After paying the entrance fee, we wanted to get off and walk to what seemed very close, but our old tuk-tuk driver insisted we get in again and drive. For a short while, we thought Wat Phanan Choeng was not the building right in front of us, until we stopped after driving 20 metres. As we were running late, we rushed in, past the entrance hall with Buddha statues plastered with goldpaper and burning candles, and arrived at a rather small door. Once we stepped through it, a quite small space opened up in front of us. Our eyes were immediately drawn towards the enormous golden Buddha in front of us. The tight space around it only underlined the vastness of this old and shiny statue.
As we were still standing on the doorstep, people below us were praying on the floor, and they looked especially small compared to the gigantic Buddha. In fact, the base of Wat Phanan Choeng is elevated above a human size - and from there, towers another 19 metres above the floor. Right in front of it, three heavy safes act as the inevitable donation boxes, there is a richly filled altar, and when you stand behind it, you get a good idea about the dimension of this statue: the head seems far away and small compared to the knee and hand right above you. But there is more to this temple. Walking around the base of the golden Buddha takes you past other, smaller Buddhas in various sizes - some of them very elegant, you can see worshippers rattling fortune sticks, lighting candles, orange robes for devotees... But wherever you go, you always see the golden Buddha of Wat Phanan Choeng from different angles.
On the backside, there is a spiral staircase, which leads to the top of the statue. Unfortunately, this is not accessible to regular visitors. The flashy and shiny appearance of the golden Buddha of Wat Phanan Choeng belies its age: this statue was erected in 1324, even before the founding of Ayutthaya. It has been damaged several times, but always repaired. The wihaan is barely big enough to cover the statue. It has survived the sacking of the city by the Burmese, although according to legend, tears flowed from its eyes when it happened. Now, the Buddha appears serene, and it can be confident about its future. There is no more reason for it to cry: this is the most active temple of Ayutthaya and it is therefore always surrounded by worshippers.
Personal travel impressions both in words and images from Wat Phanan Choeng (Thailand). Clicking on the pictures enlarges them and enables you to send the picture as a free e-card or download it for personal use, for instance, on your weblog. Or click on the map above to visit more places close to Wat Phanan Choeng.
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