A who’s who of Buddhist iconography
Published/Last edited or updated: 17th February, 2021
During our visit to nearby Wat Si Phradu, a German expat enthusiastically told us that Wat Tai Prachao Yai Ong Tue (or Wat Tai for short) was “the most beautiful temple of your life”.
That was a definite overstatement, but the wat does make for a dizzying walk through the wild world of Hindu/Buddhist iconography. The temple grounds stretch on both sides of the road and feel like the home of a religious statue hoarder.
Painted garish gold, sea-green and light-orange, the hundreds of depictions include half-bird-half-angel khinaree from the heavenly Tavatimsa realm; Khmer-style apsaras; a miniature of Angkor Thom’s famous four-faced Avalokitesvara; sword-wielding yaksha guardians; a large Chinese-style Kuan Yin; various famous monks and stacks of Buddha images striking all sorts of postures. And that barely scratches the surface.
In the small ordination hall, colourful murals that almost look like they belong in a comic book depict key scenes from the Buddha’s life, like when the water goddess, Phra Mae Kongkha, warded off an army of axe-chopping demons who came to disturb the Buddha during his meditative run to enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. Up at the shrine, a brass Buddha image sits amid a swirl of colours.
Building projects appeared to be ongoing, though the temple felt deserted when we stopped by on a Saturday morning (unusual for any temple). This could be due to Wat Tai’s association with Luang Phu Nen Kham, an Ubon-born monk who attracted notoriety for amassing a huge fortune from donations while routinely travelling in a private jet, helicopter and Rolls Royce. With this in mind, Wat Tai also appears to be a good example of the overly lavish sort of Buddhism that plagues modern Thailand.
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.
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