Kee Hua Chee prays to a Golden Buddha at the top of Wat Simalaisongtham in Korat
The main prayer hall of Wat Simalaisongtham
THE FAMOUS TEMPLES IN THAILAND ARE TOO NUMEROUS TO MENTION SINCE SOME ARE TRULY GRAND AND HISTORICALLY IMPORTANT LIKE THE TEMPLE OF EMERALD BUDDHA, WAT PO AND THE GOLDEN BUDDHA TEMPLE IN BANGKOK'S CHINATOWN WITH A 5-TON BUDDHA MADE OF SOLID GOLD!
But I, like many others, have never heard of Wat Simalaisongtham as it is relatively unknown as it is located in Pak Chong in the province of Nakorn Rachasima in northeast Thailand. Located in an out of the way district in Pak Chong and not easy to find, Wat Simalaisongtham is isolated and I would not have noticed it had we not taken the wrong way!
I was on my way to Panther Creek hotel for the cowboy party when the van took a wrong turn and we passed what seemed like an eternally long wall painted with Buddha and religious images plus statues of the gods and monks and sculptures of peacocks and elephants!
I could not believe my astonished eyes at this amazing roadside stretch of art and begged Apple from TAT to bring me there. However, she said it was not on the itinerary so that was that.
However, I prayed to Buddha to bring me there with or without Apple or Durian or Orange and again Buddha granted my wish!
An important travel agent Danny Chong also asked Apple to take us there and Buddha directed her mind to agree so the next day we went! We woke early so we could spend more time there and as expected, the Abbot was present even though I did not dare hope so much.
I ran out into the road to take photos of the Great Wall of Nakorn Rachasima (my new name for it) and was invited by the Abbot to enter the temple.
If the Great Wall of Nakorn Rachasima was incredible, so was the interior of Wat Simalaisongtham!
I am a maximalist when it comes to interior decor and Wat Simalaisongtham epitomises my decorative dreams!
I believe an empty wall should be filled with furniture or hung with paintings or painted with murals. Every square inch of your home should be filled with sculptures, statues or splendid stuff that bring luck and remind you of happy memories.
Well, this temple is all that and more. Every part is either hand painted with religious imagery or graced with Buddha or statues of gods and goddesses and there was even a life-sized, amazingly realistic mannequin of a seated monk.
The ceiling at the entrance was painted with 2 Nagas or Thai dragons and the steps leading to the temple's open air rooftop were lined with statues of tiger, elephant, snakes and celestial birds. There were water features galore including a pool with cascading waters and artistically placed statuettes.
In fact, Wat Simalaisongtham is the grand version of my condo which is also decorated o the max and there is hardly any space left for me to move!
The lavish and extravagant decorations started some 9 years ago and were mostly built by volunteers who handcrafted the statues and painted the murals and interiors. The topmost floor had ceilings laden with thousands of amulets and talismans which were made by novices, monks, visitors and worshippers who donated them to increase their merit.
The temple itself is not that big but like me, it is larger than life. There were so many decorations and embellishments all mish-mashed together I could hardly absorb what I saw. Suffice to say I was bowled over and thoroughly impressed. If Buddha grants me a huge house, I will turn it into a KL version of Wat Simalaisongtham!
The Great Wall of Nakorn Rachasima at Wat Simalaisongtham depicts paintings from Jataka stories of Buddha's many incarnations before becoming the Enlightened One.
The many benevolent faces of Buddha
I love this wall as it is so three-dimensional and not a painted flat surface like most walls
Such masterly works of art in the open air by the road for all to see and admire!
Dazzling masterpieces for all to see and be inspired
I like the painting of the nebulae next to Buddha's head
The purple bougainvillea seems to match the colour scheme perfectly
The 3-D effect of the wall is amazingly eye-catching and soul-lifting
Buddha's three-dimensional heads add a stunning perspective to a normally flat, one-dimensional wall
No wonder traffic automatically slows down at this stunning sight!
Even the overgrown creepers give it an authentic and laidback air!
This must be the world's most beautiful Buddhist wall!
2 Nagas dramatically inter-coiled to form the Mystic Knot resembling the number '8' several times over!
The Thai dragon is distinct from the Chinese dragon
This wall is full of Buddhist iconography handpainted by volunteer artists
Notice the simple and basic zinc roof! But Wat Simalaisongtham is rich in friezes and astoundin artworks!
The wall contains all the colours of the rainbow
A peacock stands above the mankara
This 3-D peacock is certainly outstanding with its beplumed tail
I love the way Buddha's heads protrude from the wall, creating a lively and animated illusion, like the samsara world we live in
The benevolent faces of Buddha and holy beings
come alive in this amazing wall
A holy man in tiger skin
Magenta bougainvillea flowers add life to this Buddhist wall
If this wall is in Bangkok, it would have been world famous overnight!
The Enlightened One
This monk invited me to enter the temple
Statue of Buddha starving almost to death before he realised self mutilation was not the way but the Middle Path was
The entrance to Wat Simalaisongtham flaunts 2 Nagas on the ceiling
Every inch is occupied by furniture, furnishings and fixtures!
A silver and golden Nagas guard the interior leading to the staircase
The ceiling is lavishly decorated with amulets made by monks and visitors
A marble staircase leads up into the main prayer hall
A life-sized tiger stands guard
A fountain plays inside this pool
A last flight of steps
And I reach the main prayer hall which has a day bed with funky leopard print!
Wat Simalaisongtham is famous for amulets, some of which hang from every possible corner
A monk's pedestal
Buddhas and elephants line the entire pillars
Lush green views from the wraparound balcony
The Golden Swan stands proudly at the top of Wat Simalaisongtham with its beak carrying the crystal lamp
The Golden Swan is the steed of Brahma and the royal barge of Thailand is called Supannahongsa after the Golden Swan and is the personal barge of HM King Bhumibol of Thailand and has been the personal barge of every King of Thailand since King Rama 1 who founded the present Chakri dynasty
The Golden Swan right at the top of Wat Simalaisongtham
The Golden Swan sits at the pinnacle of Wat Simalaisongtham
A kinari stands at the back of the Golden Swan
A garuda with opened wings stands behind the Golden Swan
Stunning vistas open up at the top
The views are magnificent and stretches as far as the eye can see
Behind the Golden Swan are Garuda and 2 Naga deities
Dramatic view of the back of the Golden Swan
Back view of Golden Swan
Rooftop of Wat Simalaisongtham
Buddha takes over the world
No modern buildings, edifices and McDonald's to be seen anywhere!
A devotee places beads on a Buddha's statue
A prayer to Buddha
What a view
A view to thrill
This is what I call a view to die for
Close up of Golden Swan
The golden barge for the sole use of the Kings of Thailand since Rama 1 is called Suphannahongsa in honour of the hongsa or swan
Kee Hua Chee prays to Buddha
Another photo of Kinari taken during my descent
Another view of the kinari
The main prayer hall
Even the ceiling is lavishly embellished
Every square inch is decorated
I took these photos on my way out and the interiors looked markedly different!
Indoor water feature
This is a natural cavern carved from the hill
Buddhas and beads in profusion
Buddhas and beads
A Buddha for every direction
I am not sure if this stalagtite cum stalagmite is natural but it has formed into a pillar
A peacock-feathered tiger is a strange sight
A ferocious tiger festooned with peacock feathers
A caparisoned tiger
A Golden Buddha in a grotto
Sea shells and starfishes line this grotto
Fountain in a grotto
The Chinese Monkey God is also present
I have a tiger like this at home too
Coiling torso of a Naga
Two serpentine creatures wind their way across the ceiling and wall
The boulder is painted with dragons
This monk is a mannequin though it looks so incredibly real
Buddhas line this staircase
I love this crocodile skin
Worshippers waiting for the Abbot to arrive
The Abbot of Wat Simalaisongtham gave everyone CDs
Vickie Yong receiving her CDs from the Abbot
A grotto filled with religious artefacts and statues
Unusual ceiling to say the least!
View of the monk's reception area
Listening to the monk
The Abbot dispenses the beads and necklaces
Name cards are exchanged
The Abbot gives bracelets and necklaces to devotees
Prayers are recited
Monk and supplicants
Monk and supplicants
The ceiling is loaded with good luck charms
The Abbot prays for a safe journey for us
I love the tiger skin sofa, so cool!
The Thai fans are really cool, so to speak
What a wonderful wall
A final chat
3 new monks would be ordained that morning we went
This cat seems so nonchalant
Notice my painted slipper shoes!
2 light bulbs are artfully placed to represent the Flamming Pearl of Wisdom
The coolest ceiling I have ever seen!
I love this ceiling with the painted Nagas!
Ceiling with a view
Kuan Yin the Goddess of Mercy
Note the Buddha's head amid the roots
The roots seem to be growing skywards!
An unique tree
Tree with holy man statue
The head of the Golden Swan looms high amid the trees
The entrance to Wat Simalaisongtham is basic and unpretentious but the interiors tell a different story!
The Golden Swan appears to be flying through the sky
What a stunning sight of the Golden Swan that appears to be floating amid the trees!
The base of the big trees all have statues
Monk and Kuan Yin statues
The garden of Wat Simalaisongtham is like a botanical garden
Kee Hua Chee was granted his wish to visit theb unique Wat Simalaisongtham!
Kee Hua Chee feeling like he has come home!