. I thought that in this post I would give you a mixed taste of wats and then pretty well leave them alone for a while unless I come across something outstanding such as Wat Phu Tok below, which is on the list to visit for obvious reasons:
I want many of my future posts to focus more on the natural and alternative sights that Thailand has to offer, although they can be a bit of a challenge to find. For example we are travelling to Ubon Ratchathani, a city six hours drive from us, next week to report on the candle festival they hold to commemorate the beginning of the three month Buddhist Lent period.
A couple of vineyards Bangkok way have also caught my eye as something a little different to explore in time. These ones are supposed to have wine you can drink. I have to say the local wine I have tasted so far has been a unique experience!
How about a taste of Italy at Palio Khao Yai about three hours out of Bangkok?
A trip following the Mekong river heading into the wild North is also on the cards with the emphasis on the natural beauty of Thailand rather than man made attractions.
In the meantime back to topic and wats. One of the side benefits to setting a destination goal, like visiting a particular wat, can be the journey to get there rather than the wat itself. We recently drove to a very beautiful wat called Wat Pa Phu Kon in the hills close to the border to Laos and spent more time exploring side attractions than the wat itself. You can read about this trip HERE. A recent drive to see Wat Tham Sahai recommended to us by a monk resulted in the same outcome. If you have been following my blog you will know that “Tham” translates to “cave”, so this is a cave based wat.
The drive to the temple is a very pleasant one which takes you off the 210, the main road from Udon to Loei, and through small moo baans and into low hills with many rubber plantations. If you haven’t seen one in action, although that may be the wrong word for such a slow process, then stop off and have a look.
When we arrived at Wat Tham Shai I was disappointed as it didn’t grab me as having the atmosphere that works for me anyway, although it is highly rated by Thais. The buildings are scattered over a larger area and the links between them a bit vague. The main temple area is behind the first modern building you see coming into the complex. Just follow the road around and you’ll come across large rock formations with this ugly structure attached to the front.
I believe it is more of a live-in monastery and certainly I have never seen as many monks in the one place. The main temple area itself has been adapted to wheelchair access as the abbott uses one. It is also the only wat I have ever seen where photos aren’t allowed inside the temple building. I wasn’t too disappointed as it was nothing special and for pure scenic attributes I would rate it at the lower end of the wat-meter. On the plus side the grounds were well looked after and with new construction happening it must be attracting good funding. If you are in the market for a wat day out then give this one a miss and make sure you visit another cave wat at Wat Tham Klong Phen, which I wrote about HERE.
We took another route home heading towards Phu Foilom Park, which I wrote about HERE and came across this wat sitting on a low hill just off the main road.
As with many temples on hills, and although I didn’t get the name it would have had a “Phu” in it meaning “hill, there were steps from bottom to top or you could drive most of the way and just walk the last bit. As the temperatures were hitting 40 that seemed like a good idea.
Straight from a lounge room of the 70’s isn’t it. This is part of the area directly under the Buddha statue and a corner of it has been made into a reception area to chat to the monks in more comfort maybe.
The third wat of the day also happened by chance as we headed home on the 210. About 20 minutes out of Udon you will almost certainly be forced to stop at the most persistent set of red traffic lights in Thailand. Turn right here and you will spot the wat grounds on the left, best illustrated by the following Google map:
This is another of those surprising finds that pop up in Thailand. The surrounding urban area isn’t huge as you can see from the photo above but it houses a very large temple and is obviously attracting a lot of new money as is illustrated by the building below:
I will try and find the name of this temple as there was nothing in English that I could see. It is definitely worth a visit when you visit Nong Bua Lamphu as a result of reading my post on the “Hidden Treasures of Nong Bua” HERE 🙂
Wat number four happened as a result of a recent trip to a city called Khon Kaen, one and a half hour’s drive to the South if us. A hospital check-up visit for Peng required a “wat” reward afterwards. In fact I was after something different but if you go to Trip Advisor’s list of things to do in Khon Kaen it is very light on, a situation I find somewhat frustrating when looking for new places to visit most places in Thailand. The city’s main wat is called Nong Wang and is located on the edge of a lake close to the centre of town – Trip Advisor ratings HERE.
The idea is to climb to the top, which is done via internal stairs. Each level has it’s own theme, some of which is a bit of a mystery to the untrained eye. A collection of collectables might be a better description.
I know you are probably watted out by now but I will slip one more in because it is local. As you leave Nong Bua Lamphu on the 210 turn left at the Isuzu dealership and then right at the next set of traffic lights and then left shortly afterwards. This will take you to to a newish wat that’s been built high up with views over Nong Bua Lamphu.
Do you see the pin for the Thao To waterfall carpark? Don’t come to Thailand between December and July and expect to see many waterfalls in action. No water! The one marked in the map above is still just a rock formation even though we are supposed to be in the wet season. Just not happening so far this year. Thailand has towns running out of water in the same way as drought areas in Australia in their time.
I know I said the last temple but as this one isn’t finished yet it doesn’t count!
I am keeping an eye on this wat just across the road from us in Si Bun Ruang. The only reason I have added it to the collection is that it has the possibility of being quite beautiful with a very muted blue and white theme. This subtlety in Thai wat design is pretty usual where red, gold and green play such a prominent role in colour schemes. I do hope they continue through with the idea. I will keep you informed on progress, which as there are only three people currently working on it, might be some time well into the future.
These nine globes are integral to the design of a functioning wat so it is worth sharing their purpose:
An excellent summary is provided by the Paknam Web Forum HERE and my thanks to Nu for the following:
The nine orbs you saw are called “loog nimit (ลูกนิมิต)”. They would be buried around the meeting hall (ubosod or โบสถ์) in 8 directions, east, west, north, south, north east, north west, southeast, southwest and the 9th one will be placed in the middle. In Buddha time, when he called for meeting of monks he would designate a place using land marks of eight items occurred in nature: a hill, a marble piece, woods, a tree, a termite hill, a path, a river and a standing water.
Over time, the meeting place have evolved into structural building and the orbs are to symbolized its boundary. They are orbs of something hard like stone or cement covered with gold leaves. When the meeting hall gets rebuilt or remodeled, the 9 orbs are also redone. It is then the opportunity for the people to make merit with donation of gold leaf and walking around the hall.
Another good resource with plenty of information is Wikipedia of course and their entry can be found HERE. The next two photos are from this site and credit goes to the original photographers:
I think that really covers wats. More than you ever wanted to know.
Stay in touch for my 200th post, which will happen soon if the rain keeps coming making a day on the computer look pretty attractive.
Thanks for reading.