25 May Must visit temples in the Hua Hin and Cha Am district
Over 93% of all the people in Thailand are Buddhist, nearly all of them Theravada Buddhists, and wherever you travel in this South East Asian country you will find temples, Buddha images and many orange robed monks. The district of Hua Hin and Cha Am is no different, with temples that range from the opulent to the modest, and with a few discreetly tucked into caves. These are some of the more noteworthy amongst them.
- Wat Ampharam, also called Wat Hua Hin, is the primary temple and monastery in Hua Hin and one of the city’s main attractions. Architecturally it is perhaps not as impressive as others in the area, yet it fulfills many important roles to the community as a monastery, place of worship, a crematorium and cemetery.
- Wat Tham Khao Tao is found at Turtle Hill near the southern end of Suan Son beach in the quiet village of Baan Khao Tao. As you approach you will notice the colourful shrines and many Buddhist images and other statuary in a concrete ‘cave’ in front of a small real cave. Do make the effort to climb the stairs to the large standing Buddha on the hill overlooking the village.
- Phraya Nakhon Cave in the Khao Sam Roi Yot National is one of the most enchanting and mystical landmarks in Thailand yet not many travellers get a chance to see it as this gold and green pavilion is hidden inside a hard to reach cave. Those who do are rewarded with an impressive sight. The Phraya Nakhon cave consists of two chambers with the ceilings of both chambers open to allow the sunrays in, lighting the caves and giving them a magical appearance. The Phraya Nakhon cave is best known for the Kuha Karuhas pavilion in the main chamber. The pavilion was built at the end of the 19thcentury for the visit of King Chulalongkorn the Great (Rama V).
- The Khao Luang Cave is where King Rama IV used to go to meditate and study Buddhism. The cave is filled with a large number of Buddha images including a four-meter high image ordered by King Chulalongkorn. There are a number of caverns with stalactites hanging from the ceiling.
- Situated in west Cha Am, the Cha Am temple is home to a cave on a small hill. The image of the Buddha inside the temple was built in the Ayutthaya period and is most impressive.
- The Statue of King Naresuan and Neranchararam temple is a popular choice. During the Ayutthaya period, King Naresuan the Great reined from 1590 to 1605 using Cha Am as a meeting place before going to war with the Burmese in 1593. Situated in a little park that overlooks the sea is his statue and a few meters away is Neranchararam Temple where you can have a look at the six-armed Buddha image with each hand covering a sensory organ signifying the denying of the senses.
- The Wat Huay Mongkol temple just out of Hua Hin is a place with a peaceful atmosphere in a park like setting with a lake, streams and shady pavilions. A popular destination for Buddhist pilgrims, thousands visit the temple every weekend to honour Thailand’s largest Buddha image of Luang Phor Tuad. The statue, which depicts the famous monk seated on a pedestal with a wooden elephant on either side, is 12 meters tall. There is a temple, several restaurants and shops that sell Buddhist amulets. Given the popularity of the complex with pilgrims, it would be advised to visit on weekdays when it is less crowded.
- Wat Khao Krai Lart is just over 10km from Hua Hin and perched between two other temples on the mountain. Visitors need to climb stairs to reach it and can enjoy wonderful panoramic views of the surrounding area and towards the sea. There are fishponds and several statues of Buddha in the ground. Feeding the fish is said to bring good luck.
Wat Khao Sanam Chai is home to white buildings with gold trim and sits on a high ridge on the outskirts of the city. The buildings are covered in flags and bells and the wat offers panoramic views that are particularly impressive at sunset, making it a popular place to visit in the evening.
Did you know?
Wat means temple. All wats consist of a group of buildings in a demarcated area or enclosed by a wall. The buildings include a bot – ordination hall and main prayer room, a stupa or chedi – the holiest part of the wat, and the viharn – the assembly hall. A wat area can also include libraries, schools, monasteries and crematoria.