Photo: Scenery surrounding Chiang Rai.

Wat Huay Sai Khao

Our rating:

Another entry into Chiang Rai’s highly unusual temple category is Phan district’s incredible Wat Huay Sai Khao. This isn’t a white temple, powder blue one, or even a black house but an astonishing multi-coloured disney-esque affair. We came across it completely by accident and even locals in Chiang Rai didn’t seem to know of its existence, so you certainly won’t see any foreign visitors there. However, lying just 20 kilometres or so south of Wat Rong Khun, it’s conveniently placed to be added to an excursion to the better known destination.

Colourful doesn’t start to describe it!

‘Colourful’ doesn’t start to describe it!

If Disneyland added a Buddhist temple it would look like this, but Wat Huay Sai Khao is a functioning religious site, with visiting school parties adding to an overall ‘Buddhism can be fun’ kind of atmosphere. All the vivid stupas and shrines have full public access and local kids seemed to be having a great time running around and playing hide and seek on the various staircases, different levels, viewing points and corridors under the watchful eyes of smiling teachers and grinning monks. Without intending to be sacrilegious there’s a definite playground feel here though we reckon that’s intentional.

All the chedis and stupas are full accessible

All the chedis and stupas are full accessible

It’s all very new so the entire colour pallet covering the fantastical range of stupas, chedis, shrines and halls is bright, sharp and clean and the various sculptures liberally dotted around – while very modern – did seem generally orthodox at least in subject if not execution.

Rocket powered guardian demon

Rocket powered guardian demon

The temple complex covers only a small area but with a huge amount of content squeezed into the grounds. There’s what appears to be an original main worshipping hall, classic in design and housing a seated Buddha image around which are crammed the results of the current abbot’s serious blood rush. We reckon it’s all too much fun and way too impressive to be tritely described as kitsch and the grins on both the kids’ and monks’ faces was wonderful to behold.

The main aim of Wat Huay Sai Khao is clearly ’fun’!

The main aim of Wat Huay Sai Khao is clearly ‘fun’!

This is a brilliant spot and there’s even a couple of other sites in the immediate vicinity to take in so you could make a fine half day tour including Wat Rong Khun, Wat Huay Sai Khao and some hot springs of the same name lying on the opposite side of the Phayao highway. The springs aren’t really worth a visit on their own but you can test the waters and get a drink or snack after the temple while continuing south another 10 kilometres or so will see you in the small, but bustling, market town of Phan. Phan has a huge municipal market plus a lively weekly Thursday market as well as a large hill-top reclining Buddha so makes an interesting lunch stop if you’re in the area.

Scenery on the road to Phan

Scenery on the road to Phan

Wat Huay Sai Khao is roughly 22 kilometres south of Wat Rong Khun on route number 1 so a bit short of 40 in total from Chiang Rai. The temple is on the west side of the highway, the hot springs on the east and Phan Town another 10 or so south. Inter-city, Phayao or Lampang buses or local Phan bound transport from Chiang Rai will drop you and pick you up right outside the temple so you don’t even need to hire transport.


Wat Huay Sai Khao
Daily 08:00 to 18:00
Admission: By donation

Location map for Wat Huay Sai Khao

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Chiang Rai.
 Check prices, availability & reviews on Agoda or Booking
 Read up on where to eat on Chiang Rai.
 Check out our listings of things to do in and around Chiang Rai.
 Read up on how to get to Chiang Rai, or book your transport online with 12Go Asia.
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