Located along a scenic bend in the Moon River, Wat Suppattanaram Worawihan is one of Ubon’s largest and most active temples.
While the main attraction for travellers is a bulky and architecturally distinctive ordination hall, the sweeping river views and fish-feeding opportunities seem to be the main draw for many locals.
Appearing as a stately block of white with a slanted ocher roof, the hall was designed by a royally appointed Thai road engineer in the mid 1800s. European architecture was becoming popular in Siam at the time, and here the designer incorporated a German quality into the building’s thick walls and heavy pillars standing on a huge marble base. Many Thai temple walls tilt at slight angles to lend a sense of lightness, but Wat Suppattanaram’s shoot straight up at 90 degrees to make the building look something like a fortress. Blank-white interior walls are also unusual, if boring.
European-style chandeliers hang over a golden naga-hooded Buddha image that sits above a replica of Bangkok’s sacred Emerald Buddha. Other distinctive attributes include grinning lion guardian statues with slicked back hairstyles, naga-head finials and Dhamma wheels over the doors with 12 (rather than eight) spokes, symbolising the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination. A nearby pavilion houses the largest wooden bell in Thailand, but you can’t ring it. You can however traverse the parking lot for a great view of the river.
Wat Suppattanaram is a centre for the Thammayut branch of Thai Buddhism, which was launched by the Thai monk-prince who would later become King Rama IV in the 1830s. It’s a busy place, especially on weekends, when laypeople come to practice group meditation in both the seated and walking forms.
Ubon’s chapter of the Willpower Institute, a non-profit Buddhist meditation movement founded by 95-year-old Thai Forest Tradition monk, Luang Phor Viriyang Sirintharo, is also based here. If you arrive on a Saturday or Sunday, don’t be surprised if one of the blue-shirted members welcomes you to a free communal meal while telling you all about Willpower Institute’s many meditation centres in Thailand and North America.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 29th July, 2015.