Wat Pha Sorn Kaew: Thailand’s Best Temple
Nestled in a remote corner of the Phetchabun mountain range, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is a shangri-la-inspired Buddhist sanctuary. It’s an unusual, yet serene temple that features a stunningly beautiful design: an eclectic mix of Catalan modernism and Indochinese Buddhist architecture.
In particular, Wat Pha Sorn Kaew’s most striking feature is its larger-than-life Five Buddha Shrine Hall – a spiritual ground that’s veiled by thick layers of fog, from dusk til dawn.
The majestic Five Buddha Shrine Hall was designed by Master Amnart Opaso (Wat Pha Sorn Khaew’s founder) as a dedication to the traditional five Buddhas who visited the Earth and as a merit for King Bhumibol Adulyadej on his 85th birthday.
The structure itself was completed in 2004 and stands 7-stories tall with a measured height of 45 meters (~148 ft). Even though the structure’s height makes it imposing in person, the stylized nature of the Buddhas and the surrounding artwork, makes it incredibly peaceful to gaze upon.
Inside of the Five Buddha Shrine Hall, lies a reclining Buddha amongst an open space where monastic practitioners can conduct religious ceremonies or engage in mindful meditation.
For all other Buddhist visitors, there are resident monks available for merit-making ceremonies.
While Wat Pha Sorn Kaew’s is known for the sense of magnificence it imparts on visitors, what makes this temple truly special, what makes it truly memorable… is the use of geometric story depictions and an almost maniacal attention to minor details.
The temple’s walls, archways, and floors are plastered with a series of vivid artworks – elegant arrays of Dhamma-inspired puzzles and mosaics. In total, over 5 million pieces of stones, gems, pottery shards, and tiles were used to create these celestial-inspired ornamental designs – and no two designs are alike!
Throughout Wat Pha Sorn Kaew’s complexes, you’ll find more than just colorful mosaics of concentric circles. As a renowned pilgrimage site, monks from all over Thailand visit the temple grounds daily, in effort to further their knowledge on a variety of sacred Buddhist practices.
Outside of the main prayer hall, the monks on pilgrimage tend to frequent the open-air stupas to recite holy chants in Pali (a dead, ancient Indian language that’s still practiced by Theravada Buddhist practitioners in Thailand).
In our humble opinion, after visiting 200+ temples across the country, we can respectfully claim that Wat Pha Sorn Kaew is Thailand’s most beautiful temple.
We understand that this temple isn’t perfectly symmetrical like Wat Arun in Bangkok or traditionally pure like Wat Somdet in Phu Ruea. With its imperfections in mind, there’s just something about this temple that stays etched in your memory – it’s uniqueness is hard to forget and reminiscing about it always brings up feelings of nostalgia – it’s just truly special.
What are your thoughts? Do you find this temple as beautiful as we do? Let us know via our contact page.
Where To Stay in Phetchabun: We recommend staying deeper into Khao Kho district (about 45 minutes away by car) as there’s not many attractions nearby Wat Pha Sorn Kaew. Staying here will give you more options, in terms of activities and food. Check out Krin Resort for a nice and wallet-friendly hotel or Black Diamond Camping for more of a luxury stay.
When To Visit Wat Pha Sorn Kaew: the temple is worth visiting year-round, but the best experience will be during the cold season (November – February). The temple is open 7 days a week, from 8:00am to 5:00pm. It’s also worth noting that you don’t need a guide and there’s no entrance fee – however, donations to the temple grounds are always welcomed.
How To Get To Wat Pha Sorn Kaew: given the temple’s remote location, you’ll need a car or motorbike to visit – it’s a ~5 hour drive from BKK and ~1.5 hour drive from Phitsanulok. Alternatively, private taxis from Phetchabun town can be easily arranged (prices are arbitrary), if you arrive by bus from any major Thai city.
Tip #1: There are several coffee shops and small restaurants adjacent to the temple’s parking lot. We highly recommend stopping at one for some food or a brew, as the shops have a panoramic view that overlooks the rolling hills and deep valleys of the mountain range below.
Tip #2: When visiting the temple grounds as well as the chedi, please behave and dress appropriately – refrain from making loud noises and wear long-sleeve shirts and long pants.