Wat Pa Phu Kon
Wat Pa Phu Kon is one of the most beautiful temples in northeastern Thailand. Its location high in the remote mountains of the northern Udon Thani Province offers some great panoramic views. The temple contains a 20 meter long white marble reclining Buddha.
Surprisingly enough this was the first time that I experienced enforcement of a temple dress code. I thought I was sympathetic to the dress code but I always seemed to find myself unprepared. Long pants are not my clothing of choice in hot weather. My hosts had always insisted that my clothes were ok.
Perhaps because of the uniformed authority figure making the call, I was annoyed at being sent to the rack for borrowed clothing, so I insisted on choosing a long skirt to cover my legs. A little girl we took along seemed likewise annoyed as she selected something to cover her own legs. Her little brother appreciated the humor of my own fashion choice. I saw no reaction from any other person there.
Wat Pa Phu Kon is a relatively new temple, built at a cost of 320 million baht, which is around $9,858,294 US. It was donated in honor of the king by an elderly Thai woman.
The reclining Buddha cost around 50 million baht, about $1,540,358. It is constructed from 43 blocks of Italian marble.
The plinth for the huge Buddha is carved with various scenes from the Buddha’s life (above). The walls depict even more such scenes (below).
There’s lots of detail throughout, including an especially nice depiction of Phra Mae Thorani.
There are entrances on three sides of the temple. Below is the view of the entrance to the temple complex from the front door of the temple.
The bottom of the stairs are guarded by a pair of lions, or Singha (see the first pic in this post), and the top of the stairs by a pair of Yaksha (see above), the front entrance to the temple is guarded by an impressive pair of 3-headed Phaya Naga.
The other buildings of the complex are built in the same style as the temple, and the statuary is top-notch.
The views are forest and mountains in every direction.
At the back of the temple I was introduced to four more of Thailand’s mythological creatures.
Kinnara and Kinnari are two of Thailand’s most beloved mythological creatures. They are benevolent half-human, half-bird creatures believed to come from the Himalayas. They often watch over humans in troubled times.
In the Adi parva of the Mahabharata, Kinnara and Kinnari say:
We are everlasting lover and beloved. We never separate. We are eternally husband and wife; never do we become mother and father. No offspring is seen in our lap. We are lover and beloved ever-embracing. In between us we do not permit any third creature demanding affection. Our life is a life of perpetual pleasure.
The Khochasi is a creature with the body of a lion and the trunk, ears and tusks of an elephant. It is more common in northern Thailand. The Khochasi below seems to be missing the elephant’s ears, and little of the body looks like that of a lion. It has a crest like a Phaya Naga. The Khochasi guards sacred places, especially doorways.
Rajasiha is Thailand’s most powerful mythological creature. Rajasiha is a symbol of authority or power. It is apparently a mythological version of a lion, and therefore the same thing as a Singha, although they can be depicted very differently.
A short drive from the temple complex is another interesting shrine that is part of Wat Pa Phu Kon. You can get an interesting top-down view using satellite view on Google Maps.
There are 115 stairs in the stairway shown above. It is flanked by Phaya Naga in the same style as at the main temple complex, but with 5 heads. The bodies of these Phaya Naga extend along the entire length of the stairs.
Half way up, on either side of the steps, is a small shrine in which you can take a break and look around, and if you like say a prayer. Through the windows you can see the tram to the top of the stairs. It wasn’t running during our visit.
There are two rooms inside the chedi, one above the other. Both seem to be dedicated to venerable monks.
The creatures holding the lamps, I found out later, are called Hongsa. These are celestial swans, often found at the peaks of temple rooftops.
Wat Pa Ban Kho
Wat Pa Ban Kho is a couple hours southeast of Wat Pa Phu Kon, and therefore a good side trip if visiting from Udon Thani.
The front of the temple is guarded by a pair of large pink elephants. The rear is guarded by a pair of gray ones.
The walls and ceiling inside the chedi are covered with beautifully painted scenes from the life of the Buddha.
There’s an interesting and beautiful display in front of the small gold chedi in the middle of the room. At least some of these objects are said to be bone fragments of the Buddha.
One of the outlying buildings is dedicated to 3-dimensional depictions of episodes in the life of the Buddha.
We arrived at Wat Pha Ban Koh late in the day, possibly after closing. It was very quiet with just a few other visitors and a couple of women monks in white robes.
Please enjoy the full gallery of 52 pictures below.