Tag Archives: Buddha

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai’s most revered temple

Wat Phra Singh is Chiang Mai’s most revered temple.  It is named for the city’s holiest Buddha statue, the Phra Buddha Sihing.

Wihan Luang
Wihan Luang

I read somewhere that Wat Phra Singh is beautiful at night. It is, but it isn’t especially well lit, suggesting to me that night visits are not particularly encouraged.

Front entrance to Wihan Luang
Front entrance to Wihan Luang

A monk did tell us that we were welcome to enjoy the temple grounds until 9:00pm, but the temple buildings were closed to the public. We returned on the morning of the day we left Chiang Mai.

Back of Wihan Luang
Back of Wihan Luang

Wihan Luang, above and below, is the main assembly hall where monks and laypeople congregate. The current building replaced the original in 1925.

Inside Wihan Luang
Inside Wihan Luang

Most of the other temple structures are located behind Wihan Luang, including Wihan Lai Kham, the Phrathatluang chedi, and the bot, shown below.

Wihan Lai Kham, the Phrathatluang chedi, and the bot
Wihan Lai Kham, the Phrathatluang chedi, and the bot

With a a south entrance for monks and a north entrance for nuns, Wat Phra Singh’s bot is as actually a song sangha ubosot. A bot is an ordination hall, and the most sacred area of many wats.

Inside the bot
Inside the bot

Regardless of which entrance you use you can access all of the interior of the bot. A structure in the middle displays Buddhas and more on 4 sides.

Inside the bot
Inside the bot

There are effigies of many venerable monks at Wat Phra Singh, both life-like and metallic, and the bot displays quite a few.

Inside the bot
Inside the bot

The photo below, from 2008, shows the Phrathatluang chedi before it was covered in gold.

The bot as photographed in 2008, from Wikimedia Commons
The bot as photographed in 2008, from Wikimedia Commons

Built in 1345, and enlarged several times, Phrathatluang features the front half of an elephant emerging from each side. There are smaller chedi on 3 sides.

The Phrathatluang chedi and smaller chedi
The Phrathatluang chedi and smaller chedi

At the back of the compound a small temple has room for little more than a large reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha Temple
Reclining Buddha Temple
Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha

Between Reclining Buddha Temple and the chedi is a sort of pavilion sheltering Buddha statues in various styles.

Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh
Wat Phra Singh

The Kulai chedi was built by King Mueangkaeo (1495-1525). When the chedi was restored under King Dharmalanka (1813-1822), a golden box containing ancient relics was found. After the restoration was completed, the box and its contents were returned to the chedi.

Kulai chedi
Kulai chedi

Kulai chedi is connected to the back of Wihan Lai Kham by a short tunnel which is not open to the public.

Wihan Lai Kham was built in 1345 to house the Phra Buddha Singh statue.

Wihan Lai Kham
Wihan Lai Kham

The Phra Buddha Sihing statue (seen in the 2 pictures below) is said to be based on the lion of Shakya, now lost, which was once located at the Mahabodhi Temple of Bodh Gaya, India where Buddha reached enlightenment.

Inside Wihan Lai Kham
Inside Wihan Lai Kham

Wat Phra Mahathat in Nakhon Si Thammarat and the Bangkok National Museum both claim to house the real Phra Buddha Sihing statue.

It is also said that the head of the statue was stolen in 1922, so the head may be a copy.

The Phra Buddha Singh statue (center)
The Phra Buddha Singh statue (center)

Next to the front of Wihan Luang is the Ho Trai, considered one of the most beautiful temple libraries in Thailand.

The Ho Trai, or temple library
The Ho Trai, or temple library
Ho Trai (temple library)
Ho Trai (temple library) – from Wikimedia Commons

I’d had a steady regimen of temples since arriving in Thailand, and the pace increased in Chiang Mai. Wat Phra Singh holds its own among the old temples of Chiang Mai’s Old City. It held a special interest for my Thai Buddhist companions.

Monks approaching Wihan Lai Kham
Monks approaching Wihan Lai Kham

Please enjoy the full gallery of 26 pictures below.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep and the white elephant

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is located on Doi Suthep mountain with a beautiful view over Chiang Mai. It is one of the most sacred temples in northern Thailand.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The first chedi is said to have been built in 1383. It is the most holy area in the temple grounds.

Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Chedi at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is 15 km from Chiang Mai. I consulted Google Maps for a place to get breakfast on the way out of the city and found a convenient group of restaurants, cafes and shops near scenic Huay Keaw Waterfall, just past the Chiang Mai Zoo.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

You can just see the stream and trees from the car park.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

I went for a picture of the river, and decided to follow it just a bit further upstream.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

It isn’t too far to the waterfall. I saw trails that lead deeper into the Huay Keaw Waterfall area, which looks to be well worth exploring further.

Huay Keaw Waterfall
Huay Keaw Waterfall

From Huay Keaw Waterfall we started up the winding road into Doi Suthep. The parking area near the temple actually has a large number of restaurants and shops.

Art for sale near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Art for sale near Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

You can choose to walk the 309 steps to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. Climbing the stairs is a way to achieve Buddhist merit. We chose to pay a small fee to take the tram.

Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep - from Wikimedia Commons
Stairs to Wat Phra That Doi Suthep – from Wikimedia Commons

The outer temple grounds feature shrines and gardens and the walls of the inner temple grounds.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

There are several viewing platforms looking over Chiang Mai.

Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep
Chiang Mai from Doi Suthep

The structure below provides much needed shade for the highest platform.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

The structure itself is decorated with lots of intricate detail.

Wat Phra That Doi Suthep
Wat Phra That Doi Suthep

According to legend, a bone fragment said to be the shoulder bone of the Buddha was placed on the back of a white elephant, and the elephant was released into the jungle. The elephant climbed up Doi Suthep, stopped, trumpeted three times, then dropped dead. The king promptly ordered the construction of a temple at the site.

White elephant shrine
White elephant shrine

Considering the nature of this origin legend, there are very few white elephants at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The elephant below, although the color of the material from which it is constructed, is the elephant of legend.

White elephant of legend
White elephant of legend

To enter the inner temple grounds you must remove shoes and hat, and wear appropriate clothing. There was no one watching to insure that visitors complied. Inner temple grounds are not all sheltered from the sun, so this is one of those times when you have a problem if you were relying on a hat, rather than sunscreen, to protect your head.

Entrance to inner temple grounds
Entrance to inner temple grounds

Various shrines and effigies are situated around the large gold chedi, which presumably contains the legendary shoulder bone of the Buddha. We joined many other visitors in walking around it in a clockwise direction 3 times.

Chedi and inner temple grounds
Chedi and inner temple grounds

There are several attractive green glass Buddhas, and many gold ones.

Green glass Buddha
Green glass Buddha

The Phaya Naga decorating many of the roofs are done in stained glass, very similar to those at the Dragon Temple in Chiang Mai’s Old City.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

Visitors to  Wat Phra That Doi Suthep included many monks.

Monks
Monks

Some cuter than others.

Little monks
Little monks

The temple is located in Doi Suthep-Pui National Park. This is surely a beautiful place, with at least a couple of waterfalls and many nature trails. Unfortunately we had neither time nor energy to explore further.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 41 pictures below.

Chiang Mai: Exploring Old City Temples on foot

Chiang Mai is nestled among the forested foothills of Thailand’s mountainous northwest. Old City is dominated by temples and surrounded by a medieval wall and moat.

Gate to Chiang Mai's City Pillar Shrine and Wat Chedi Luang
Gate to Chiang Mai’s City Pillar Shrine and Wat Chedi Luang

We immediately noticed that there are a lot of foreigners in Chiang Mai. What I noticed was the large number of North Americans and Europeans. It was only on the second day that I noticed the large numbers of Chinese and Koreans.

The shrine's giant tree and a yaksha
The shrine’s giant tree and a yaksha

Above are the gate to Chiang Mai’s City Pillar Shrine and Wat Chedi Luang and the giant tree that towers over the walls. Below you can see the City Pillar Shrine, the nearest building. There is a small fee to enter this temple complex.

City Pillar Shrine
City Pillar Shrine

The City Pillar or Lak Mueang was moved here from Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang in 1800 by King Chao Kawila. I don’t know why this City Pillar is in the shape of a human figure, unlike those in Udon Thani and Ban Dung – or why women are forbidden to enter this shrine.

Chiang Mai's City Pillar
Chiang Mai’s City Pillar

Next door is a wihan, the shrine hall that contains the principal Buddha images of this temple complex. This is the assembly hall where monks and laypeople congregate.

Wihan
Wihan

Among the Buddha images inside is Phra Chao Attarot (Eighteen-cubit Buddha).

Phra Chao Attarot (Eighteen-cubit Buddha)
Phra Chao Attarot (Eighteen-cubit Buddha)

Behind the wihan is Wat Chedi Luang. Construction of this temple started in the 14th century, but finished in the 15thn century. It was then 82 meters high and had a base diameter of 54 meters, at that time the largest building in the Lanna Kingdom.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

In 1545, the upper 30 meters of the structure collapsed after an earthquake.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

In the early 1990s the chedi was reconstructed, financed by UNESCO and the Japanese government. The result is somewhat controversial, as some claim the new elements are in Central Thai style, not Lanna style. The top was not reconstructed because no one knows what it looked like.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

Some of the temple’s elephants were reconstructed.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang

From the chedi/stupa there’s more space to get a good look at the wihan.

Wihan
Wihan

The chedi is surrounded by impressive buildings and statues and such.

At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang

Wat Chedi Luang hosts monk chats daily. Tourists are invited to speak with monks (usually novices) and ask them anything about Buddhism or Thailand.

At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang

We had set out on a walking tour of Old City temples. City Pillar Shrine and Wat Chedi Luang are highlights of Chiang Mai’s Old City. They became our first stop because they were near our hotel, and too enticing to save for later.

At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang

With over 120 temples within the city walls it is important to prioritize. We had a route and a map, but I’d suggest reviewing each temple on any such tour to be identify the ones you most want to visit. Walking between sites is tiring in the Thai heat, and we spent a good amount of time at many of the temples sites we visited.

At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang
At Wat Chedi Luang

City Pillar Shrine and Wat Chedi Luang are a must-see in Chiang Mai.

reclining Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang
reclining Buddha at Wat Chedi Luang

Even though we left Wat Chedi Luang with new ideas about the length of temple visits, and knowing that it would be important to prioritize, we made it less than a block along before we made an unplanned stop at nearby Wat Phan Tao.

Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao

Wat Phan Tao was founded in the 14th century. Like most of the temples of that time, it is constructed from teak with gold accents.

Wat Phan Tao
Wat Phan Tao

An especially striking teak and gold temple beckoned from Intrawarot Road. We didn’t realize at the time that this is Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang, the original home of the City Pillar.

Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang
Wat Inthakhin Sadue Muang

Three Kings Monument is a bronze statue of and shrine to Kings Mengrai, Ramkamhaeng and Ngam Muang, who worked together in the late 1200’s to design and build Chiang Mai.

Three Kings Monument
Three Kings Monument

Less than a minute away from our next destination we were drawn into a small alley by the beauty of Wat Lam Chang. The gardens contribute nicely to the beauty of this small temple next to ruins of an old chedi.

Wat Lam Chang
Wat Lam Chang

Lam Chang means “shackled elephants”. King Mengrai kept his white elephants in the forested area here during the construction of Chiang Mai.

Wat Lam Chang
Wat Lam Chang

King Mengrai lived at the location of Wat Chiang Man during the building of Chinag Mai.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

In 1297 he built Wat Chiang Man as Chiang Mai’s first temple. One of the standing Buddhas below is said to be the oldest intact Buddha in Chiang Mai.  It has the year 1465 CE engraved on its base.

Inside the wihan at Wat Chiang Man
Inside the wihan at Wat Chiang Man

Chiang Mai was build to replace Chiang Rai as the capitol of the Lanna Kingdom. Chiang Mai means “New City”. The Lanna Kingdom became the Kingdom of Chiang Mai, a tributary state of Thailand from 1774 to 1899, and then the seat of a  ceremonial prince until 1939.

Inside the wihan at Wat Chiang Man
Inside the wihan at Wat Chiang Man

Also inside the wihan is a display with 9 different Buddha statues, with signs suggesting appropriate prayers for 8 of them. Those 8 are each associated with a different day of the week, with Wednesday morning and evening separately represented. Depending on the day you were born, one pose will have particular significance for you.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

Before my little Tukata explained further, I saw it as a gallery of the various Buddha statue poses. From left to right they are (above): Earth Touching Buddha, the most common pose found in Thai temples, Sunday Buddha is similar to Contemplation Buddha, and the pose suggests mental insight, and Protection Buddha (Monday).

Below middle: Reclining Buddha (Tuesday), Alms Collecting Buddha (with the bowl for donations – Wednesday morning).

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

Below: Buddha sitting with Monkey and Elephant (Wednesday evening), Meditation Buddha (Thursday), Naga Buddha (Friday).

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

There are more poses that appear in traditional Buddha statues. You can learn about them in more detail here.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

The ‘Elephant Chedi’ is the oldest construction in the Wat Chiang Man temple complex.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

There’s an outdoor shrine to King Mengrai.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

I found the shrine below to be a very cool and innovative approach.

Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man
Wat Chiang Man

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang) is hidden away in the middle of an Old City block, and the buildings seem to be open to visitors at limited or irregular hours, but it’s one of my favorite temple complexes in Chiang Mai.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

The area is crowded with structures, but full of spectacular detail.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

There don’t seem to be many tourists here.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

A Google Maps review suggests that some of the architecture may show a Burmese style.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

The stupa would appear to be the oldest structure at the site.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

Some reviews warn about the stray dogs. I couldn’t miss them, but they gave us no trouble.

Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)
Wat Saen Muang Ma Luang (Wat Hua Khuang)

Our walking tour of Chiang Mai’s Old City temples continued, but experience has taught me to limit the size of my posts. I’ll bring you the second half of our walking tour in my next post.

As always, Wikipedia was invaluable in providing information for this post.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 60 pictures below.

Wat Phra Thaen and a cast of thousands

Wat Phra Thaen is a temple surrounded by giant sculptures that tell a wide selection of Buddhist folktales and parables. From the street you can see two giant Buddhas and dozens of human and animal figures, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Wat Phra Thaen
Wat Phra Thaen

Not every sculpture and scene are part of a story. Below I’ll tell you the ones I know, mostly as told to me by my little Tukata.

Note the old man with the young wife in the ox cart in the picture below. They are situated in a fairly prominent spot near the front gates of the temple.

Chu Chuuk and Amitada
Chu Chuuk and Amitada

The old man, Chu Chuuk, seems to have taken advantage of many who were just trying to be good people. His friend owed him money, and had to give him his beautiful and good hearted daughter Amitada. She was so good to him that his peers started to criticize their own wives, so Amitada asked for a slave, so that she wouldn’t be seen to work quite so hard. Chu Chuuk asked the prince, who aspired to be a Buddha. The prince gave Chu Chuuk his own son and daughter. Chu Chuuk took a wrong turn on his way home, and was seen the the king. The king paid Chu Chuuk with money and food for the return of his niece and nephew. Chu Chuuk was so greedy that he ate until he burst. His wealth was offered to Amitada, who declined, and simply went home to her father.

Cobra with eggs
Cobra with eggs

A monkey and an elephant wanted to be good creatures, and to serve the Buddha. The monkey brought the Buddha a gift of wild honey. The elephant, shown here bringing flowers, offered to serve him – it sounds like the elephant offered to become the Buddha’s beast of burden.

Buddha with monkey and elephant
Buddha with monkey and elephant

It isn’t always clear to me what the moral of the story is, and in some cases there may not be one.

New construction of a giant monk-like figure
New construction of a giant monk-like figure

An angel-like being took the form of an old man and went to speak with a king. He explained to the king that he had no wife, and badly needed one. The king aspired to a Buddha-like level of goodness, and offered his own wife to the old man. The queen in the scene below seems to approve of the arrangement. The angel-like creature then revealed itself, and the king got to keep his wife.

The king, the queen, and the old man
The king, the queen, and the old man

The Buddha left his home and life behind to seek enlightenment. When his mother became ill he returned to help her and to be with her when she died.

The Buddha and his dying mother
The Buddha and his dying mother

Below is Wat Phra Thaen’s village of spirit houses.

Spirit houses
Spirit houses

Phra Mae Thorani , the earth mother of southeast Asia, came to the Buddha’s aid when Mara, the Evil One, tried to stop him from reaching enlightenment.

“Mara brought his warriors, wild animals and his daughters, and tried to drive the Bodhisattva from his throne. All the gods were terrified and fled, leaving the Bodhisattva alone to face Mara’s challenge. The Bodhisattva stretched down his right hand and touched the earth, summoning Phra Mae Thorani to be his witness. The earth deity in the form of a beautiful woman rose up from underneath the throne, and affirmed the Bodhisattva’s right to occupy the vajriisana. She twisted her long hair, and torrents of water collected there from the innumerable donative libations of the Buddha over the ages created a flood. The flood washed away Mara and his army, and the Bodhisattva was freed to reach enlightenment.” – A Study of the History and Cult of the Buddhist Earth Deity in Mainland Southeast Asia

Phra Mae Thorani
Phra Mae Thorani

Some monks would isolate themselves in the forest, live in a hollow tree, eat only fruit, and spend their days in meditation.

Monk in a hollow tree
Monk in a hollow tree

The scene below seems to simply show a teacher at work. Several giant birds seem to be enthralled with the lesson.

A teacher at work
A teacher at work

A giant monk-like figure currently under construction is by far the largest effigy at Wat Phra Thaen.

New construction of a giant monk-like figure
New construction of a giant monk-like figure

Below is a whole array of figures and some interesting architecture.

Wat Phra Thaen
Wat Phra Thaen

A closer look at the reclining Buddha.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha

Zoom in for a close look at the figures on the rooftop in the picture below. There are some very cool Phaya Naga, including a couple entwined with some kind of Thai mermen.

Some great rooftop figures
Some great rooftop figures

The golden hour cast a flattering light on the Buddha, monks and temple in the picture below.

Wat Phra Thaen
Wat Phra Thaen

The temple below has a unique style. I haven’t seen one quite like it. The Phaya Naga flanking the stairs are entwined with Thai mermen like on the roof above, something I haven’t seen elsewhere.

Wat Phra Thaen
Wat Phra Thaen

Please enjoy the full gallery of 26 pictures below.

Phu Pha Lek National Park & Wat Tham Phuang

Phu Pha Lek National Park extends over more than 100,000 acres, from Sakon Nakhon province to Udon Thani to Kalasin. It contains the Phu Phan mountain range, with its highest peak, Phu Ang So.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

The park is covered with deciduous and evergreen forests, along with various types of bamboo and herbs. Wild hogs, barking deer, mouse deer, monkeys, and many species of birds call the park home.

Lookout tower
Lookout tower

We had lunch near the lookout tower above, and took in the view below.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

Phu Pha Lek confirmed my suspicion that everything in Thailandwaterfalls, mountains, and even national parks – must also be a temple.

Wat Tham Phuang is a series of temples in the park, many of which tell a story from the life of the Buddha. We started at the temple dedicated to the end of his life, but I’ll take you first to the last temple that we saw, and give you the story of the Buddha in chronological order, as told to me by the temples of Wat Tham Phuang, and by my little Tukata.

Phaya Naga at the big temple
Phaya Naga at the big temple

I’ve given names to the temples that make up Wat Tham Phuang, but it isn’t likely that anyone else calls them by these names.

The big temple doesn’t actually tell a story. It has a more standard temple theme.

The big temple
The big temple

It provides space for large congregations.

The big temple
The big temple

The rock of the mountain is incorporated into the building.

The big temple
The big temple

Below is one of the main entrances.

The big temple
The big temple

The resident monks seem to live near the big temple.

Monks of Phu Pha Lek
Monks of Phu Pha Lek

Below is a shrine to a venerable monk.

Shrine to a venerable monk
Shrine to a venerable monk

I would guess that this monk founded one of the original temples here in the park.

Shrine to a venerable monk
Shrine to a venerable monk

Near this shrine we were lucky enough to get a glimpse of a monkey, some kind of macaque I think, in the trees.

A shy monkey
A shy monkey

The small temple below is dedicated to the birth of the Buddha.

Temple to the birth of the Buddha
Temple to the birth of the Buddha

It is said that Siddhartha Gautama, who would become a spiritual teacher, and later come to be known as the Buddha, didn’t cry when he was born. He stood, and took seven steps. Then he raised one hand into the air and proclaimed himself the Buddha. Then he slept, and when he woke he behaved as a normal baby, and proceeded to develop as a regular human being.

The Buddha and his mom
The Buddha and his mom

There’s a rest area with a roof and water for drinking and a great view.

Phu Pha Lek National Park
Phu Pha Lek National Park

Among the trees near the rest area is the small temple shown below. We didn’t go in for a closer look, so I don’t know if the figure inside is the Buddha, or whether this temple has a story to tell.

A small forest temple
A small forest temple

The temple below has a real Aztec look to it. I saw other Thai temples that make me think of the Aztecs, but they’re all ruins.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

This temple is focused on the time that the Buddha spent meditating under the Bodhi Tree in order to reach enlightenment.

The Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree
The Buddha meditating under the Bodhi Tree

The Bodhi Tree was a large and very old sacred fig tree located in Bodh Gaya. In religious iconography, the Bodhi Tree is recognizable by its heart-shaped leaves, which you can see in the picture above.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

Each of the four towers has a small temple inside of it.

Temple of the Bodhi Tree
Temple of the Bodhi Tree

Nearby is a small temple with stairs flanked by Phaya Naga.

Small temple
Small temple

A small shrine to Phra Mae Thorani sits above a pool next to the temple above. She is Thailand’s earth mother, and one of the supernatural beings that came to defend and protect the Buddha as he sat under the Bodhi Tree, so that his meditations would not be interrupted.

Phra Mae Thorani
Phra Mae Thorani

Below is another small temple that we didn’t enter. Through the window we can see the Buddha with an elephant kneeling before him. He is often depicted teaching an elephant and a monkey.

Temple with elephant
Temple with elephant

I don’t know the meaning of the scene below either. This, and the elephant and monkey, are things I’ll try to learn more about.

Creatures with dharmachakra (Wheel of the Dharma)
Creatures with dharmachakra (Wheel of the Dharma)

The temple next to the scene above tells of the time that three hundred monks arrived to be taught by the Buddha.

The Buddha teaching the 300 monks
The Buddha teaching the 300 monks

Notice the deer in the scene above.

Monks being taught by the Buddha
Monks being taught by the Buddha
Temple ceiling
Temple ceiling

When all of his work was complete, the Buddha lay down and passed from this life.

Reclining Buddha
Reclining Buddha

We didn’t take advantage of the hiking trails or camping, and didn’t see any of the waterfalls, or even much of the forests. That’ll be something to do next time.

Temple of the reclining Buddha
Temple of the reclining Buddha

Please enjoy the full gallery of 36 pictures below.

Fire and brimstone monk deals sternly with monkey bite

After sustaining a monkey bite one must of course seek out a fire and brimstone monk to expel any malign spirits or influences. We left the paved roads for those of red dirt and drove deep into the countryside, passing many rice and sugar cane fields and rubber tree plantations along the way.

Rubber tree forest
Rubber tree forest

I’ve found the rubber tree forests especially interesting, having never seen one before Thailand. Those above have the sap collecting bowls tipped down. When collecting the bowls fill with a white liquid that seems to at least partly solidify before it is collected.

Northeast Thailand countryside
Northeast Thailand countryside

In the middle of all of this uninterrupted agriculture we arrived at a gate, currently under either repair or construction.

Domain of the fire and brimstone monk
Domain of the fire and brimstone monk

One monk lives at this temple. He has one of the most bizarre collections of religious accoutrements I’ve ever seen.

Domain of the fire and brimstone monk
Domain of the fire and brimstone monk

When he appeared he patted my belly and compared it to that of his enormous orange Buddha.

Buddha with centipede
Buddha with centipede

A 19th century Tibetan poet warned his fellow Buddhists that “if you enjoy frightening others, you will be reborn as a centipede.” I don’t really know of any connection with centipedes in Thai Buddhism. I have no idea why this Buddha has a giant centipede on his shoulder.

A cobra is coiled around the Buddha, apparently watching his back. Phaya Naga are sometimes portrayed as more common snakes.

Cobra guarding the Buddha
Cobra guarding the Buddha

This monk also has in his collection a large cobra with 9 heads.

9-headed cobra
9-headed cobra

He also has a Phaya Naga in a form with which I’m more familiar, giving a ride to a red humanoid that I haven’t identified.

Phaya Naga and rider
Phaya Naga and rider

The monkey bite victim and her mother changed into garments resembling baptism robes and sat in chairs at the edge of the temple, still just under the roof. The monk shouted the loudest I’ve heard from a monk and threw water on them. I’m not sure I would describe it as angry, but forceful would be fair. Later I was told that he was not speaking in Thai. It may have been Cambodian.

Outdoor Buddha
Outdoor Buddha

The monkey bite victim has had serious health problems for some time. I’m told that doctors know what it is, and she has been receiving treatment for some time. It seems that her mother has been seeking spiritual remedies to supplement the medicine.

Outdoor reclining Buddha
Outdoor reclining Buddha

Later the fire and brimstone monk produced dolls, similar to Ken and Barbi, and having gotten my attention, proceed to use them to act out the bumping of uglies. Apparently he was offering to bring his spiritual powers to bear on our sex lives. My little Tukata declined his offer.

Domain of the fire and brimstone monk
Domain of the fire and brimstone monk

The open roof behind the orange Buddha may be intended to let rain fall into an odd pool behind him. In this pool sit pink-skinned baby Phra Phikanets, or Ganeshas, on lotus flowers.

Pink-skinned baby Phra Phikanets, or Ganeshas, on lotus flowers
Pink-skinned baby Phra Phikanets, or Ganeshas, on lotus flowers

I’ve seen fish raised in pools like this.

Phaya Naga in outdoor pool
Phaya Naga in outdoor pool

I’ve seen creatures something like those below, but these seem to have the lower bodies of mermaids, so I’m not sure.

Unidentified creatures
Unidentified creatures

I had no idea that Buddhist temples like this existed. I was glad to see it for myself, and also that our visit was brief.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 14 pictures below.

Tham Phra Waterfall, a natural waterpark

Tham Phra Waterfall is a great way to spend a day in the heat of Thailand, and a great way to cool off after a visit to nearby Wat Phu Thok. Getting there requires a 15 minute boat ride along the Nam Ning brook.

Nam Ning Brook
Nam Ning Brook

Tham Phra is just one of the waterfalls in the Phu Wua wild life sanctuary about 40 kilometers from Bung Khong Long. It’s really a series of waterfalls, all flowing down over rock overlooked by sandstone cliffs and surrounded by thick green forest. Rock steps take you up to the first level, and you can continue upward from there to reach the highest level. The panorama below shows one of the lower levels nearly deserted as we made our way back to the boat at the end of the day.

A lower level of Tham Phra Waterfall
A lower level of Tham Phra Waterfall

This was when I realized that in Thailand, everything is a temple. Waterfall? Needs a Buddha! Wildlife Sanctuary?  Needs Buddha! There was an actual temple at this spot, but it was moved so that visitors could better enjoy the water.

Two Buddhas
Two Buddhas

I think the falls below are at the highest level. This is where we stopped and finally got into the water. I’m told that in rainier times the whole rock face seen below flows with water.

Tham Phra Waterfall
Tham Phra Waterfall

There are quite a few natural slides like those shown in the pic below.

Slide at Tham Phra Waterfall
Slide at Tham Phra Waterfall

Below is a video of such a slide, shot in 2016. You’ll see many more videos of Tham Phra Waterfall on YouTube.

At about 5:00pm people came around to tell us it was time to leave. After thinking about it, it made sense; the people who run the boats need to shut it down and go home.

At the end of our boat ride back they had pictures of everyone framed and ready to sell. This is the most upset I’ve seen my Tukata, and she let them know directly, accusing them of stealing. No one bought a photo. I don’t have a good guess at when they took the pictures.

Tham Phra Waterfall is a natural waterpark in northeastern Thailand. It’s a great way to spend a hot day, but don’t go to late!

Wat Phu Thok, the temple of the lonely mountain

Wat Phu Thok means “Temple of the Lonely Mountain” in the Isan language. The temple is built on, around and inside of an isolated sandstone outcrop that, in the American southwest, would be called a mesa.

Wat Phu Tok
Wat Phu Tok

I’ll guess that the temple came first, and then the park-like surroundings. There’s plenty of space for a picnic, quiet time in the shade, feeding of fish, or a visit to one of the shrines among the many small lakes.

Entrance
Entrance
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok
Near the base of Phu Tok

I wore hiking boots, but the walkways are very good, and walking shoes would have been better. Most visitors wore some form of sandal. I was still adjusting to the heat, but we took it slow, and soon I was feeling like myself for maybe the first time since arriving in Thailand.

Steep early stairs
Steep early stairs

I was confident in the structure of all stairs and platforms. The stairs can be very steep, so we made use of the hand rails, and occasionally walked sideways down sets of stairs with particularly shallow steps.

Wat Phu Thok
Wat Phu Thok

After climbing stairs through the rock (see the pic above) we arrived at the first significant flat, open area. It contained shady places to sit and rest, water faucets, and a small temple below a rocky overhang.

A small temple
A small temple

Here I saw the first of two cable conveyances for building and other supplies.

Cable conveyance
Cable conveyance

There are seven levels on Phu Thok which represent the seven levels of spiritual enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy.

View from Phu Thok
View from Phu Thok

If you look closely at the pic below you can see walkways at three different heights, each probably representing a different level.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

This is very interesting use of the rock, and I’m sorry we didn’t see whether it leads somewhere other than the next level. We never visited any actual interior spaces.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

The small roof along the rock at the top of the pic below causes water to drip down onto the walkway rather than flow along the rock to dampen the spaces below.

Levels of Phu Thok
Levels of Phu Thok

The same rocky overhang shelters a host of monk statues. A pair of visitors we met counted 58 and 59.

58 or 59 monks
58 or 59 monks

Another level up we encountered a small rocky peak that contains a small temple.

Rocky peak
Rocky peak

That wall is pretty thin.

Small temple
Small temple

Here we got our first good look at the back of the larger peak.

Back of Phu Thok
Back of Phu Thok

There are great views of the surrounding area, including another mesa nearby.

Another lonely mountain nearby
Another lonely mountain nearby

The walkway along the back of the mountain started out with rock underfoot…

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

…but soon became much more interesting.

Walkway along the back of Phu Thok
Walkway along the back of Phu Thok

The structure still inspired complete confidence, but there was just enough difference in board height to create the possibility of stumbling. Looking at where I was walking meant looking between planks at the ground below, which made things all the more exciting.

Along this walkway  we found several wild bee hives. At the same spot there was a cave whose entrance was barely visible, but from within we heard the constant chirping of bats.

Wild bee hive
Wild bee hive

In my favorite of Phu Thok’s many spots for quiet meditation, a gold Buddha reflects on the sweeping panorama.

Buddha enjoying the view
Buddha enjoying the view

I’m not sure where we ascended to level six, but it was somewhere on the back of the mountain. Determined to leave no stone unturned, some of us climbed to level seven, the top of the mesa.  There we found trails, rather than walkways. The going is still not precarious, but there are no railings.

Top of Phu Thok
Top of Phu Thok

We took a different way back to level six, and I realized that Wat Phu Thok is a bit of a maze.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

It took a while to find our way back to the rest of the group.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok
Phu Thok

When we found everyone, we headed back down.

Phu Thok
Phu Thok

Wat Phu Thok is located in Na Sabaeng Subdistrict, Si Wilai District, at the center of Bueng Kan Province. It’s just a little over 10 miles to the Mekong River and the border with Laos.

Monument to a departed monk
Monument to a departed monk

My little Tukata’s youngest son frequently drives the local monks to temples in Udon Thani and surrounding districts, so he knows many of the most beautiful wats in northeastern Thailand. With Wat Phu Thok, might our guide have peaked early? Stay tuned!

Actually, he is good at taking us to a second destination after the highlight. This post ends here, but our day out did not – tune in in two days to see how our guide followed Wat Phu Thok.

Please enjoy the full gallery of 43 pictures below.

The Buddhist country temple in Thailand

The Buddhist country temple is often more modest than those found in Thai cities, but in them very interesting features, and a wide range of styles, can be found.

Most visitors start in Bangkok, where I expect the most extravagant temples in Thailand are located. I’ll start you off where I started, with a couple of country temples in the Ban Dung district.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

We arrived at both temples via red dirt roads. The first has an area of worship that is, from the outside, just a building.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

The inside is very modest as well.

Ban Dung district country temple
Ban Dung district country temple

The newest and most outstanding feature of this temple complex is this unfinished school for new monks.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Pre-fabricated concrete buildings must be a relatively inexpensive option for creating an impressive temple. I’ve seen several, usually in poorer areas. Government buildings also seem to often be built this way.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

The decorative features of this roof are among the coolest I’ve seen. They include a number of intertwined Phaya Naga, with 3-headed 2-bodied Phaya Naga at the top of each roof. People here pronounce that “pa ya na”, but I suspect that the pronunciation might vary.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Thai … folklore holds the Phaya Naga to be semi-divine, demi-creatures, which possess supernatural powers as has been described in Buddhist and Hindu cosmology.” – Wikipedia

Phaya Naga show up frequently in temples, with varying prominence. Very soon I’ll show you an island temple complex in a forest believed to be the border between the human world and the netherworld, and home of the Naga.

Unfinished school for new monks
Unfinished school for new monks

Although the walls are clearly unfinished, with rebar still sticking out, the shutters and doors are beautiful. I wonder if they were salvaged from an older temple.

There’s a white Buddha seated on a lotus flower nearby.

Buddha on lotus flower
Buddha on lotus flower

Spirit houses are also an important feature of temples in Thailand. They’re also found outside of businesses. Spirit houses are intended to provide a shelter for spirits that could cause problems for the people if not appeased. They’re often placed along an edge or corner of the property. There’s something different about this one; the fact that it appears alone, and away from the edges of the property, but my little Tukata tells me it’s just another spirit house. On the signs are the names of people who have passed away.

Spirit house
Spirit house

I was initially told not to photograph spirit houses, or really to take any notice of them. At first I hesitated, but I find them far too interesting to not take pictures. Like a true Buddhist, my little Tukata doesn’t try to change what she cannot control.

I like the spirit houses that look more like small houses or temples, like the one below, photographed at a different temple.

Spirit house
Spirit house

Pictured below is not a spirit house, I’m told, but a monument to a respected monk of the temple who passed away.

Monument to a departed monk
Monument to a departed monk

The second temple has much more typical Thai temple architecture, including a gate covered in Phaya Naga.

Temple gate with Phaya Naga, from inside the complex
Temple gate with Phaya Naga, from inside the complex
Phaya Naga on temple gate
Phaya Naga on temple gate

The temple looks to be another pre-fab concrete building, although this one is finished.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

It has some nice Phaya Naga flanking the steps.

Temple Phaya Naga
Temple Phaya Naga

On the gable is a figure that I haven’t seen on any other Buddhist temple: Garuda, dancing with a pair of Phaya Naga.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

“The Garuda is a large legendary bird, bird-like creature, or humanoid bird that appears in both Hindu and Buddhist mythology. Garuda is the mount (vahana) of the Lord Vishnu.”  The phoenix is considered to be a contemporary representation of Garuda. –  Wikipedia

Garuda dancing with Phaya Naga
Garuda dancing with Phaya Naga

Next to the temple above is another temple in a very different style.

Buddhist country temple
Buddhist country temple

In the foreground above we see Phra Mae Thorani, the Buddhist Earth Mother.

The Bodhisattva was sitting in meditation on his throne under the Bodhi Tree, Mara, the Evil One, was jealous and wanted to stop him from reaching enlightenment. Accompanied by his warriors, wild animals and his daughters, he tried to drive the Bodhisattva from his throne. All the gods were terrified and ran away, leaving the Bodhisattva alone to face Mara’s challenge. The Bodhisattva stretched down his right hand and touched the earth, summoning her to be his witness. The earth deity in the form of a beautiful woman rose up from underneath the throne, and affirmed the Bodhisattva’s right to occupy the vajriisana. She twisted her long hair, and torrents of water collected there from the innumerable donative libations of the Buddha over the ages created a flood. The flood washed away Mara and his army, and the Bodhisattva was freed to reach enlightenment. — A Study of the History and Cult of the Buddhist Earth Deity in Mainland Southeast Asia

Buddha summoning Phra Mae Thorani to come to his assistance - from Wikimedia Commons
Buddha summoning Phra Mae Thorani to come to his assistance – from Wikimedia Commons

Phra Mae Thorani often appears at Thai temples, and in my experience is always shown wringing water from her long hair.

Across the paved path is a gold Buddha seated between two Phaya Naga, and a building in which I suspect communal worship might normally take place.

Buddha and a country temple
Buddha and a country temple

Next to the other gate to the temple complex is a whole village of spirit houses.

The temple's village of spirit houses
The temple’s village of spirit houses
I hope you’ve enjoyed a look at these two temples.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 22 pictures below.

Thailand in New Zealand

I haven’t yet traveled much in Asia, but from my first days in New Zealand I’ve enjoyed the large amount of authentic Asian culture in New Zealand.  In 2016 I was lucky enough to experience Thailand in New Zealand.

Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland
Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland

The first Thai Buddhist temple I ever visited was Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland.  Neither visit was during regular hours for services, so it was quiet and nearly empty.

Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland
Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland

I haven’t been to Thailand, but I enjoy the ways that New Zealand meets Thailand in the temples here.  Watyarnprateep Temple was once a typical New Zealand farm house.  Even more New Zealand are the caravans that serve as housing for some of the monks.  Note the Buddhas on top of the caravan below.

Caravan at Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland
Caravan at Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland

The Thai style looks great in the New Zealand landscape.

Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland
Watyarnprateep Buddhist Temple in Auckland

I have only Google for reference, but here are some pictures of Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple near Udon Thani province in Thailand.

Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple near Udon Thani province in Thailand
Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple near Udon Thani province in Thailand

These pictures are from the Udan Thani Attractions website.

Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple near Udon Thani province in Thailand
Wat Pa Phu Kon Temple near Udon Thani province in Thailand

On 13 October 2016 the King of Thailand died at 88 after a reign of 70 years, 126 days.

Memorial to King Bhumibol at Watyarnprateep Temple
Memorial to King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Watyarnprateep Temple

The lèse-majesté law makes it illegal to it criticize the king (or queen, heir-apparent, or regent).  But many Thai people seem to have sincerely loved King Bhumibol Adulyadej.  There was an official mourning period of 30 days before the new king was crowned.

At the end of October I experienced observances of respect and mourning for the late king at Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hawkes Bay.

Memorial to King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery
Memorial to King Bhumibol Adulyadej at Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery

When I arrived most people seemed to be involved in making sure everyone was fed.  Every Thai restaurant in the area seemed to be serving food to anyone who was hungry, and other people brought dishes to share.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings

We dressed in black, but everyone was happy, friendly, and very welcoming.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery is located on a plot of former farmland among fields still being cultivated.  In the picture below a monk walks along the driveway with young apple trees in the background.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings

Some of the monks live in buildings identical to cabins found at many New Zealand campgrounds.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings

The temple is in the living room of a former farmhouse.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings

People lined up with bowls of rice and spooned it into the bowls of the monks as they walked past.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery in Hastings

There was a procession in honor of the deceased king.

Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery

The procession included a couple of different kinds of money tree.

Money tree
Money tree
Procession with money tree
Procession with money tree

Many mourners purchased gifts for the king in the form of clothes given in his name to the monks.

Mourning King Bhumibol Adulyadej
Mourning King Bhumibol Adulyadej

Like Watyarnprateep Temple in Auckland, Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery is fairly modest, but has some beautiful features.

Buddha at Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery
Buddha at Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery
Pathumrungsiwatanaram Monastery

On November 15 Thai people gathered in Aotea Square near the Auckland Town Hall, and said their final goodbyes to their king.

Mourning King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Aotea Square
Mourning King Bhumibol Adulyadej in Aotea Square

His son King Maha Vajiralongkorn accepted the throne on the night of 1 December 2016.  His reputation is very different from that of his father, and the people of Thailand wait to see what the future will hold for their country.

Thai people and their culture are, for me, another interesting and welcome addition to the overall culture of New Zealand.

You can view the full gallery of 24 pictures below.  To view on imgur click here.