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This is the second post relating to a family day out in Loei province close to our home in Si Bun Ruang. The first post titled “A Day with the Thai Army” can be found HERE. Having farewelled Game (Gaun’s nephew) and seen him back with his army mates we moved into the afternoon with three Buddhist attractions to visit.

For those of you who follow my posts you might remember a recent trip I wrote about called “From Chiang Khan to Nong Khai” HERE. In it I described finding a new site to visit called Buddha Hill set inside an army base. Well funnily this is the same base where Game is currently serving and our first stop post-Game was the big Buddha to show Yuan, Lud and Peng.

I won’t repeat the same batch of photos from last time but here the family pay respects to Buddha.

This is a lovely peaceful Buddha image.

On our previous visit there was a mist that prevented us seeing the full potential of the view, Not so this time. This is looking south back towards the provincial capital of Loei across the army base.

Almost the same view from our last trip with boring gray skies and a misty backdrop.

Next on the list of non-army things to do were two wats set in the hills to the west of Loei city in areas called Phu Ruea and the small town of Dan Sai. Gaun and I had got to know this road through the hills of Isaan and beyond because we drove it six times when living in Chiang Mai, a nine hour 600 km day. We also came back to Isaan this way when we made a visit to the northern city of Nan, which you can read about HERE and HERE (a must do journey if you have the time and transport).

Highway 21 coming out of the city of Loei heading west into the hills of Phu Ruea.

Phu Ruea is an area well known because of the number of plant nurseries situated there, which supply the garden centres of our bit of Isaan. The cooler weather in the hills also makes it an attractive weekend destination for Thais who will go anywhere to experience the cold so there are lots of resorts scattered throughout the area.

The flowers of Phu Ruea.

The first wat for our afternoon is called Wat Pa Huay Lad and although it isn’t one of my favourites it is spectacular so well worth a visit to show the family on this trip. It was also on the way to the second wat, which is on my list of the best wats of Thailand.

This is one of the wats I put in the classification of Buddhism Disneyland  Sometimes they seem to be designed much more for the Thai Facebook photo moment then for a spiritual experience. All good fun though.

A lot of mosaic has been used in the displays just behind the carpark leading to the main sala building. Nothing like one of my “best temple” additions, a place called Wat Pha Som Kaew but well done all the same.

This is Wat Pha Som. Photo taken last year as are the following two photos.

Plenty of mosaics in this temple.

Beautifully done.

However the same meticulous use of small mosaics has been used to good effect at Wat Pa Huay Lad. We first came to this wat on the way back from Nan in August 2016 and the workers were in action at that time:

Can you imagine starting the day with this task? He seems happy though.

I was invited to lay a tile to make my mark on the place. A small plaque identifies my contribution (not really in case you were about to go looking for it).

Back to the present day.

There must be a million of these photos across social media. Lud is contributing his version here.

Can you imagine sticking all of these individually to make these sort of patterns. A skilled but time consuming job.

The elephant display in August 2016.

And in June 2017. You may not spot it depending on the size of your screen but there is a worker propped up against the front elephant’s leg on the right sitting in the shade.

The main sala building, which looks impressive but there’s not much on the inside.

Leading up to the main building there are several areas that have been painted to look like a waterfall flowing down to the lake at the bottom.

A vast empty space. Do they get a lot of people here sometimes or was it just bigger is better? Basically just a large shed construction.

Mind you sheds don’t usually have shiny floors like this one.

The family again.

Famous monks coated with gold leaf. If you have ever tried to apply gold leaf it is one of the world’s great challenges and usually ends up on the floor or stuck to your fingers,

From the entrance to the temple looking over the pond and beyond.

Now that’s what I call a front door.

Gaun’s famous red hat seen in countless photos was blown off Peng’s head in a sudden gust of wind and was last seen floating to the centre of this lake.

This photo was taken on Gaun’s birthday 12 May as a red hat illustration. You can read about our great day out HERE. A replacement hat must be found. I will report back.

And seen as leaving. This is an example of the endless process of building where temples are pulling in the money. A new statue under construction. This is a Chinese scene nothing to do with Buddhism.

GPS coords 17°27’00.0″N 101°24’45.3″E will get you close. If you want to read more there’s an excellent Wikipedia entry about this temple HERE.

Back in the truck we drove further into the hills until we reached the small town of Dan Sai mainly known for an annual festival called Phi Ta Khon, the Spirit Festival. We have missed it every year since living in Isaan and will again this year due to family commitments. It is well worth going to and is being held on the 24 – 26th June 2017. More information HERE. 2018 will be my year!

Just outside Dan Sai is the beautiful temple Wat Neramit Wipattasana (my GPS rejected this spelling – it’s not too bright – and only accepted Wipatasana). I just love this wat. It combines a lovely treed location, stunning unusual design and detail and is meticulously maintained. I have got to know it well as we always used to stop here for a break on our trips to and from Chiang Mai.

The entrance already tells you this is a special place.

The view opening up through the gates.

Lovely formal gardens. Laterite stone is used for most of the structures in a break from the more traditional Thai temple style of concrete painted red, white and gold.

The view from the front entry doors down the long main building.

My family again paying their respects.

The new king makes an appearance as part of the strange mix of Thai royalty and Buddhism.

Scenes of Buddhist scriptures decorate the walls.

Peng, Gaun and Yuan feeding money into a machine that gives you a short Buddhist prayer based on your birthday!

The entrance to the main building with an image of the late Luang Pho Phra Maha Phan Sila Wisuttho, the founder of the temple. I enjoy the contrast of the gold with the lush green of the hills behind.

Terrific detail and no expense spared.

Some photos of the grounds to give you an idea of how stunning this place is and also how well it is looked after – very unusual in a culture where things are built and then mostly forgotten.

A Cannonball tree you will find in many temples in Thailand.

The back entrance to the wat with a shady path winding through the trees. High quality presentation.

In a separate building at the back of the grounds you will find the final resting place of Luang Pho Phra Maha Phan Sila Wisuttho. This is one of the most lifelike wax statues I have seen of a monk. If you sit in front of him he looks straight at you and seems to be just about to talk.

You can find my first post about this temple made in June 2014 HERE. GPS coords 17°15’49.7″N 101°08’31.7″E

This was our final stop for the day. We chased massive thunderstorms through the countryside on the drive home, which gave me a couple of top photos to finish the day:

Spot the rainbow. Sugar cane on the left.

We took a new route home and came across this sort of landscape. The vivid green of freshly sprouted rice contrasting nicely with the dark greens of the hills. I will return for a better explore with more time to spare.

If you combine this post with the last one you can see it was an huge day out. How wonderful to be living a life where this sort of mixed activity and sightseeing can be incorporated into the everyday.

Thanks for reading.