Guest blogger John Borthwick skips this “Superstar” temple of Bangkok and Chiang Mai and discovered fascinating alternatives in the provinces.
Wat Phumin, Nan. About 700 km north of Bangkok there are 475 Buddhist temples in the province of Nan. The most famous is Wat Phumin (1569) in the capital, Nan, with its vivid murals depicting not only Buddha’s life but also secular life in Nan in the late 19th century, including pictures of foreign sailing ships and European-style clothing.
Phimai sanctuary, Nakhon Ratchasima. The elegant 10thth The century-old Phimai Khmer temple complex is located 50 km outside the city of Nakhon Ratchasima (also known as Khorat) in northeastern Thailand. Like a “mini Angkor”, this sanctuary is an easily explored collection of finely carved stone temples on a human scale. Inner and outer courtyards protect a central tower and a Buddha statue, while moats and lawns surrounded everything.
Wat Phra Das Su Thon Mongkhon Khiri Samakkhi Tham, The chai, phrae. In the city of Den Chai on the main railway line, about 500 km north of Bangkok, is the 13-syllable Wat Phra That Su Thon Mongkhon Khiri Samakkhi Tham. The sprawling northern Lanna-style temple is dominated by an impressive nine-meter long reclining Buddha and is located about five kilometers outside the city.
Phraya Nakhon Cave, Prachuap Khiri Khan. The Phraya Nakhon Cave Temple is located in the forest of the Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park (“Three Hundred Peaks”), 23 km south of Hua Hin. This large open-air cave was visited by King Rama V in 1890 and by Rama VII in 1926. In the middle of the sunlit cave is a delicate, temple-like pavilion.
Wat Doi Kong Mu, Mae Hong Son. You climb almost 1,000 steps to reach the whitewashed pagodas and golden towers of Wat Doi Kong Mu, which overlook the beautiful city of Mae Hong Son. It’s worth seeing this marzipan castle on a mountain top of a temple, as well as the view of the jungle hills in nearby Shan State in Myanmar.
The white temple, Chiang Rai. The ornate Wat Rong Khun or White Temple is a crystalline, Disney-like structure that appears to be spun out of ceramics and mirrors. It has been one of Chiang Rai’s main attractions since it opened in 1998. While in town, also visit the Blue Temple (Wat Rong Seua Ten) and the Black House (Baan Dam), an artist’s house.
Wat Mahathat, Ayutthaya. Ayutthaya Historical Park north of Bangkok houses the ruins of numerous Buddhist temples. This was Siam’s capital from 1350 to 1767 and its plain is still littered emblazoned Relic towers. Among the well-preserved ruins is the legendary Wat Mahathat (1374), famous for the face of the Buddha statue protruding from the roots of an old banyan tree.
Lop Buri monkey temple. Hundreds of macaques live in the city of Lop Buri, especially around (and everywhere) around the Khmer temple Prang Sam Yot. A famous monkey festival takes place on the last Sunday in November. Now be warned. These monkeys can be unholy monsters and will easily relieve you any Exposed items (hat, sunglasses, camera, passport, jewelry), not to mention foods hidden in your pockets. You are aggressive. Wear a stick and use it. Don’t feed them.
Wat Prayurawongsawat, Thonbury, Bangkok. The bright white stupa of Wat Prayurawongsawat rises 60 meters above its suburban surroundings. When the engineers noticed that the tower was tipping over, they supported it brilliantly from the inside. Duck inside for a unique view of the hollow, brick-lined stupa. It’s a wonderfully quiet place, and then visit the little historical museum.
Words and photographs © John Borthwick 2020
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