Known for its highly revered Buddha image and unusually modern wall murals, Wat Pho Chai is Nong Khai town's largest and most important temple.
The resident bronze Buddha image with a solid gold head, known as Luang Phor Phra Sai, was one of three made at the request of a Lan Xiang king's daughters many centuries ago. All three images were plundered by invading Siamese in 1778, and one, Phra Suk, was lost to the Mekong when a violent storm erupted as the image was being rafted across the river. The second image, Phra Soem, was later carted to Bangkok.
The Buddha image itself is striking, but Wat Pho Chai's elaborate and colourful wall murals distract most visitors. In great detail, the designs depict Siam's cross-river invasion of Laos, and the legend of the three captured Buddha images. The panels also depict scenes from more recent times, including several showing King Bhumibol (Thailand's current king) visiting the temple. After seeing so many beautiful yet typical temple wall murals depicting traditional Hindu-Buddhist imagery, it's a nice to change of pace to see temple murals that depict pick-up trucks and modern Thai kids shooting water guns on Songkhran.
The temple also houses a large number of monks and is always buzzing with locals who burn incense while praying to Phra Sai for health and fortune.
How to get there
Wat Pho Chai is located between Highway 212 and Prajak Road, about a block east of the main bus terminal on a lane named after the temple. The location is well labeled with signs on both roads, and will be easy to find on any map of Nong Khai.