Wat Phumin, Nan
- Last Updated on 18 December 2012
- By Koustabh 'AKASH' Dolui
The temples of Thailand
Some of the most beautiful Buddhist temples, both in terms of antiquity and architectural splendor, can be found dotted across Thailand, where Buddhism is one of the principal religions. And since Thailand is one of the most picturesque countries in South East Asia, as well as a popular tourism destination, it might be a good idea for you to embark on a pilgrimage to the Buddhist temples, or Wats as they are locally called. One of the most impressive Wats of Thailand is the Wat Phunim, located in Nan province of Northern Thailand.
How to Reach Nan
The best way of reaching Thailand is to fly into the Suvarnabhumi International Airport, which is half a day’s flight time from London, and is served by all the major airlines of the world – both full-service as well as budget. Once you reach Bangkok, you have several options of travelling onward to the town of Nan. You can take a connecting flight to Nan Airport, which will last a little more than 90 minutes, or you can fly to Chiang Mai, which is one of the biggest cities in Northern Thailand as well as one of its cultural centers. From Chiang Mai there are daily flights operated by Happy Air and Solar Air; however, a better idea is to travel by road, either on bus or car or train. The road goes through one of the most lush green mountainous territories you will come across, with quaint World War II bridges fording onrushing streams and brightly plumed birds flying about in the jungles. There are overnight bus services from Chiang Mai to Nan that take 10 to 13 hours to cover the distance, starting around 9 pm from Chiang Mai and reaching Nan at dawn; or you can rent out a car and travel at your own pace, drinking in the natural beauty as you travel.
Staying in Nan
A variety of staying options are available in Nan, and even though it is a town with a laidback lifestyle, the people are very hospitable and will welcome you with quiet dignity. You can choose from four-star hotels offering all modern amenities and facilities, or you can rent out economy guest houses that will cater to your basic necessities. Many of these guest houses also offer bike rentals, for bikes are the most convenient (and most popular) or going around town.
History of the Wat Phumin
The Wat Phumin is the most famous temple in the entire Nan province, and is a perfect example of impressive Budhist architecture. It has a venerable history, having been constructed way back in 1596 AD; although it suffered gradual wearing over the next few centuries, it was restored to its earlier glory during the reign of Chao Ananta Vora Ritthi Det. The restoration work lasted 8 years, from 1867 to 1875.
The Wat Phumin has a unique construction, being located on the back of two immense snake formations. It has four entrances, with a small corridor leading to each entrance; the corridors are topped by finely decorated point shaped structures of royal origin. The east entrance is guarded by Chinese demon guards, the north entrance sports flowers and the south and west entrances exhibit forest life motifs in the Lanna style.
The interior of the temple has an equally grand design, inspired by Thai Lue architecture. There are twelve teak pillars decorated with gold, black and red lacquer elephants to support the heavily decorated roof. The altar, in the middle of the central hall, features four Buddhas in the Sukhothai style, with their hands pointed downward and fingers touching the ground. The Buddhas face the four corners of the earth, and next to the statues is a resplendent dhamma seat which is used by monks to deliver sermons to their students.
The northern and western walls are decorated with magnificiient murals that still retain their original artwork; these depict life in the 19th century as illustrated by Thai Lue painters. The northern wall features the Khattana Kumara Jataka, while the western wall depicts the Nimi Jataka. These murals are of great cultural and historical significance, and they illustrate influences from several schools of paintings, including Chinese, and the Thai Lue.
In fact there is so much to explore and so many finer details in this temple that you can spend an entire day enlightening yourself. And in the end you can return, having offered prayers and received blessings, with peace in your heart.