San Ta Pha Daeng Khmer Ruin

San Ta Pha Daeng Khmer ruin

San Ta Pha Daeng (ศาลตาผาแดง) is the oldest and smallest of the three surviving Khmer temples at Sukhothai Historical Park (the others are Wat Si Sawai and Wat Phra Phai Luang); and thus the overall oldest monument there. It is Bayon/Lopburi-style and probably dates from the late 12th or early 13th century as a project of King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219). Some sources date it to the reign of Suryavarman… Read More

Wat Si Sawai Khmer Ruin

entrance to Wat Si Sawai Khmer ruin

Wat Si Sawai (วัดศรีสวาย), located within the old city walls about 200m southwest of Wat Mahathat, is one of the most visited ruins at Sukhothai Historical Park. At its core is a main sanctuary with three prang towers built by the Khmer in the late 12th or early 13th century. Despite this being the reign of Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219), a devout Buddhist, it appears that it served as a Hindu temple… Read More

Wat Pho Ban Nontan Meditation Hall Art

picture of turtles carrying books on their back on Wat Pho Nontan meditation hall

Nobody knows when Wat Pho Ban Nontan began, but the many clay Buddhas found here show that it is very old. It was upgraded around 1789, when Khon Kaen city was founded on the other side of the lake. Up until the mid-20th century, it remained surrounded mostly by wilderness. Though the city has now engulfed it, the temple retains the wilderness connections as best as it can with some… Read More

Buddhist Flags in Thailand

Thai Buddhist flag

The Thai Buddhist Flag Nearly every temple in Thailand flies the yellow and red tong dhammachak (“Thai Buddhist flag”) which was officially introduced by the Thai sangha in 1958. The red circle is a dharma wheel (dhammachak in Thai) and it represents dharma, the teachings of the Buddha. Also known as the “wheel of law,” it was metaphorically set in motion when the Buddha gave his first sermon, known as… Read More

Phra That Phu Phek Khmer Ruin

Phra That Phu Phek Khmer ruin

Phra That Phu Phek (พระธาตุภูเพ็ก), about 22 kilometers west (32 kilometers by road) of Sakon Nakhon city, crowns a mountain about 520 meters above sea level. There’s a simple, modern Buddhist temple near the ruins, so you can drive most of the way up the mountain, but the final approach to the summit is along a 494-step staircase. You should probably be in reasonably good shape to visit since besides… Read More

About the Legend of Nang Phom Hom, “The Fragrant-Haired Lady”

Nang Phom Hom story painting at Wat Nong Wang

The Isan-Lao folktale of Nang Phom Hom (นางผมหอม) is about a girl whose father is the king of elephants and who is later turned into a monkey by a ghost before she and her family are finally able to live happily ever after. As with most ancient folktales there are many versions told across the region with the same overall plot, but different details. The story is well known. It… Read More

Ku Kaew Khmer Ruin

shrine inside library of Ku Kaew Khmer ruin Khon Kaen

Ku Kaew (กู่แก้ว) is a far cry from Prasat Puay Noi, Khon Kaen’s best preserved Khmer ruin, but there’s still enough standing to make a visit interesting. It was built in the early 13th century by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) as a temple for a hospital (arogayasala). All buildings are made of laterite and none retain their tops, and though the sandstone frames remain around the doors, there are… Read More

Prasat Phra Yuen Khmer Ruin

Prasat Phra Yuen khmer ruin

There’s no structure remaining from Prasat Phra Yuen (ปราสาทพระยืน), which is just called prang ku (ปรางค์กู่) by locals, but a pair of shrines have been made from the remnants. The main shrine is a small modern building with four old Buddhas. Legend says Phra Yuen town was founded by the leader of Chonnabot in 1863 because he found the two standing Buddhas in the ground here after dreaming of two… Read More

Ku Ban Non Ku Khmer Ruin

large buddha image at Ku Ban Non Ku khmer ruin

All that’s left of Ku Ban Non Ku (กู่บ้านโนนกู่) are some laterite blocks that have been piled up to make an 8×16-meter platform for a four-meter tall Buddha image built in 1995. The only estimate for an age is late-10th to early-13th century, though because of the location, later dates are most likely. Two of the small stairs each include a broken sandstone slab and these appear that they could… Read More

Prang Wat Chulamani Khmer Ruin

Prang Wat Chulamani khmer ruin

The only Khmer ruin in Phitsanulok province, Prang Wat Chulamani (ปรางค์วัดจุฬามณี) is part of its large namesake temple. It’s six kilometers southwest of the modern city center near the Nan River and this was probably the city’s original location. It’s not worth making a long trip, but it’s quite fun to visit if you’re already in Phitsanulok. All that remains from the Khmer era is an east-facing (it’s actually off… Read More

Corpse Meditation Murals at Wat Um Long

Wat Um Long corpse meditation mural

The small old ubosot at Wat Um Long in Thoen, Lampang province, is interesting and unusual in many ways. The most interesting for me is that the majority of interior wall space is covered with murals of a monk doing corpse meditation. (The rest are scenes from the life of the Buddha.) This is not an uncommon subject matter for inclusion in temple paintings, but it’s rare for it to… Read More

Thailand Travel Tips You Won’t Find in a Guidebook

shoes and please take off your shoes sign at shrine in Thailand

If you need to find someone who can speak English and you’re not in a tourist area, go to a pharmacy. Pharmacies are almost always staffed by licensed pharmacists and you can’t graduate from pharmacy school in Thailand without using English. If you read or hear “lemon” or “lemonade” in Thailand, then 99.9% sure it’s a lime, not a lemon. For some reason, most Thai dictionaries and schoolbooks teach the… Read More

Ku Buamat Khmer Ruin

central tower and library of Ku Buamat Khmer ruin

Ku Buamat (กู่บัวมาศ) is in pretty bad condition overall, with no complete structures remaining, but there’s enough left to give an overall idea of how it used to be. And, surrounded by rice fields, it’s a peaceful place. Possibly built in the 11th century and later modified, it now has the bottom two meters of a single brick tower, although maybe there either were, or were going to be two… Read More

Ku Mithila Khmer Ruin

shrine made form laterite of Ku Mithila Khmer ruin

The few laterite blocks from Ku Mithila (กู่มิถิลา) that remain, with the addition of some new laterite, have been used to construct a small modern shrine. At its core is an old (though after the Khmer era) Buddha statue in subduing Mara posture carved from laterite. Around it are laterite statues of Rahu, Brahma, Mae Thoranee, and one that can’t be identified, but could be Phra Malai. Although they’re not… Read More

Ku Sampan Ka Khmer Ruin

Ku Sampan Ka Khmer ruin

The monks of Wat Khok Ku have transformed what little remains of the original Ku Sampan Ka (กู่สัมพันธ์ค่า) Khmer temple into a small sacred area. They dug a square-shaped pit into the ground, lined it with the few dozen remaining laterite blocks that had been lying around the grounds, and hung a blue PVC pipe for pouring water over Buddha images during Songkran, the Thai New Year. It sits right… Read More

Ku Ban Daeng Khmer Ruin

back of Ku Ban Daeng Khmer ruin

Ku Ban Daeng (กู่บ้านแดง) is a small Mahayana Buddhist temple that appears to be from the reign of Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) in the early 13th century. The only structure remaining is the central sanctuary, which has three laterite towers on a single base. None of them have their tops any more, though the middle tower is still used as a shrine; the yoni and Buddha statue are both modern creations. Several… Read More

Ku Sunthararam Khmer Ruin

Back of large Buddha surrounded by laterite enclosure at Ku Sunthararam Khmer Ruin

The laterite enclosure around Ku Sunthararam (กู่สุนทราราม) is nearly complete, which isn’t often the case in Thailand, but that’s the only Khmer era structure visible here. Concrete fills in some gaps in the wall, but it has aged so much that it’s not immediately noticeable. In 1956 a 29m-tall Buddha statue was built over what remained of the toppled laterite tower(s) and there’s a big modern arched gate in typical… Read More

Ku Phanna Khmer Ruin

east gopura of Ku Phanna Khmer ruin

Ku Phanna (กู่พันนา), about an hour northwest of Sakon Nakhon city, is the northernmost Khmer ruin; beating Wat Phra Si Rattana Mahathat by about 1/100th of a degree latitude . It’s one of the many arogayasala (hospital) temples built across the empire by King Jayavarman VII (r. 1182-1219) in the early 13th century. Everything was built with laterite and enough is still standing to make a visit enjoyable. The most… Read More

Ku Bueng Jiew Khmer Ruin

thai buddhist monk standing next to sandstone pedestal of Ku Bueng Jiew Khmer ruin

All that remains visible of Ku Bueng Jiew (กู่บึงจิว) is a single carved sandstone pedestal with two holes in it. Locals believe this stone now covers a naga hole. The large Buddha that’s inside the sala in front of the naga hole was built over all the laterite blocks that remained from the Khmer temple. Its age is unknown. Locals call the site Prang Ku. Location – Wat Pa Ban Prang… Read More

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