You have seen many temples, but I am sure never something like Wat Pha Sorn Kaew. Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is arguably the best representation of a new era of Buddhist architecture. Set on a mountain peak, the various temple buildings are decorated with more than five million mosaic and pottery pieces. My initial thoughts when I entered the compound? Absolutely stunning.
As you enter the compound, you will feel as if you have entered a fairytale. Every temple building glitters under the sun. Also, the long walkways and tapered halls remind you of a castle from one of your childhood bedtime stories. Are you in Disneyland? No, you have just arrived at Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, a temple turned into a magical fairyland.
The crowd at the temple is huge and surprisingly very local. Most people first walk towards the pearly white statue of five Russian doll Buddhas. You will see many locals praying in front of this attention-grabbing masterpiece. Turn around and what greets you is a vast mountain range. It feels as if the five Buddhas are watching over the entire mountainous region.
As you walk towards the main hall, you will notice the monks’ residence in a European-influenced building. The half-painted, half-brick façade exudes a historical, yet posh vibe. To some, this may look like an elegant apartment block. To me, somehow it looked like a haunted house from a theme park.
The main hall area is where you see the intricate montage of mosaic and pottery pieces. Almost every inch of the building is covered in these tiny pieces. Take some time to walk around the compound and admire the beautiful artwork. You might find an interesting mosaic formation or even a gem or two glued onto the walls.
Usually you find sitting Buddhas housed in stupas. At Wat Pha Sorn Kaew, Buddha sits under a modern, sleek roof. There you can find the sitting Buddhas in open-air shelters that resembles the roof of the Sydney Opera House. Do stay around for sunset. At that time, the entire hall turns into a deep orange colour and the millions of shiny mosaic pieces reflect the beautiful sunset hues.
If you have some energy left, climb up to the top of the main hall. The stairways up are also plastered with colourful tiles that reflect the nature of this temple – eccentric. From there, you can see the five Buddha statues from a distance, enveloped by the lush green mountains from behind.
Pictures can only do so much to invoke an emotion or reaction. Nothing beats actually going to a place and seeing it for yourself. Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is an open-air artwork as much as it is a temple. You will find as many people praying as there are taking pictures and staring in awe. Thus far, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is the most beautiful temple I have seen in Thailand. Simply stunning!
Thankfully, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is easily accessible by public transportation. Take any bus that plies the Phitsanulok-Lom Sak highway, which is a scenic drive on its own. The bus will drop you off at the turnoff to Wat Pha Sorn Kaew. From there you can flag a taxi or walk a few kilometres to the temple.
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