Suppose you can’t get up to Cambodia because money’s tight, or because Interpol is waiting at the border. No fear—Thailand has its own Khmer temples you can visit! The temple at Phimai Historical Park is the terminus of the Ancient Khmer Highway, the most important road of the Khmer Empire, which started at Angkor Wat.
A little further on is Ku Pueai Noi, which was reminiscent of Pre Rup and East Mabon with their brickwork, although not at all as large or as high.
As I noted before, the Thais have a penchant for making life-size statues of important Buddhist monks. But for the most important monks, a life-size statue may not be enough. Meet Mun Bhuridatta (1870-1949), a monk who spent more than 50 years meditating in the forests of Thailand, leading a strictly ascetic lifestyle.
We came across him while driving out of Khon Kaen, and there was no way we couldn’t check this out.
The statue is part of a small temple and roadside museum to Mun Bhuridatta.
Mun Bhuridatta sitting over a shed of his acolytes.
More life-sized statues …
… as well as some decidedly non-PC figurines.
And, of course, the wax figure.
An extra head, just in case …
… in which the birds have made a home.
Would Mun Bhuridatta have appreciated this commemoration? It’s hard to say. “Searching out secluded places in the wilds of Thailand and Laos, he avoided the responsibilities of settled monastic life and spent long hours of the day and night in meditation. In spite of his reclusive nature, he attracted a large following of students willing to put up with the hardships of forest life in order to study with him.” Boy, we all know what that’s like, amirite?
A few weeks ago, we went to Khon Kaen, a city in the northeast, because—well, because it was there and it was time for an adventure. In many respects, Khon Kaen looked like a lot of other places in Thailand, but there were a few interesting sights.
First, we have Wat Nong Waeng (Nong Waeng Temple), which is allegedly the most famous temple in Khon Kaen. It’s notable for its nine-level tower, although the view from the top is about as interesting as the view from my 12th floor apartment, and not worth the film. However, the building itself has a lot of nice architectural flourishes, like the dragons lining the staircases leading into the temple, and the interior itself is fairly opulent. The temple was built to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King Rama IX’s ascension to the throne, so there is an altar to him inside the temple. The altar includes a photograph of him as a monk—it is traditional for all young men, and particularly the kings, to go through initiation as a monk, even if they serve for only a month.
You can seek a blessing from the monk on duty, or—if you prefer the silent type—from one of the significant former monks. Thai temples frequently hold statues of prominent teachers that are incredibly detailed, down to age spots and tattoos.