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Category Archives: Temple

Last weekend was the Khorat Candle Festival, a celebration and procession of Buddhist Lent.  So, naturally, we all crammed into our friend’s car and fought traffic to see what all the fuss was about. I knew, when I saw a group of mannequin-like things that I would greatly enjoy the festival.

A mannequin sculpture (or something) encouraging people to donate to a temple

The festival took place at the main square in front of Nakhon Ratchasima’s city hall. Large floats constructed out of wood, plaster, foam, and wax lined the streets, drawing crowds of faithful Buddhists, amateur photographers, and the occasional tourist.

Man touching up one of the candle floats

Wax, in the traditional colors of the Thai monk wardrobe, was intricately sculpted and carved to depict representations of Buddhist lore. Some of the floats featured scenes from the life of Buddha, tributes to His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, and other Buddhists deities and cultural folktales. The carving of the floats and their subsequent donation is a chance for Thais to commemorate Buddhist lent and raise money for their local wat*.

A sea of wax in Nakhorn Ratchasima

Disregard my other photo comment. This float is literally sailing a sea of wax...

Elephants, dragons, and deities! Oh my!

Although we had dined earlier in the evening at a local Thai-Chinese restaurant, there were numerous street stalls and vendors selling a wide variety of Issan* delicacies: curries, kanomes**, and beverages for those who were hungry. Oddly, a lot of the stall owners were wearing cowboy hats and gingham button-downs. Cowboy hats aside, the festival was peppered with traditional Thai folk music and dance performances. The night culminated in a lighted candle and float procession in order to showcase all of the hand-carved wax. Ultimately, the candles were taken to a wat as a donation for monks to use during their three-month retreat for Buddhist Lent.

Some of the floats were magnificent (while some bordered on the bizarre), there were a lot of people and subsequently a lot of people watching, and there were a lot of strong smells (most of which were not pleasant, believe me) But all in all, it was a fun little festival and we had a lot of laughs.

A bunny-pig and a Buddhist deity making a human offering? Not quite sure what is going on here.

*Buddhist temples

**North East Thailand

***snacks

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Monday was Buddha Day1 and also a full moon. Following a late lunch of Paht Pak Toa Huu2 and sugarcane juice, we drove to Wat Khao Jan Ngam3 to walk off our meal and appreciate Buddhist history. At the base of the mountain handwritten signs alternated between cautioning visitors of king cobras and informing them to abide by the Buddhist tenets in order to become beautiful women or intelligent men (bah!). As we hiked to find 4,000-year-old pictograms drawn on the wall of a boulder, gnats and flies warned us of rain. The drawings, which feature animals and thick-calved herders, were in great condition considering that they were completely exposed to potential vandalism and rain. Across from the pictograms stood a shrine, perhaps in celebration of the boulder-work. The shrine consisted of melted candles and spent incense, a naga4 statue, and a baby preserved in a jar of formaldehyde atop a wooden table. The baby, while perhaps not directly related to the pictograms, is meant to be a lesson for people who do not successfully care for their bodies while pregnant. In the hope of bringing themselves choke dii5, Thai visitors will often supplicate the spirit of the deceased infant with offerings of baby toys, bananas, and lotuses.

Wat Khao Jan Ngam: Prehistoric Painting

We continued our hike up the cloudy mountain, maneuvering between large boulders topped with trees whose roots spilled over the rock walls. Under thunderclaps and rain, we made our way past Buddha’s footprint and found shelter in the hut of a forest monk. Sitting barefoot on the monk’s wooden bed, we talked about cobras and watched as steam rose from the rocks of the mountain. When the rain began to let up, we hiked quickly down to the  car and headed back to our village.

Wat Khao Jan Ngam: Mike & Buddha's Footprint

Wat Khao Jan Ngam is exceptionally beautiful– and secluded. Hiking through the park under the darkened brow of the sky was an eerie experience (it would make a great backdrop for a ghost film). Wat Khao Jan Ngam is off the beaten [tourist] track and it is difficult to find much information on the location, paintings, sculptures, and carvings on the mountain–it’s not even listed in the 2010 Lonely Planet: Thailand travel guide. It is easy to see why many monks take meditation retreats at this mountain.

If you are interested in visiting Wat Khao Jan Ngam, it is located in Amphoe Sikhiu, Nakhon Ratchasima. Take Mittraphap Rd. (Highway 2) and turn left at kilometer 198 (near Mountain Creek golf course). The temple is another 3-5km down the forested road.

1. Buddha’s birthday

2. Tofu with stir-fried vegetables, served with rice

3. Temple of the Beautiful Moon Mountain

4. A one-or many-headed hooded serpent

5. Good luck

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