On this trip I haven’t had any set itinerary, but a few places I want to see, and I play it by ear for the rest. There have been some happy accidents where I have discovered some amazing places, and Wat Somdet Phu Ruea was one of them.
As I drove into Ban Nong Bua, or Phu Ruea, depending on whether you believe Apple Maps or Google Maps (even Google Maps isn’t completely clear) I saw this temple in the distance. Sometimes travel here can be difficult as there are so many similar place names, or even the same ones, but in different provinces. I am not 100% clear where I was, but I do know where that wat is! I am beginning to thing I was in Phu Ruea. Still not 100% sure!
Anyway, I drove into let’s say, Phu Ruea, and saw this wat from the highway. I slowed down, and my reaction was, literally, “oh, wow!” I knew what I would be doing the next day!
Every wat I have been to in Thailand seems to have something unique and interesting about it. Even the small ones. Wat Somdet Phu Ruea is perched up on a hill, overlooking the valley. It has two unique spires visible from a distance.
In the morning I had coffee at yet another interesting coffee shop and made my way up to the temple. It wasn’t far. A short ride up the hill and I saw the main building. After parking my bike and walking up, I was able to see the two spires I had mentioned. I am not sure the correct term for these.
The view overlooking the valley is nice, and I can see why they chose it. This seems to be a common choice for wats and temples in Thailand.
There is still a lot of construction going on here, and I would like to visit again to see what’s been added. I eventually made my way to the building with the main spire. Inside I found the walls lined with large paintings of monks, all painted and looking quite lifelike. The canvases seemed to be about 15 feet wide and about 18-20 feet tall. I am not sure.
I saw the artist was there, painting his latest canvas. I asked if it was okay to come in and take photos, and he said yes. It was such a privilege to spend 20 to 30 minutes there with him, shooting photos of his work, and of him, as well as getting video of him at work.
His name, if I remember correctly (I said it in a video I shot) is Sawan (spelled right? Not sure). His English was pretty good, and he asked me where I was from, and talked a bit about what I was doing. He was from Bangkok and had been here for a while. I tried not to interrupt him too much.
I really like seeing artists at work and documenting it, as I am able. He mentioned he had done some other paintings there as well.
I discovered more of his work in a nearby hallway. This hallway is a building that runs down the hill, with a series of roofs covering it. From the outside, it is interesting, but what it houses is mind-blowing.
After leaving the building the artist was in, I went to a nearby building housing a Buddha, and discovered it also connected to this hallway.
The hallway isn’t just a hallway, but a gallery. On the right side are these giant canvases, and on the opposite wall is a story about each canvas, in Thai and in English. There aren’t just a few, I counted 52 of them. 52! At the end of this gallery is another large painting, and in behind that, another Buddha statue of a style I hadn’t seen before.
To top it all off, this area overlooks a staircase that leads down to another large temple! It was quite a ways down, and without shoes, I wasn’t walking down. I will save that for my next trip there.
I did shoot video walking down the gallery/hallway. It is truly amazing. What is even more amazing is that I later talked to the artist in the dining hall, and he confirmed there were 52 paintings, he had painted them all, and it took him four years to paint them! Wow!
There are also several other areas I had seen where there were paintings I am almost positive were done by him.
Wood was also a common theme in many of these structures, with some constructed from wood, but also many carved panels done in wood. When I say many, I mean probably dozens of them, and they’re not small either. The floors in some of the buildings seem to be made from solid timber in pieces up to three feet wide. The varnish shows the beautiful reddish brown colour of the wood. It’s nice to walk on.
I took so many photos and videos that day. There are so many interesting angles there and I would like to go back again. I am sure a sunrise or sunset from there would be worthwhile. I will do this one day.
I hope the photos and videos I have taken will do justice to his work there, and the work of others, in portraying the beauty of this temple complex. It is certainly worth a stop! I think I was there for about 2.5 hours, and could have been there for far longer. I think that one could set aside at least an hour to get a good sense of the place, or longer if you want to read the stories associated with the paintings in the gallery/hallway.