Searching For Buddha in Thailand

Just looking at a Buddha statue produces feelings of calm and tranquility. You can't help but feel captivated by the facial features, the position of the body, and the majesty of the posture. Throughout the world there are countless revered Buddha statues, and Thailand has its fair share. Here we run down the top five spots for seeing Buddha statues in the Land of Smiles.

5. Sukhotai

Sukhotai is a small city with a population of around 35,000. It is in lower northern Thailand and is the capital of the Sukhotai province. Old Sukhotai, about 12 kilometers west of today's main city, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and where you'll find the ruins of the ancient capital of the Sukhotai Kingdom. The old city has remained a permanent fixture on the tourist trail for years, not least of all because of the stunning Buddha images here. The Central Zone has been subject to extensive restoration, but the real delights can be found with a bit of exploration. The best way to see the ruins is to hire a bike and ride around by yourself.

Mat Mahathat has a large seated Buddha as well as two standing Buddha. Wat Sri Chum in the north zone has another enormous seated Buddha that's great for taking pictures of. If you can get up early enough to see the sun rise, you'll be able to witness the incredible effect the emerging sunlight has on the Buddha statues. There are plenty of budget places to stay and eat and Sukhotai is served by a small bus station.

4. Ayutthaya

When Thailand was in its most glorious era, Ayutthaya was the capital and, you could say, the center of the world. The city was an incredible sight to behold until the Burmese invasion in 1767 that left it in ruins. Today, the remnants of Thailand's golden years are here for all to see. Ayutthaya is a great place to walk around, and because it's so compact you can hire a bicycle and see it all at your leisure. Be aware that it gets very hot, so take lots of water with you while you're out and about.

Viharn Phra Mongkol Bopitah is home to a large, bronze Buddha statue. Wat Phra Mahathat is the famous site of the rows of headless Buddha's. They are amazing to see, and somewhat spooky in their decapitated states. The biggest bronze Buddha in Ayutthaya can be found a little outside of town at Wat Nah Phra Meru, while Wat Phanancherng boasts its own enormous statue. Ayutthaya is easy to get to, either by bus or by train. Accommodation can cost as little as 100 baht with most of the guesthouses on soi Torgorsor. The locals are all very friendly and there is a strong feeling of community in Ayutthaya.

3. Chiang Mai

The jewel in Northern Thailand's crown is Chiang Mai. With a population of 170,000, it is a favorite spot for both tourists and locals, with many preferring the forgiving climate to Bangkok's scorching heat. Chiang Mai is rich in cultural depth and beauty. There is so much to see and do, not least of all an impressive collection of Buddha images.

There are a number of famous temples. Wat Chiang Mun has two Buddha statues that are said to be 1,800- and 2,500-years-old. The story goes that they were already there when the city of Chiang Mai was being constructed. Also in the same temple is a tiny crystal Buddha believed to have the power to bring rain. Lai Kam chapel in Wihaan Lai Kham houses the Phra Singh Buddha, the head of which was stolen almost 100 years ago. A reproduced head can now be seen. Chiang Mai is a fantastic place to visit, and it can be reached by overnight bus or train from Bangkok. The 12-hour journey is worth making to see a different side to life in Thailand. If you get a chance to go during one of Thailand's many festivals, you'll be in for even more of a treat.

2. Chachoengsao

Chachoengsao is the capital of the province of the same name. It's not so well known amongst tourists, but the locals certainly know about it and they flock there in their thousands every day. In terms of Buddha statues being revered, they don't come much more so than here. Situated only 50 kilometers East of Bangkok, traveling to Chachoengsao is easiest by bus.
The only real attraction is Wat Sothon, which is allegedly one of the biggest temples in the world. People visit this temple to pay their respects to Luang Por Sothorn and to make wishes. Luang Por Sothorn is one of the most sacred Buddha statues in all of Thailand, and there are around 20 other statues in the temple. For a glimpse of Thai culture away from the touristy areas, this is a great place to visit. A little known secret is that the real Luang Por Sothorn is housed next door, and the one people pay their respects to is an exact copy.

1. Bangkok

The City of Angels is full of temples and tourists whizzing around in the backs of tuk tuks. There's plenty to see and almost everyone sees it, but that doesn't stop Bangkok from being full of ancient wonder and charm. The Reclining Buddha at Wat Pho is one of the most famous Buddha statues in the world. Incredibly, it's as long as the Statue of Liberty is high.

Wat Pho itself is the largest and oldest temple in Thailand. There are more than a thousand Buddha images in total, with the Reclining Buddha taking center stage. It is decorated with gold plating and mother of pearl. Wat Pho is also where you'll find the famous massage school. The grounds are certainly worth a bit of exploration, so get your camera ready and enjoy. All the tuk tuk and taxi drivers in Bangkok will be happy to take you to Wat Pho, so you should have no problems finding it.

The Buddha statues are in some of the most interesting and striking areas of Thailand. What's more, they are all relatively cheap to see. All you really need are enough space on your camera's memory card and a strong pair of legs for all the walking around.

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