Part of visiting Thailand meant stepping inside intricately decorated, gold-adorned Buddhist temples; well at least for me. Without any such temples on the Tigerair Philippines media tour itinerary, the only time I get to see these places of worship were when our tour bus passes them en route to some destination or another.
And of course, the only photos I get were blurry, electric line-ridden images.
I was ecstatic then when our bus pulled into a gravel drive in the town of Song Phraek where one such temple is located. We weren’t really there for the temple though; the group was simply waiting for the smaller vans that would take us to the whitewater rafting area in Phang Nga.
Dubbed as the Wat Chanathikaram, it serves as a monastery to the Buddhists living in the area. I absolutely have no idea about its history and what its name means, having no one to ask about the place. Heck, even our guide doesn’t know the proper name of the temple, saying only it’s Wat Song Phraek; which basically means the temple of the town’s name.
But Song Phraek’s Wat Chanathikaram has its own claim to fame. Its grounds were once used as Roadblock for the popular Amazing Race TV series where contestants were required to reassemble a spirit house—a miniature altar-like temple that Thais put in front of their houses—before moving on the their next challenge.
But besides that, not much is known about the temple.
To say that the temples of Thailand vastly differ to what Filipinos are accustomed to when it comes to house of worships is a vast understatement. The Thai Buddhist temples are so richly intricate in their design and ornamentation that any of the Christian churches in our country looks relatively bare in comparison.
Like most Buddhist temples in Thailand, Wat Chanathikaram’s roof is made up of three graceful tiers. Adorning the temple’s tympanum is an icon of Kinnari, a Thai mythological creature that wears an angel-like garb, standing over the shoulders of a Garuda, a mythological bird that represents Thailand’s national symbol.
I have no idea though what its interiors look like; Wat Chanathikaram’s red gates being closed during our brief side trip. I contented myself on circling the colonnade of the temple, admiring the repeating complex ornamentations of its columns and its more complex apexes.
But even though we were unable to access its chambers, one must keep in mind the do’s and don’ts when visiting Buddhist temples. Here’s a few; take off one’s shoes around the temple grounds, refrain from pointing and touching Buddha statues, nuns, monks and elders (lest you risk being damned to hell), avoid wearing of shorts and other revealing clothing (for the girls) and of course, the universal, observance of silence.
Off one side of the complex stands a separate tower, equally ornate as the main temple of Wat Chanathikaram, called the ho rakang or their bell tower. It is mainly used to announce morning and evening ceremonies. And yes for practicalities sake, it is also used to wake the monks at the start of the day.
It didn’t take long for our van to arrive to fetch us for our whitewater rafting activity. Our visit to the Wat Chanathikaram temple was very short, but I thoroughly appreciated every one of its detailed nooks and crannies. It may not be the most famous Buddhist temples this side of Thailand, but it is certainly the most beautiful for me. Err, well, it’s the only one I’ve really seen up close, that is.
Wat Chanathikaram Temple
Address: Song Phraek, Mueang, Phang Nga, Thailand
Contact Number: +66 76-411-476
GPS Coordinates: +8° 31' 51.19", +98° 31' 14.71"
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