We were on the road today visiting Khon Kaen, a city an hour and a half south of us, for my stepdaughter’s six monthly check-up at the huge Queen Sirikit hospital. A 9.15 am appointment which ended up happening early afternoon, a good reason to have private health cover if you can afford it as described in my post HERE.
The trip to Khon Kaen took us through the small town of Phu Wiang, where a guy who was fitting some gutters at home the previous week told Gaun there was a good temple to visit. If you search online for suggestions of places to explore outside the very limited range offered by Trip Advisor, which is mostly focussed on the main centres, then you are reliant on tips like this one to discover the hidden gems of Isaan. It’s the frustration of relying on the English script internet. I am sure there are all sorts of places I am missing out on because I can’t access the Thai internet. Mind you between Gaun’s translation of the name into English and my phonetic interpretation it is all a bit hit and miss. If you search for Wat Tham Pha Keong you get sent to Wat Tham Pha Plong, which is outside Chiang Mai in a beautiful part of Thailand called Chiang Dao. Funnily we have been there and you can read about the “other” wat HERE. However if you search using the Thai script วัดถ้ำผาเกิ้ง you get heaps of links.
Having “wasted” the morning we decided to call into this wat on the way home as I am eternally (mostly!) optimistic that the next temple I visit will be worth the effort. Many aren’t but this one was definitely a go’er and therefore it has replaced my partly finished “Isaan – the Small Stories 10” post as the next story to share with you.
For those increasing number of readers living or planning to visit my bit of Isaan then you can find this wat by turning right at the roundabout at Phu Wiang coming from Si Bun Ruang (our home town) heading south.
The relationship between Si Bun Ruang, Phu Wiang and the wat can be seen courtesy of Google maps below. Just out of interest (or not) that large bluish area on the right is a lake called Ubol Ratana (Ratana being the name of the King’s eldest daughter), which I covered in a post HERE and HERE.
Having turned at the roundabout just follow the comprehensive signage trail for the next 20 km – all in Thai but in the spirit of being a helpful blogger they look like this:
The road starts off as the 2038 before you head into small back roads winding through some attractive farming country and small moo bans (villages). Unfortunately at this dry time of year with the rice and most of the sugar crops harvested the drive is a lot less scenic than it will be once the rains kick in mid-2016 and the new rice and sugar crops start to green-up the landscape.
Once past the entrance the road winds through a forest (the “Pha” bit of the name), which would be lovely in season but as many of the trees are deciduous (or “drop-leaves” as a good friend of mine calls them) it is all a bit bare at the moment. Worth a return visit.
Halfway up the hill you meet the turtle on your right and that’s a good place to pull over for a look at the temple and other buildings in this area. Although you can’t see the turtle’s head from the road you will see the shell structure which sits above one of the temples.
To the right of the turtle temple there is a very small chedi (pronounced “jaydee” in Thai) a spire structure containing a Phra Kaew copy, a emerald green Buddha. You can read the history of the statue HERE as it is one of the most important Buddha images in Thailand and you’ll come across copies all over the place.
This wat has three of these statues as shown in that photo. They represent the three seasons of dry, hot and wet, which I presume relates to the Wikipedia link I just gave you containing these words:
The King changes the cloak around the statue three times a year, corresponding to the summer, winter, and rainy seasons, an important ritual performed to usher good fortune to the country during each season.
To the rear of the turtle is a large timber structure with a wood Buddha statue, something I don’t think I have seen before in a Thailand temple.
Back in the car because the best is yet to come. Continue up the hill and you will pass some better class monk/visitor huts along the way on the left:
At the top you know you’ve arrived not only because of the massive Buddha in front of you but because this is a carpark built for huge crowds, which I guess you’d need to pay for all of this.
Once again, like Wat Tham Sang Tham that I wrote about HERE, this is a huge infrastructure built in the middle of nowhere. Phu Wiang is the nearest town and it’s very small. Where does the concept, energy and money come from to build these structures? Heaps of monks around so it must be a popular place of worship and study.
The wat is built on three levels once you get to the top of the steps.
This trip has added another wat to a growing list of unique and special places to share with friends when they visit us and with you too. It’s hard going but the blank map of Nong Bua Lamphu province is beginning to fill up with farang friendly sightseeing spots. I hope we can continue the momentum. My wat list so far is as follows:
These are within an hour’s drive from Si Bun Ruang:
Wat Bunyanusorn, which is included in my post HERE:
A wat whose name and location will be revealed in “Isaan – the Small Stories 10”:
Wat Tham Klong Pane HERE
Wat Pha Silawa HERE:
Wat Tham Sang Tham HERE:
And now of course the latest Wat Tham Pha Keong in this post (or something that sounds like that!).
These three temples are each a day trip:
The magnificent Wat Ph Phu Kon HERE:
Wat Pha Nam Yoi HERE:
Wat Neramit Wipattasana HERE:
Thanks for reading.