Tag Archives: Udon Thani

City Pillar Shrine, Udon Thani & Ban Dung

A City Pillar Shrine is built to house a City Pillar or lak mueang, placed in most Thai cities to be the center, heart and soul of the city and her citizens. The Pillar is a continuation of ancient customs in which a City Pillar was erected first and represented the intent to build a city.

Ban Dung City Pillar
Ban Dung City Pillar

The shrine is also believed to house Chao Pho Lak Mueang, the city spirit deity. In the cities of Udon Thani and Ban Dung, and probably in many other Thai cities as well, there are other guardian and protector spirits and deities to honor, and so the City Pillar Shrine is part of a complex of shrines and effigies to those deities.

City Pillar Shrine, Udon Thani

Udon Thani’s  City Pillar Shrine is a sort of park in Udon Thani’s city center with a number of shrines and temples, and a large statue of the Udon Thani Province‘s protecting god.

Udon Thani's City Shrine
Udon Thani’s City Shrine

The City Pillar is visible inside of the shrine in the picture below. People remove their shoes before entering this shrine as the would a temple, and kneel and pray before the Pillar.

Udon Thani's City Shrine
Udon Thani’s City Shrine

Wetsuwan is one of the Four Heavenly Kings; four Buddhist gods, each of whom watches over one cardinal direction of the world.

Wetsuwan is the chief of the four kings and protector of the north. He is the ruler of rain.  He is often associated with the ancient Indian God of wealth, Lord Ganesh. His name means “he who hears everything”.

The Chinese depict Wetsuwon as a human king, but in Thailand he is depicted as a Yaksa, a usually friendly nature spirit, often appearing in southern Asia as a guardian deity. He is seen as the guardian deity of the Udon Thani Province.

I’m sure whether Chao Pho Lak Mueang is a proper name or just a title applied to any city spirit deity, but I was told that the name of Udon Thani’s guardian deity is “Udon Thani”. It is said to reside in the shrine below.

City Pillar Shrine
City Pillar Shrine

The gold statue in the middle of the shrine, in the picture below, may be an effigy of the guardian deity, or may be seen as the deity itself, I’m not sure which.

The park is surrounded by government buildings, including the Udon Thani Provincial Hall and the Office of Buddhism. Smaller villages in the area still have faded pictures of the departed 9th king, who passed away nearly one year ago at the time of my visit, but the center of Udon Thani displays a new picture of the 10th king.

Udon Thani Provincial Hall
Udon Thani Provincial Hall

Apparently there’s always construction going on in the park. There’s still lots of room for new stuff. The structure below reminds me of the one built in Bangkok for the cremation ceremony of Thailand’s 9th king which took place at the end of October.

A new structure in the works
A new structure in the works

The interior of the building below is lots of pillars, and nothing else.

An empty building
An empty building

The Chinese temple is interesting for many reasons, starting with its very different style.

Chinese temple
Chinese temple

The cute Phaya Naga in front of the temple would seem to be an acknowledgement that this Chinese temple is located in northeastern Thailand.

Phaya Naga
Phaya Naga

A small building nearby offers a good look at some little Chinese dragons.

Chinese dragon
Chinese dragon

It’s a great little structure with a lot of detail.

On the grounds of the Chinese temple
On the grounds of the Chinese temple

Dragons and various other creatures decorate the roof of the temple…

Chinese temple
Chinese temple

…and the rest of the temple as well. This temple was fenced off for some reason, so it wasn’t possible to get a closer look.

Chinese temple
Chinese temple

Placed around the temple are the animals of the Chinese zodiac; below are the rabbit and the ox.

Rabbit and ox
Rabbit and ox

City Pillar Shrine, Ban Dung

In Ban Dung I visited Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine.

Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine
Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine

The most prominent feature of this park is a large statue of  Por Si Sut Tho, the Phaya Naga who lives in the Kham Chanot Forest. “Por” is an honorific commonly given to Si Sut Tho that is normally applied to monks, which he is not. “Chao”, which is apparently also used at times, is normally applied to kings, which Por Si Sut Tho also is not.

Por Si Sut Tho
Por Si Sut Tho

My little Tukata tells me that Por Si Sut Tho takes the form shown below, with a human upper body (or even a fully human form), when he emerges onto the land, but takes the more commonly seen serpentine form when he’s in the water.

Por Si Sut Tho
Por Si Sut Tho

There are a number of nice buildings in the park, and there may be interesting stories behind the entities to whom they are dedicated. The shrine below has something to do with Por Si Sut Tho and his wife, Ya Bat Tho Ma.

Unidentified shrine
Unidentified shrine

Below is the shrine of Ban Dung’s City Pillar.

Shrine of Ban Dung's City Pillar
Shrine of Ban Dung’s City Pillar

Below is the City Pillar itself.

Ban Dung City Pillar
Ban Dung City Pillar

Please enjoy the Udon Thani City Pillar Shrine gallery of 18 pictures below, and the Chao Por Si Sut Tho City Pillar Shrine gallery of 8 pictures below that.

Forest master Luang Ta Maha Bua’s Wat Pa Ban Tat

Wat Pa Ban Tat is a Theravada Buddhist monastery in the Udon Thani Province of Thailand.

Wat Pa Ban Tat
Wat Pa Ban Tat

Wat Pa Ban Tat was established by the famous Thai meditation bhikkhu Luang Ta Maha Bua.

Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua
Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua

Bua is one of the best known Thai Buddhist monks of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He was widely regarded as an Arahant — a living Buddhist saint. He was a disciple of the esteemed forest master Ajahn Mun Bhuridatta, and was himself considered a master in the Thai Forest Tradition. Following the death of Ajahn Thate in 1994, he was considered to be the Ajahn Yai, or the head of the Thai Forest Tradition lineage until his death in 2011. – Wikipedia

Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua
Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua

The first building we visited was a sort of shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua, shown above and below.

Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua
Shrine to Luang Ta Maha Bua

This structure reminds me of the way many Thai houses are build on stilts to provide a shady space beneath for people to work and rest in the heat of the day.

Kitchens are often set up beneath houses. The one below is its own roofed but open space. The monks of Wat Pa Ban Tat live nearby.

Monks' kitchen
Monks’ kitchen

The dwelling structures themselves – called kutis – are single units scattered throughout the dense forest. They stand fairly far apart and are separated from each other by strips of forest dense enough so that the inhabitants can’t see one another. The whole area is tranquil and quiet… A monk will stay alone at his kuti without interactions with others. He spends all his time concentrating on his own practice – exerting himself in the practice of sitting and walking meditation in the area of his own kuti as if he were the only person around. He doesn‘t stop to chat with others, but follows in full detail the methods and forest practices taught by the Lord Buddha. – Wikipedia

Blonde Thai squirrel
Blonde Thai squirrel

Walking from Bua’s shrine to his temple we encountered many of Thailand’s blonde squirrels. We saw these in many wooded areas in the north. We saw no other type of squirrel, although I believe there are many.

We also met this cool old tortoise.

Thai tortoise
Thai tortoise

Printed banners that line the fences of the temple complex tell of the donations that Bua collected from around the world to help the people of Thailand. His temple is very nice, but very simple and modest compared to many.

Wat Pa Ban Tat
Wat Pa Ban Tat

There are no Phaya Naga, Phra Mae Thorani, Garuda, or any other figure besides the Buddha, and pictures of Luang Ta Maha Bua.

Wat Pa Ban Tat
Wat Pa Ban Tat

The temple is a large roof over a cool tile floor, open on the sides.

Wat Pa Ban Tat
Wat Pa Ban Tat

Below is a model of a future addition to the temple complex.

Plans for the future
Plans for the future

Early in my visit to Thailand I was given a pendant with a likeness of Luang Ta Maha Bua. I wore it during most of my time there. Every Thai person I spoke with about him was in complete agreement that Bua was a very good monk.

Luang Ta Maha Bua pendant
Luang Ta Maha Bua pendant

Please enjoy the full gallery of 12 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.

The long-tailed macaques of Kumphawapi monkey park

My hosts knew that I was interested in seeing monkeys, so they took me to Kumphawapi monkey park.

Kumphawapi monkey park
Kumphawapi monkey park

This is just a city park in Kumphawapi district in the southern part of Udon Thani Province, northeastern Thailand that happens to be overrun by macaques (long-tailed macaques I think), but they’re the defining feature of this park. You can find it here on Google Maps.

Mother and baby macaques
Mother and baby macaques

There were quite a few mothers carrying their babies on their backs or clinging to their stomachs.

Mother and baby macaques
Mother and baby macaques

The moms were very busy.

It looks like half of the park is wooded. Surrounded by trees may have been a better space in which to observe the monkeys than the car park. I did watch a lot of juveniles playing in the trees near the restrooms. They’re very curious, and this one hooted at me a bit.

Juvenile macaque
Juvenile macaque

They don’t sit still long, and seem to have endless energy.

Young macaque
Young macaque

Most of the monkeys I saw in the trees were about this size.

My hosts had brought some bananas from their back yard. The monkeys were happy to have them. Vendors at the park sell peanuts for you to feed them, but you need to think about what you’re doing. Tossing it to them is safer than handing it to them, and holding on to it or withholding it can get you bit. I had a lot of fun just watching them, and taking pictures.

Feeding peanuts to the macaques
Feeding peanuts to the macaques

The feeder shown above didn’t have any problems, but disputes did erupt in the form of a larger monkey running off a smaller one as the other little guys scattered.

Display of monkey dominance
Display of monkey dominance

Then one of our party walked too close to the feeding frenzy and was bitten on the ankle.

I’ve heard a lot about unpleasant experiences with monkeys. Fortunately we witnessed no flinging of poo. There were no public displays of monkey passion. But I guess I saw just about every other form of monkey shenanigans I care to imagine. On the other hand, some of the pics on Google Maps show a market in this park, and I imagine they find lots of creative ways to cause problems in a setting like that.

I did see fleeing mothers pursued by shrieking babies. I didn’t see the vain monkey below do any damage, but I’m sure the bike owner would not have been pleased.

Monkey vanity
Monkey vanity

Of course the owner of the truck below was surely far less pleased.

Very bad monkeys
Very bad monkeys

I don’t know why anyone would leave a car here unattended. I like to think I’d take one look at a park full of monkeys, and find somewhere else to park.

Very bad monkeys
Very bad monkeys

I asked them if they realized that they are very, very bad monkeys, but I used my least confrontational tone of voice. Apologies to the car owners, but I didn’t want to risk getting gang-rushed by angry macaques.

I like the way they didn’t bother to taste the rubber until they’d ripped it completely free from the car.

Let’s close with a less sociopathic monkey moment.

Macaque family grooming
Macaque family grooming

Please enjoy the full gallery of 15 pictures below.