Photo: These snacks go great with an iced beer.

Wat Phra That Ruang Rong

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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.

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Welcome to the temple of weird.

Welcome to the temple of fun.

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.

Someone's having fun.

Someone’s having fun.

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.

Some might call this the temple's scariest scene.

Some might call this the temple’s scariest scene.

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.

The colours are enough to send some running.

The colours are enough to send some running.

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.

Nothing funny about this one.

Nothing funny about this one.

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.

View from the top.

View from the top.

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.

Inside the museum room.

Inside the museum room.

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.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Si Saket.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Si Saket.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Si Saket.
 Read up on how to get to Si Saket, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
 Do you have travel insurance yet? If not, find out why you need it.
 Planning on riding a scooter in Si Saket? Please read this.
 Buy a SIM card for Thailand—pick it up at the airport when you arrive.
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