Displaying a mix of Lao, Burmese and Thai artistic styles, Wat Thung Si Muang was built in the early 1800s to house a replica of the Buddha’s footprint -- an ancient symbol of Buddhism.
If you can only visit one wat in Ubon and you don’t feel like going too far out of the way, this is probably the best choice.
Wat Thung Si Muang’s best-known feature is the ho trai, a small hall used to preserve Buddhist scriptures. The exceptionally elegant wooden structure rises from the middle of a lotus pond, which is beautiful but also serves the purpose of keeping termites and other insects at bay. A Burmese-style six-tiered gabled roof draws gradually upwards to Thai-style chofa finials. Floral woodcarvings adorn outer walls, with detailed lacquer work decorating interior cabinets.
While the scripture hall is one of the more attractive features in any of Ubon’s temples, we were drawn to the neighbouring ordination hall with finely lacquered doors and two-century old murals displaying soldiers heading off to war. The haunting space contains images of late meditation monks and the footprint replica placed in front of an old Lao-style Buddha image.
The grounds house a number of monks, including several young novices who like waving to foreign visitors. Many trees have been preserved, combining with the lotus pond and centuries-old architecture to create a relaxing atmosphere -- a sharp contrast to nearby Wat Pa Yai with its modern structures and big concrete car park.
How to get there
Wat Thung Si Muang covers a large area between Nakhonban, Phalorangrit and Luang roads, with entrances from all three. It’s a five-minute walk east of Thung Si Muang Park, just beyond a large school.
By David Luekens
Last updated on 29th July, 2015.