Temples Near Udon Thani - Wat Pa Phu Kon
Discreetly tucked away in a hilly woodland just inside the Na Yung District district boundary of the Udon Thani Province, some 126km from Udon Thani City, is Wat Pa Phu Kon and is one that is probably not seen by the single visitor too often; more the realm of the expat with a local Thai girlfriend or wife who wants to visit this rather special temple.
Wat Pa Phu Kon is probably the most stunning temple in Issan; certainly the most striking with its aqua blue roof. This is not unique as you can find other temples in Thailand with the same colour on top but it is the only one I know of in the Issan region. Wat Pa Phu Kon is located in a very remote part of Issan but is very well signposted from route 2021 that heads west from ban Phue. You are advised to arrive quite early in the day, ideally on a week day, before 10:00. As noon draws closer, the locals begin to arrive in cars, trucks and bus loads, and it can get very busy, especially at the weekend. There is however a downside to an early arrival and that is the positioning of the sun. During our recent visit (20th December), we arrived at just after 10:00 and the bright sun was hovering directly above the main temple building; hence the sun spot on the first image below.
On arriving at the temple grounds you are ushered in to a parking space by the helpful and friendly staff and as a foreign visitor you are almost certainly going to get a very pleasant smile and greeting from some of the women that work the parking lot. Before you can enter the main temple grounds though, you are checked by the staff to ensure that you adhere to the dress code which is a little more formal than most temples in the region.
Following your drive, you are probably going to want to act on a force of nature and you will find the toilets opposite the steps that lead up the temple grounds. There are also a few shops on site should you or your partner feel the urge for a browse and perhaps some retail therapy.
Once you are ready to go up the two flights of steps you must leave your shoes at the bottom but as the grounds are well kept you should not feel any discomfort that comes with stepping on small stones with bare feet. The stairway is guarded by two large, white Chinese style lions and at the top of the stairs are two brown, large temple guardians. As you arrive at the top you are face to face with the front of the main temple and what a sight it is. Unlike many temples, Wat Pa Phu Kon is incredibly clean and tidy although your feet will still get very dirty as the ever present dust settles during the course of the day - even if wearing socks!
In addition the beautiful and colourful buildings, the main attraction at Wat Pa Phu Kon is inside the main temple building where everyone comes to see the massive white marble reclining Buddha. This Buddha statue cast in the region of 50 million baht (Approx $1,540,358) and the temple grounds a cool 320 million baht (Approx $9,858,294). Funds for the temple grounds and reclining Buddha were donated by an elderly Thai woman who donated the funds in honor of the King.
Surrounding the enormous plinth on which the reclining Buddha rests is a series of carvings, depicting numerous other Buddha images. It is much easier to see these at either end of the plinth and round the back.
There are four entrances to the main temple building, each with impressive guardians at the steps, including the Naga Snakes that are so common in Issan. The surrounding walls are also highly decorated with lots more Buddha images and gold plating everywhere.
While exploring the outside of the building it is worth turning around quite often as there is some nice scenery behind you. The temple is perched on top of a hill, partially surrounded by some other hills and the whole area is superbly lush and green.
If you want to get a basic understanding of the statues you will see in the temples, visit our Buddha Statue Meanings page.
A second Temple at Wat Pa Phu Kon
I have seen many websites that feature Wat Pa Phu Kon but what I have never seen is reference to another, much smaller temple that is nearby and also signposted. As you leave this temple, following the road down the hill, you will see a sign pointing to the left and a large picture of a steep staircase with temple atop. Turn left and follow directions until you reach the car park.
When we visited the entire site was undergoing renovation but there was still limited access to an impressive building at the top of a hill. As the staircases was being renewed the only access to the temple above was by a small funicular train which cost 20 baht per person to ride both ways. The temple is actually quite small but is topped with a lovely golden dome and spire. Inside the building you will find a series of Buddha statues in glass cases that circle the inner wall, separated by more glass cases that house numerous framed photographs. I am not certain is these photographs are a reflection of local life or Thai life in general, either way they are worth having a close inspection of.
How to get to Wat Pa Phu Khon