Sunday, May 24, 2009

When more is not enough

temple during rain, originally uploaded by Paul Grand.

On the coast, below Bangkok, grows a very strange wooden temple structure.
It was conceived and started by an eccentric billionaire known as "Khun Lek" just 20 years ago.
Sited near Pattaya, he named it 'The Sanctuary of Truth'.
He has since died but the project still continues and is expected to be completed within five years.

The shape follows traditional Thai architecture, decorated with wood carvings depicting the four major philosophical and artistic influences that can be seen in Thailand: Hindu, Khmer, Chinese and Thai.
A team of 250 woodcarvers are at work on the sanctuary at any given time.

We'd only heard about this (not so famous) edifice the day before on the net and so time was short..
When we visited it was raining, but as it was our last day we ploughed on through the mud and sand with several cameras in weather that even the guides were unwilling to brave!

We were astonished by the size of the thing, with its huge carved four faced Buddha's heads and many over-sized elephants.
Whilst inside the stygian gloom sadly hid most of its treasures, with warnings posted that the interior was off-limits for photography other than personal snaps.

We both found it over decorated, verging on the Disney-kitsch, and thus came up with a new name for it; 'When more is not enough' !
However, it keeps many woodcarvers and related industries in employment, so it must be a good thing in an area almost devoid of cultural sites other than the sleazy go-go bars and several Thai Kick Boxing bar venues.

Thus, I recommend hiring an air conditioned taxi for a day from Bangkok and spread the cost between a few friends for a visit and avoid the next door resort if possible.

The cheaper bus is a false economy as they will drive you the slowest (cheapest) route and take you to a tourist trap factory outlet..
The trip is about seventy five minutes @ 25 euros per day, (per car) via taxi on the motorway. Up to four hours and 10 euros each (one way)by bus!

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