One quirky temple
Published/Last edited or updated: 25th February, 2021
Si Saket province punches above its weight when it comes to temples with quirky and bizarre features. One of the oddest is Wat Phra That Ruang Rong, a large complex with an extensive museum and some eye-popping statuary.
The fact that this is no ordinary temple becomes obvious as soon as you pull into the car park and see a larger-than-life elephant statue raising its trunk above life-size depictions of Thai military officers in uniform. Wander inside and you’ll come across a large structure built to mimic an ox cart, complete with a huge pair of white oxen up front.
In a portrayal that would make Thai military leaders happy, statues of young Thai children are shown obediently kneeling to offer gifts to elder government officials. Next to that are statues of people with the heads of buffaloes and dogs that probably serve to show Thai kids what will happen in the next life if they don’t shut up and respect the authorities.
Other quirky statuary includes the hermit Russi donning a tiger skin outfit next to a cobra and giant frog; a couple of giant bug-eyed owls; emaciated-looking monkeys armed with umbrellas; and statues of a man and woman displaying their artistically sculpted innards from the chest down. They stand next to the bathrooms, encouraging you to contemplate your body while relieving it.
Under a pavilion in a corner of the grounds, a large Buddha is depicted lying flat on his back—the only one we can recall seeing in Thailand. Breaking from the laughable statuary found elsewhere in the temple, it’s quite a poignant image which serves to remind visitors that the Buddha was not some sort of divine being, but rather a man with a fragile body like any other.
The central feature is a five-storey structure that gets increasingly narrow as you step upwards to a relic-enshrining spire on the rooftop, where you can take in views of the surrounding rice paddy. The first floor displays a vividly painted series of murals, including a few showing minions of Yama, lord of death, prodding and torching the karmically challenged in a Buddhist hell realm.
From there, a flight of stairs takes you up to a bright room lined with murals of Si Saket province’s many “wondrous” tourist attractions. Murals on the third floor attempt to show what life was like in the area stretching back over 1,000 years, including Khmer sanctuaries being built from stone, sultry Khmer women performing a dance, and a group of villagers capturing elephants in the wild.
The third floor also features a large collection of antiques, such as folk instruments, coins, weapons, typewriters and a photo of half a dozen American servicemen holding some sort of giant aquatic creature that could easily be interpreted as a real-life naga.
Building projects appeared to be ongoing elsewhere on the grounds; who knows what will pop up next? Unless it’s something seriously spellbinding, this unique (read: goofy) temple won’t make a trip to Si Saket worthwhile all by itself, but it is a fun stop after checking out some of the Khmer ruins further west.
Wat Phra That Ruang Rong is located eight km north of Si Saket train station, around three kilometres east of Highway 2373, from where blue signs in English point the way. A motorbike taxi can take you here and back for around 200 baht, or you could arrange a regular taxi.
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.