Monday, June 19, 2023

Amazing visit to the Wooden Pavilion near Bangkok,Thailand

One of the great joys of travel is discovering something unexpectedly that is so amazing and wonderful that you wish everyone knew about it and could see it. Larry and I had such an experience when we visited the Wood Pavilion at the Sanctuary of Truth located just north of Pattaya, Thailand, about an hour and a half from Bangkok.

Wood Pavilion at the Sanctuary of Truth

The brief description I had read earlier intrigued me, but without pictures, I didn’t fully understand what we were about to see on our excursion.

The Wood Pavilion is an enormous, pagoda-shaped structure overlooking the Gulf of Thailand. It is made entirely of wood using ancient Thai methods of construction, meaning no nails or other fastening methods hold it all together.

Entrance to the grand Pavilion

Construction began in 1981 as Lek Vinyaphan developed plans for a magnificent structure that would honor both Buddhist and Hindu beliefs and values while preserving and supporting traditional woodworking techniques. Thus, the Sanctuary of Truth is a mixture of Eastern beliefs and architectural styles from different periods.
The pavilion is a vision of
Lek Vinyaphan

At first seemed like a temple, partly because we were expected to wear modest clothing with knees and shoulders covered (I had to borrow a wrap-around skirt to cover my legs since I had worn shorts). Wood-carved idols and sculptures covered every surface of the building. Many tell stories central to Buddhist and Hindu beliefs; others depict historic and cultural scenes reflecting everyday life of the people.

Today, dozens of workers live in tents on premises and spend their days chiseling new pieces or  repairing what has deteriorated over time. It’s a massive, on-going project that will always be unfinished. After we had toured the Pavilion, I had an opportunity to try my hand with a chisel, being very careful not to mess up the work a talented artist had in progress.

Workers chisel designs in the wood figures.

Larry stands at one of the grand
But the grandeur of the Wooden Pavilion makes it seem almost like a castle. The intricate hand-carved sculptures are intended to reflect the world’s ancient knowledge. Multiple balconies function as lookouts that provide unparalleled views of the ocean. 

The huge inner chapel is covered with stunning sculptures that reveal scenes from ancient cultures, among them likenesses of the gods of earth, water, wind, and fire.

Just one area inside the Wooden Pavilion

Statues of Vinyaphan, founder of the pavilion, and the elephant god Erawanare are also featured. In a word, the amount of labor and dedication necessary to maintain this mighty edifice inside and outside is simply breathtaking. All of this is contained beneath a roof of pointed symbolic figures reaching skyward.

Intricate figures adorn the roof.

Hard hats must be worn when entering the Wood Pavilion since construction continues, either new or for repairs. Allow at least two hours for the tour (in English or Thai) plus time to explore on your own. Outside, there is a calming lake and small cafĂ© for refreshments. You might even be able to ride on an elephant. 

But the real prize is the Wooden Pavilion itself where hopefully you’ll feel that it truly is a Sanctuary of Truth.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

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