Hilltop Khmer-style temple
Published/Last edited or updated: 29th March, 2021
Taking a page out of the ancient locals’ playbook, Wat Khao Angkhan is a modern Buddhist temple built atop an extinct volcano that affords you views over the vast forest and paddies down below. The wat displays elements of Dvaravati, Khmer, Chinese, Sri Lankan and Thai temple artistry.
The site is thought to have served as a religious sanctuary during the Dvaravati period in the eighth and ninth centuries, evidenced by sandstone markers inscribed with images of people, lotuses and Dharma wheels.
Today the most eye-catching structure is a 50-year-old clay-red ordination hall topped by depictions of Khmer-style gateways leading up to Sri Lankan style bell-shaped chedis. The entire complex is surrounded by rows of fairly large seated Buddha images.
An ancient historical record claims that ashes of the Buddha were enshrined here way back in the year 535 BCE—an obvious falsehood considering that the Buddha was probably still alive in that year. Nevertheless, the famous Thai meditation monk, Ajahn Panyawutthitho, did apparently discover some ancient relics when establishing Wat Khao Angkhan in the 1970s, placing them atop the ordination hall.
The temple also features a Chinese-style pagoda and a huge reclining Buddha sprawled out next to the dirt car park. Towering trees droop over the grounds and the slightly higher altitude keeps the air a bit cooler than down in the farmland. It does take some effort to get here; probably only worth it if you have an extra couple of hours to kill after hitting Phanom Rung and Muang Tam.
Wat Khao Angkhan is located just west of the village of Charoen Suk, 20 kilometres south of Nang Rong. The easiest way here is to head east out of Nang Rong and take a right on Highway 2117, which is the same way to Phanom Rung. Instead of going left in Baan Ta Pek to Phanom Rung, hang a right and head towards Lahan Sai for 13 kilometres, then go right and follow signs to Wat Khao Angkhan. Note that these are remote back roads, with some leading to massive mineral mines; if you don’t have GPS you might be better off arranging for a driver to take you here.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.