This seemingly dilapidated Buddhist temple exudes an air of antiquity with age. No doubt, you can tell from its exterior there is a great deal of history to this monument. From the many old and worn out stupas that sprawled over the huge temple compound, it is easy to imagine the magnificience and majesty of this place during the peak of its glamour hundreds of years ago.
A good place for meditation retreat. This wonderful temple is nestled within a huge bamboo forest by the bank of the Mekong river. Within good visual distance are the villages of Laos just right across the river. This temple was visited by the Thai King and Queen annually when its founder, Luang Po Tate was still alive. Even with the passing away of this highly respected monk, this place is still well-maintained and frequently visited by locals from all over the country. The monks engage in daily Puja sessions at 7am in the morning and 6.45pm in the evening. After Puja in the evening, there will be a meditation sitting which lasts for 1.5hrs until 9pm.
It was my good fortune to be in Thailand for the occurrence of a special event. On the day preceding commencement of the Buddhist Lent, (16 July 2011) people paraded enormous candles down the street, before offering them to monks.
Khao Phansa Day takes place on the day before the start of Buddhist lent. The date of is fixed by the lunar calendar, with lent beginning at the start of the eighth lunar month. Buddhist Lent is a three month lunar period during the rainy season, when monks remain in retreat. It’s also when many young Thai men join the priesthood for a limited time.
Khao Phansa Day is also known as "The Candle Festival". In the days leading up to the festival, huge candles are cast from beeswax. They are highly decorative pieces over 2 meters tall. Monks guided me to a temple where preparations could be viewed, and captured by my camera. I wandered among artisans, who perfected miniature wax carvings with scalpels. These delicate reliefs, portraying Buddhist symbols, were then attached to a giant candle.
In past times there was no electricity in many temples, so the candle formed a crucial part of daily life. It continues to be important, representing the light of wisdom dispelling the darkness of ignorance.
On the day itself, the candles are paraded around town on decorative floats, accompanied by local dancing girls in their traditional dress. The parade starts in the afternoon at the Nong Khai fountain, and ends at Wat Po Chai, the holiest temple in Nong Khai. Once they reach the temple, the candles are presented to the newly ordained monks in an elaborate ceremony.
This was well worth seeing, a colorful display of Thai culture presented before one's eyes.
Off the usual tourist track, a few kilometers from Nong Khai, is Sala Kaew Ku. It is a park featuring giant, unconventional, concrete sculptures inspired by Buddhism and Hinduism. A bizarre sight, the senses are overwhelmed at the volume of statues abounding in a relatively small space. Sala Kaew Ku was designed and built by eccentric mystic, Bunleua Sulilat, and his followers (construction commenced in 1978) Buddhas, Hindu gods, naga snakes and all sorts of human-animal hybrids dominate the scenery. It shares the style of Sulilat's earlier creation, the Buddha park on the Lao side of the Mekong River, but is even more extravagant in its fantasy and proportions.
Statues abound of the meditating Buddha, in all shapes and sizes. The hands are always shown lying flat in the lap, palms upward. Meditation is associated with a seated Buddha, who in this position disciplines his mind through mental concentration.
Among these unusual artworks is Rahu, the celestial monster who was said to cause eclipses by eating the moon. It is the central character in illustrating the sixth stage of knowledge, in Buddhist teachings. The aspirant to this knowledge (symbolized by the moon) seeks to escape the destruction (the round of rebirths known as samsara) caused by the celestial monster. The moon is nirvana (liberation).
A nun concluded a Buddhist ceremony just as I wandered past. It was performed in front of the sculptural representation of the “Wheel of Life”. You enter via a womb-shaped tunnel and walk the circle past statues depicting each stage. Perhaps the most enigmatic part of the park, the “Wheel of Life” represents the karmic cycle of birth and death. The composition culminates with a young man taking a step across the fence surrounding the entire installation, to become a Buddha statue on the other side.
As well as figures from Buddhism, there are several, unusual representations of Brahma, one of the three gods who make up the Hindu Triad. He is traditionally depicted with four heads, four faces, and four arms. With each head, he continually recites one of the four Vedas. (Early Hindu texts)
This is definitely a sculpture park that is original, eccentric, and totally unconventional. It is well worth a look.
There isn’t any direct public transportation, but visitors can hire a tuk-tuk to get to Sala Kaew Ku, from Nong Khai.
Take a trip east to Sri Chiang Mai which has a large Vietnamese community and you will see how they make the spring roll wrapper, which are placed on stands to dry in the sun before packing and distribution.
Cycle west along the Mekhong and just before you reach Sri Chiang Mai you will come across a park on the right hand side where you will find bushes cut in to the shapes of elephants and other animals. This photo was taken a long time ago but i passed by there more recently and it is real impressive to stop and take a look around.
A good time to go to Nong Khai is in the end of October to witness the Naga Fireball Festival. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naga_fireballs
Both Nong Khai and Vientienne, Loas have festivities and hundreds of locals gather along the Mekong River to watch the decorated boats and wait for the balls of light.
Opened on April 8, 1994, this 1,170m long bridge was the first across the lower Mekong, and the second on the full course of the Mekong with another two in the pipeline. It connects Nong Khai with Vientiane in Laos and cost about US$30 million, funded by the Australian government as development aid for Laos. Traffic on the bridge drives on the left, as in Thailand, while traffic in Laos drives on the right. The changeover at the Lao end, just before the border post, is controlled by traffic lights.
This utterly bizarre park of massive sculptures (some over 20m tall), located 6km east of Nong Khai on Highway 212, is the handiwork of the mystic Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who bought the land in 1978 when he was kicked out of his native Laos - a similar park of his earlier work remains near Vientiane. Synthesizing Buddhism and Hindu ideologies, Buddhas, many-armed goddesses, naga snakes and all sorts of human-animal hybrids dominate the scenery.
The sculpture garden is one of those places which is incredibly difficult to describe. It is big and full to the brim with concrete statues of deities from all manner of religions. The standout statue would have to be the seated Buddha with the naga heads behind it.
There is no direct public transport and you might find it a little tricky to get back, so you're best off arranging a return ride with a tuk-tuk (100 baht or so, including the cost of the driver waiting one hour).
Admission: 20 baht.
This traditional looking Cantonese-style Chinese temple is located near the eastern end of the covered market in between the two main roads. Nong Khai has a strong Chinese and Vietnamese population who originally would have been Mahayana Buddhist.
This is the main temple in town and is home to a highly revered Buddha image which dates back to the Lan Chang Empire. Part of the statue is solid gold and is believed to be one of three statues made at the request of the daughters of the King of Lan Chang. In 1778 the images were taken to Vientiane in Laos and were subsequently carried to Nong Khai during the reign of King Rama III. During the move, one of the boats sank in a storm sending the Buddha on board hurtling to the bottom but it was later recovered. The remaining two were interred in Thai Wats, the recovered statue now resides in Wat Ho Klong.
This very distinctive temple that features a large golden Buddha facing the river on its roof is located beside the river towards the east of the town. Simply walk along the riverside promenade from the covered market and you'll come by it as it's unmissable.
As I walked to the museum which is located in the west of the town, I stumbled across this beautiful French colonial building that was once the Governor's Residence. It was built in 1929 for the provincial commissioner, Yiam Patumthewaphiban and it was last used by the 37th Governor, Suphut Lawansiri who lived here as recently as 2007. The king and queen have visited here for lunch on three occasions. The building features some nice wooden louvers and wooden furniture and is full of photos of previous governors.
The main promenade runs along the side of the river from a small temple called Wat Hai Sok past another temple called Wat Lam Duan that has a large golden Buddha on its roof that overlooks the river. The promenade is very pleasant for a relaxed stroll along plus there's a few stalls and shops plus access to the covered market.
Phu Tok temple or so called Jetiyaram temple was built by Ajarn Jaun,a monk who famous in meditation. He came to Phu Tok area where have small mountain and led villagers to built a staircase around that mountain.