The Asian traveller’s most common affliction is without doubt temple burnout, even a couple of days of shining stupas and beneficent buddhas can be enough to get you running to the nearest bar for a cooling bottle of Chang and chat about football or sex, anything that’s not too culturally enlightening. Once you’ve seen a few ruins and a couple of operating temples, admired the ornamentation and smelt the incense you pretty much have got the picture. However, every now and then you come across one that doesn’t even seem to be on the same planet, let alone of the same religion. One such example is Wat Tha Ka Rong in Ayuthaya, a town in Thailand more known for its multitude of historical sites.
A visit to a normal temple demands the similar quiet reverence of an English church but here is more akin to a family outing to a theme park, with excited kids rushing round numerous distractions, spilling ice cream and pestering their parents. Any religious duties are quickly dispensed with and the selfie sticks are whipped out for giggling teenagers to record every moment of the action or for young couples to pose in front of decidedly non religious exhibits, in hope of a celestial blessing of their relationship. A floating market on the adjacent river provides food and tourist tat to prolong the adventure, the two institutions melding into one whole entertainment complex.
At an early age kids learn that the enforcement of Buddhist scripture is taken very seriously.
This delightful scene re-enacts the fabled Big Boob Sutra, where the young Buddha learnt the value of concentration, when he allowed himself to be distracted by some alluring beauties whilst crossing the road and was knocked down by an ox cart. Or possibly not.
Does the American comics industry know that it is being used to promote Buddhist values?
Just in case you didn’t believe it was an actual temple.
Just one of the many games which entice punters to give away their money by trying to throw coins into moving collection bowls. There was rarely more than a couple of metres between collection bowls and boxes throughout the entire complex and a busy weekend is obviously a big money earner for the temple. Giving to a temple is seen as a way of gaining merit which will improve your chances of not being reincarnated as a slug or a Republican politician. Not that I imagine the cash goes on crack whores and whisky but I wouldn’t mind knowing how it’s all spent.
Dinosaurs, giant rabbits – what is there not to love about this temple?
Another attraction and possibly another means of gaining merit is to buy large bags of psychedelic coloured snacks to feed the mass of catfish. Given the lurid colouring in the food I am not confident for the long-term health consequences of the fish.
With so much phat booty and big boobs Buddhism is a real man’s religion. Didn’t see any images of hunky guys to draw the ladies though.
Just a hint of religion among the attractions.
As you pass the eyes glow, a recorded voice offers a blessing and the skeleton bows to you. Absolutely no idea!
No wonder the kids love it.
Quite frankly much of the goings on here defy explanation but who cares? The entertainment value is all the better for it. There exits an inverse incarnation of such places in the form of the hell temple, which depict the gruesome sufferings that sinners will face in hell. An excellent guide to these is the One Weird Globe website, which details many bizarre temples in Asia along with strange sites of interest to deranged minds.