I finished my last post describing the Ubon Ratchathani candle festival and more HERE with the words “On the way about 70 km out of Roi Et we spotted this chedi on a hill and decided to have a look. I know that I am yet again being wat obsessed but trust me this has the potential (it’s still being constructed) to become one of the most impressive temples you will see in Thailand. I will cover it with lots of photos in my next post.” Let’s see if I can convince you the last part of this statement might be true.
The problems of finding places in Thailand is nicely illustrated by the signage for this wat. If you go to Google maps you will need to search under the title name of this post. However if you are driving along looking for the signpost to the wat you would go straight past this one, which is in fact the road you want! My Garmin GPS has the coordinates as N 16 19.136′ E104 17.329′, 280km from us at Si Bun Ruang.
We only found the place by accident without knowing its name and got local directions so the difference in names didn’t bother us.
Luckily the wat is well described in Renown Travel’s website, which is one of the most researched sites I have found and well worth a visit HERE, so I can actually give you some background information courtesy of someone else (although some words have been borrowed from Wikipedia):
The Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkol or “The Great, Victorious and Auspicious Pagoda” is one of the largest chedis (pagoda) in Thailand. It is located on the grounds of the Wat Pha Namthip Thep Prasit Vararam, a temple complex in Roi Et province in rural North Eastern Thailand.
This huge chedi is 101 meters long, 101 meters wide and 101 meters high and was built on a plot measuring 101 Rai, which is about 40 acres. The number 101 comes from the name of the province it is located in, namely Roi Et, which means 101 in Thai.
The chedi, which is also known as Phra Maha Chedi Chai Mongkhon is highly revered in Roi Et province, since relics of the Buddha are contained in the top of the pagoda.
The fairly new chedi was designed by the Department of Fine Arts, and was built to serve as a center of learning for Buddhist monks. The very elegantly shaped chedi is painted in white color and very elaborately decorated in golden colored artwork in modern style. Surrounding the chedi are eight smaller pagodas. The finial on top of the chedi is made of 60 kilos of pure gold.
The chedi and temple are located on top of Nam Yoi cliff, from where you will have a wonderful view of the surrounding rural area.
Ignore the following if understanding a little of the Thai language isn’t of interest:
I will try to add some of my own observations as I tend to do that have no direct bearing on this topic.
- The words above reference the significance of the number 101 and its link to the name of the province and town of Roi Et. In the Isaan language the letter “R” is usually pronounced “L” so it becomes Loi Et to locals. “Ron” means hot but it will be pronounced as “lon” etc.
- The Thai counting system uses the work “Et” to describe the first number after each 10. By that I mean the number ten is “sip” and eleven is sip et. After that the names revert back to “sip” plus the single number name. “Song” is two so “sip song” is twelve, “Sam” is three so thirteen is “sip sam” etc. Twenty sounds like “yee sip” and then twenty one is yee sip et before reverting again to “yee sip song” (22), “yee sip sam” (23) etc. The numbers up to 100 are then more simple. Thirty translates as “three – ten – plus the single number” so sam (three) sip (ten) song (two) = 32. Forty is see (four) sip (ten) song (two) =42 etc
- 60 kilos of gold at the top of the chedi. Does anyone have a helicopter I can borrow?
Back to topic:
Knowing nothing about this wat I was a little put off when we arrived as it looked like a construction site and I wasn’t sure if there was anything worth seeing but what had been built looked amazing.
The entire area is walled with various entrance gateway around the outside.
Normally these sort of displays have the names of the big financial donors to the temple but I don’t know if that’s the case here.
There are eight of those white and gold buildings surrounding the main temple structure. If you have read my last two posts can you guess what they contain? If you said Luk or Loog Nimit as I’m sure you did well done. I will repeat the information for new readers:
“Loog nimit (ลูกนิมิต)” will 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.
Normally the burial points for these globes are pretty low key often with just a small stone or sculpture to mark their location around the temple such as this:
However here they have built these very impressive chedi type structures to hold eight of the orbs with the final ninth one inside the main building, which I will show you soon.
With some of the outside covered with scaffolding and a bit messy I wasn’t too hopeful about what we’d find inside. Wow. Like the style or not you have to be impressed by what they have done. The wat is built on five levels described as follows (courtesy Bangkok Post):
The chedi has several floors including on floor one, a large hall for multi-purpose use and meetings, floor two is The Sala for assembly of the monks. The pictures on the walls depict the life of the Lord Buddha, on floor three is The Ubosot, which houses a collection of 101 life-like marble images of highly-respected monks of the Northeast and models of monks who have practiced well. On floor four is a museum. Finally on floor five is the winding staircase of 119 steps leading to the bell-shaped hall where the Buddha’s relics are enshrined.
The following images give a taste of the richness of this place in design and colour. I have seen a lot of temples in Thailand including some of the big attractions in Bangkok but this place is bigger and more ambitious in its scope than I think any wat I have come across yet. The fact it is stuck in the middle of rural Isaan miles from any population centre is a bit of a mystery. How has it attracted such an enormous investment to get it this far?
Either level three or four gives you access to a large outside area that wraps around the whole building and provides you with sweeping views over the local area. It was on the verge of raining when we visited so all a bit grey. It would be more stunning on a clear day.
Needless to say in one of the wettest countries around you pave this outside area in the most lethally slippery marble tiles you can find. I was barefoot and it was like walking on ice.
On level four you will find this spiral staircase that takes you to the final level.
Some of the figurines you will discover around this temple. Such good quality “accessories” to this place makes it pretty unique.
I do hope that the momentum keeps going on this place. I often see temples with potential that have been abandoned halfway through when the money runs out and the donors move onto gaining merit on another building project. It would be a tragedy if this happened on this project.
I also hope that if/when completed money is provided to keep it maintained. Thais are great at building new structures and then leave them to fall into disrepair. There are sign of this here with broken steps, bare concrete and a slight feel of being run down (outside not inside).
It is however basically a building site open to the public so some allowances must be made and I will certainly be back to see how things are progressing next year. It is a big day out from where we live but this is the most spectacular building in Isaan that I have seen and I would love to share it with visitors. Have I convinced you to make the trip 🙂
Thanks for reading.