Remarkable—congratulations to the abbot!
Published/Last edited or updated: 11th June, 2019
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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