Wat Phothisomphon, one of Udon Thani’s finest temples

Wat Phothisomphon is probably the most impressive temple complex in Udon Thani city. It contains 20 or so buildings, some dating back to the reign of King Rama V (1868 – 1910).

Wat Phothisomphon's gray and gold chedi
Wat Phothisomphon’s gray and gold chedi

The gray and gold chedi is probably the most impressive, and possibly newest building.

Phaya Naga eating Phaya Naga?
Phaya Naga eating Phaya Naga?

I’ve seen a few Phaya Naga that seem to be swallowing each other like those above. I asked my tilac what it means, and she said it doesn’t mean anything, it just looks cool.

Gray and gold chedi
Gray and gold chedi

A chedi usually contains relics, and if I understand correctly Wat Phothisomphon’s chedi is no exception. Relics are usually bone fragments of the Buddha. I feel like I saw enough bone fragments to make up several skeletons, in my time in Thailand, but never mind.

Monks and the Buddha
Monks and the Buddha

This temple is very focused on various revered monks, as well as the Buddha of course.

Altar in the chedi's upper floors
Altar in the chedi’s upper floors

The topmost floor is the most beautiful, with great paintings on the walls and what looks like a City Pillar in the center. Udon Thani’s City Pillar Shrine is elsewhere though; I posted about it previously.

Top floor of the chedi
Top floor of the chedi
Top floor of the chedi
Top floor of the chedi
Top floor of the chedi
Top floor of the chedi

From the upper floors of the chedi you get a good view of the entire temple complex.

Wihan from the chedi
Wihan from the chedi

A crematorium can be recognized by the tall narrow smokestack. This one is one of the more beautiful buildings in the Wat Phothisomphon temple complex.

Crematorium from the chedi
Crematorium from the chedi

One of the buildings that flank the chedi houses a long line of monk figures.

More monks
More monks

The wihan was not open when I visited.

The wihan
The wihan

The entrance to this unique shrine is flanked by 5-headed Phaya Naga.

Shrine with Phaya Naga
Shrine with Phaya Naga

Four more guard the four corners of the shrine itself.

Shrine with Phaya Naga
Shrine with Phaya Naga

Next to the shrine is a very cool dragon in the Chinese style.

Chinese dragon
Chinese dragon
Chinese dragon
Chinese dragon

Please enjoy the full gallery of 30 pictures below.

Ban Chiang archeological site and nearby temples

Ban Chiang National Museum

Ban Chiang is an archeological site in Nong Han District, Udon Thani Province, Thailand. It was discovered in 1966, and was listed as a UNESCO world heritage site in 1992. The site is famous for its beautiful red painted pottery, and has revealed a great deal about the cultural and technological conditions in prehistoric Thailand.

Red painted pottery display
Red painted pottery display

The Ban Chiang Museum offers visitors a look at various artifacts and provides information about the site and its historical importance.

The Ban Chiang museum
The Ban Chiang museum

My first impression of the museum was of its focus on King Bhumibol Adulyadej‘s visit to the site, the questions he asked and the comments he made. He did donate money that helped the project to proceed. My second impression was of the space spent on showing what archeological digs look like.

Museum display
Museum display

The museum does display a lot of different artifacts from the site.

Pottery from the dig
Pottery from the dig

With few such projects happening previously in Thailand, this one offered a lot of history that was unknown before. For example, this archeological dig revealed that Thailand entered its Bronze Age around 2000 BCE.

Museum display
Museum display

The museum grounds feature attractive gardens and art.

Museum grounds
Museum grounds
Museum area
Museum area

The area around the museum has clearly benefited economically from the archeological site and museum. The street is filled with gift shops like those shown below as well as restaurants and cafes.

Street in front of the museum
Street in front of the museum

Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site

Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site is next to Wat Pho Si Nai, just down the road from the museum.

Wat Pho Si Nai
Wat Pho Si Nai

This site is a dig left in a state that allows the public to appreciate what was found by archaeologists.

Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site
Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site

A structure shelters the dig from the elements and creates a museum-like environment.

Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site
Lum Khut 1 Ban Chiang World Heritage Site

Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai

Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai, located a 20 minute drive from the museum, is a small temple shaped like a lotus flower floating on a lake.

Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai

Food can be purchased for feeding the fish in the lake, which go into a satisfying frenzy.

Feeding the fish
Feeding the fish

A sign for the temple features red painted pottery, and also sheep for some reason.

Sign with pottery and sheep
Sign with pottery and sheep

The inside is beautifully painted.

Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai
Phuttha Utthayan Wat Pa Dong Rai

We didn’t spend much time exploring the surrounding area, but we did visit a captive alligator held nearby.

Captive alligator
Captive alligator

Please enjoy the full gallery of 27 pictures below.

Nong Khai, the Mekong River, and the Lord of the Naga

Nong Khai lies on the Mekong River, which forms the northeastern border of Thailand. Nong Khai is the site of the first Thai–Lao Friendship Bridge, spanning the river to Laos.  Laos’s capital, Vientiane, is 25km away.

A pair of outstanding Phaya Naga welcome you to the city
A pair of outstanding Phaya Naga welcome you to the city

The Mekong River is the primary home of the Phaya Naga. Thai cities often have “mascots”, and the mascot of Nong Khai is clearly the Phaya Naga. A pair of really excellent Phaya Naga welcome you to the city (above).

A pair of equally outstanding, and very large, Phaya Naga greet you at the Mekong River (below).

Phaya Naga on the Mekong River
Phaya Naga on the Mekong River

A big draw for Nong Khai is the Naga Fireball Festival held during Buddhist Lent at the end of October, when Naga fireballs are said to be most common. Fireballs resembling an orange sun, varying in size from sparks to basketball sized orbs, rise from the Mekong River to as high as hundreds of feet into the sky.

Naga fireballs, from Wikimedia Commons
Naga fireballs, from Wikimedia Commons

Naga fireballs are believed by some to be exhaled by Phaya Naga. I wish I had attended the festival, in part because I find it surprising that it seems to include fireworks, suggesting a lack of concern with really knowing what you’re seeing. Thai people do love the supernatural, and love seeing Naga fireballs during the festival.

The video below examines the scientific and supernatural views on the Naga fireball phenomenon.

Sala Kaew Ku is Nong Khai’s other big draw. The most photographed sculpture at Sala Kaew Ku is probably Sulilat’s unique, and enormous, take on the Naga Buddha.

Naga Buddha at Sala Kaew Ku
Naga Buddha at Sala Kaew Ku

Along the Mekong River there are all forms of Phaya Naga, like the ones that top the lamp posts.

Lamp post Phaya Naga
Lamp post Phaya Naga

Phaya Naga also adorn the fence along the river.

Fence Phaya Naga
Fence Phaya Naga

Looking across the Mekong into Laos you can see a fairly nice temple complex.

Southern Laos across the Mekong River
Southern Laos across the Mekong River

You can also see a number of houses. They look similar to houses in northern Thailand.

Southern Laos across the Mekong River
Southern Laos across the Mekong River

There are house boats along the Thai side of the river.

Mekong house boat
Mekong house boat

The Thai-Lao Friendship bridge was largely funded by a gift to the Lao government from the Australian government. The picture below shows the bridge in the distance, and also some fairly large house boats.

Thai-Lao Friendship bridge over the Mekong River
Thai-Lao Friendship bridge over the Mekong River

Several temples are among the buildings lining the Thai side of the river.

Temple on the Mekong River
Temple on the Mekong River

They include a Chinese style temple.

Chinese Temple on the Mekong River
Chinese Temple on the Mekong River

Nong Khai has an aquarium that features some of the surprisingly large fish found in the Mekong River.

Nong Khai Aquarium
Nong Khai Aquarium

It’s a small aquarium, but it does feature a shark tunnel. This is the first I’ve seen, so I can’t offer a comparison. Flash photography is prohibited in the aquarium, but I was able to shoot video.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 16 pictures below.