Monday, November 19, 2012

Wat Tham Kong Pen: An Isaan Oddity (1)

A bell tower atop a rocky perch at Than Kong Pen

A monk heads up to the
museum area
The wat known as Than Kong Pen sits quietly within a hillside in Nong Bua Lamphu province, nestled into a massive wall of sandstone boulders that loom over and around it.

It was, by far, one of the more peaceful temples I've seen so far in Isaan; the tranquil surroundings almost daring you to make a sound, and other than the soft prayers of the faithful and the gentle rise and fall of a tone from a large gong all was quiet inside.

My friend's cousin had driven us out one afternoon to see this unusual area, where buildings were constructed to fit the space left under and around the huge stone formations, and it was a beautiful, breezy time to walk about and take it all in.

We got out of the vehicle and walked a ways while Bot drove on ahead so we could enjoy the soft rustle of the leaves as we moved down the road and got a better look at this practical but odd looking way of building.

Looking up at the museum from the lower parking level

There's a museum on the grounds, containing one of those surprisingly realistic statues of the meditation master Luang Pu Khao Analayo (December 28, 1888 to May 16, 1983) who lived there from 1958 until his passing. You climb a short stairway up to the museum through a carefully groomed garden area that was alive with colorful butterflies the day I was there.

Thai butterfly - I believe of the swallowtail variety

Nong Bua Lamphu province is West of Udonthani and North of Khon Kaen provinces, as you can see in the map below.

Tomorrow we'll finish with Wat Tham Kong Pen and I'll share more about the interior and grounds.

Another butterfly stops at a pincushion plant at Wat Tham Kong Pen

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