Wat Huay Sai Khao

Wat Huay Sai Khao

Remarkable—congratulations to the abbot!

More on Chiang Rai

Another entry into Chiang Rai’s highly unusual temple category is Phan district’s incredible Wat Huay Sai Khao.

Travelfish says:

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 most locals in Chiang Rai didn’t seem to know of its existence, so you certainly won’t see many 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.

An atypical wat. : Mark Ord.
An atypical wat. Photo: Mark Ord

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.

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

You get the idea right? : Mark Ord.
You get the idea right? Photo: Mark Ord

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 were wonderful to behold.

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.

Transport information

Wat Huay Sai Khao is roughly 22 kilometres south of Wat Rong Khun on Highway 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.

Contact details for Wat Huay Sai Khao

Address: Highway 1, Phan District
Coordinates (for GPS): 99º44'21.19" E, 19º38'31.23" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps
Admission: By donation

Reviewed by

Based in Chiang Mai, Mark Ord has been travelling Southeast Asia for over two decades and first crossed paths with Travelfish on Ko Lipe in the early 1990s.

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These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.


Our top 10 other sights and activities in and around Chiang Rai

Wat Phra Kaew
Wat Phra Kaew

Attractive grounds and a good little museum

Baan Dam
Baan Dam

The Black House

Chiang Rai Night Bazaar
Chiang Rai Night Bazaar

The only place to be after dark

Wat Rong Khun
Wat Rong Khun

Very white.

Doi Tung
Doi Tung

A great day out

Cooking classes
Cooking classes

Several excellent cookery options in town

Municipal market
Municipal market

A sprawling labyrinth

Oub Kham Museum
Oub Kham Museum

Amazing collection of all things Tai