Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Trip Report, Pt. 24: Wat Khao Sukim

You won't see this building, as it's still under construction. You can see cranes above the site in the panorama below.

Wat Khao Sukim is a fairly large complex, built on a hillside in Chantaburi Province in the mid-1960s. It's still a work in progress, with an enormous temple underway (but just barely). Nevertheless, it's a stop worth making, if for no other reason than the nearly auditorium-sized main hall "museum" and the views from up near the retreat, one of which is below, taken from the wide patio encircling the museum.  From there you can see more of the 1,000+ acres of land owned by the followers of Phra Ajarn Somchai Thitawiriyo, who had originally intended it to be a meditation center.

A panorama shows part of the lake, the parking and shops, and the new temple - under construction on the far right

On the weekend it's likely to be crowded, and I base that on the size of the parking area at the bottom of this hill; you could put dozens of buses and still have space left for a couple of hundred cars.

From what I was told, lay groups and individuals of the faith can attend meditation stays, but it was fairly quiet on the afternoon we visited. The main buildings were set to close an hour after our arrival, so we didn't invest the time (or energy) to climb the hundred and fifty or so steps up the naga-lined stairway to the main hall, which I called the museum in the first paragraph.

Some of the museum, quarters and other buildings on the higher level

It houses thousands of items, large and small; all donations from people who are making merit in their own way, but all of no small significance.  These were items which all seemed to have some historical value, although the signage in English was sadly lacking.

A small fraction of the offerings on display

As an alternative to the stairway there's a tram that ferries you up and down the steep hillside, although since there were so few visitors that afternoon it was being loaded to the weight limit with building materials - bags of cement and sand that day, for the most part. A group of about 10 young men would load the cars up at the bottom and send them up to the top, where another group waited to unload the stuff and lug it off to wherever it was going.

The last bit of tram track and stairs near the top as we were descending at the end of our visit

The guys at the bottom were glad to see us, I think, because that meant they could take breaks between loads a little longer than usual. When the man with the walkie-talkie up top saw us approach the tram he called down to his partner and he spoke to the others, who all smiled with relief and sat down on the chairs to rest.

Break time... light 'em if you've got 'em

Seems like as good a point as any to take a break in the story, too. I'll finish the rest of it tomorrow.

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