Saturday, October 21, 2023

[PATTAYA] A Golden Buddha and a Wooden Temple


Once upon a time I thought Pattaya was part of Bangkok, and always wondered in which Soi I could find it. Later on I found out that Pattaya was actually in a separate province called Chonburi down east forming a horseshoe with Bangkok and Hua Hin along the bay that flows out to the Gulf of Thailand. And we know what that means. BEACH! But how do you get to Pattay from Bangkok? Easy. Bus it. Book online via this website: https://pattayabus.com/. You can pay there directly and screenshot your ticket.


If you are boarding the bus at Suvarnabhumi, then you have to go one level down to the bus company’s ticket booth where they will give you a boarding pass. I highly recommend booking online because the tendency of getting relegated to a later bus trip is high if you buy directly from the counter. The bus is comfortable and the seats we got for the trip to Pattaya could be fully reclined. The ticket just cost THB325 (~PHP510) which already included a drop off to my hostel. The trip takes two hours, all highways.


My hostel was right across the beach and next to McDonalds. Since I just came straight from Phu Quoc, I wasn’t really in a beach mood, also considering how Pattaya’s beaches are not that comparable to the country’s beaches to the south. Pattaya is really more of a sin city of sorts where people from Bangkok flock to on weekends to have fun. By fun, we usually mean the sexual kind, although that industry is now in an indirect competition with weed since marijuana was legalized in the country.


If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is head over to Pattaya Walking Street and see for yourself how every store lined up is an alternation of weed shops, go-go bars, and seafood restaurants. It was mostly a flurry of bright green and red lights along with scantily clad ladies at the front door. Since I was more interested in finding good fried rice that night, I headed straight to one of the seafood restos in plein air facing the gulf. Damn, it seems to me that Pattaya never sleeps.


Well I have to sleep no thanks to a combo of sightseeing and work. The main attraction of choice originally planned for this trip was Mini Siam, which features some sort of Legoland Miniland but obviously not made of Lego. Since I just came back from Nagoya last month, I thought that such a trip would be redundant. How many mini diorama trips do you need in a year? And so I had to change plans. Checking out Nomadmania and Wikitravel, I found the perfect alternatives.


Since this is Thailand, meeting Buddha is always a question of when rather than if. Big Buddha Hill is easily accessible via a cheap THB40 (~PHP65) 10-minute Grab Bike ride that brings you all the way to the top of the hill. The Buddha complex itself is not that huge but has enough space along with a viewing deck overlooking the city for you to loiter in. Entrance is free but modest clothing is a must. The steps leading up to the golden Buddha is a photo-op in itself, flanked by golden dragons on both sides.


Getting a Grab Bike from up there is close to impossible, which means you will have to walk downhill for some exercise. There is a Chao Doi cafe right at the foot of the hill in front of the main road if you need refreshments. They also have WiFi so you can easily call a Grab Bike from there should your data roaming not be working. From there, I went straight to the Sanctuary of Truth on the other side of the city. The Grab Bike cost THB70 (~PHP110) and took a bit longer clocking in at 25 minutes.


The Sanctuary of Truth is not free. Admission costs THB500 (~PHP785) for foreigners. It is quite steep but the attraction is worth it. Entirely made out of wood, the temple is a strange amalgamation of different world religions, even though the main inspiration appears to be Hinduism. There is a workshop you go through before reaching the wooden temple and I must say that the craft involved in all that wood art is simply amazing. You can see the workers in action right there.


The temple itself is awe-inspiring in all its brown wooden glory. Overlooking the sea, the owner couldn’t have chosen a more serene location. While people mostly come for selfies, the temple strives to imply its own philosophy regarding life in general, although I found it to be rather generic. Luckily, the owner does not seem to be building a cult of any sort, so we can really just consider this as a rather strange work of art trying to find its place in the blurry collage of modern religious philosophy.

[PATTAYA] A Golden Buddha and a Wooden Temple

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