Photo: The grand approach to Phanom Rung.

Wat Khao Angkhan

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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.

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Photo of Wat Khao Angkhan

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.

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What next?

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