When people mention the province of Chonburi, first place to come in mind is always Pattaya, BUT did you know that there is more to this province than just the beach and seedy life of Walking Street? Well, here is your chance to discover the hidden treasures of Chonburi in this exclusive private tour that will literally bring you to Heaven and Hell on Earth as well as the gems of excellent freshly cooked seafood cuisine off the Chonburi shores.
First item on the tour list for the Unseen Chonburi Tour Experience by Thaitourismguide is a stop at the Buddha Mountain or known locally as the Khao Chi Chan. Some people call it the “Laser Buddha” mountain especially if you try your GPS locater to pin your position.
Though it is known as the “Laser Buddha” it has not actually been sculpted by laser beams. The image of the Buddha in the meditation posture was projected by laser onto the face of the cliff and hand hewn by craftsmen using the laser projected guide. Gold colour tiles were later inlaid onto the crevices of the sculptured lines so that it is visible from a distance. The Buddha image stands one hundred and thirty meters tall by seventy meters wide and is considered a sculpting feat. The name of the Buddha is known as “Phra Phud-Maha-wachira-uttamopaad-Saad-sada” and was sculpted in 1996 in honour of the present HRH King Bhumipol. If you look closely at the chest of the Buddha, inlaid is a relic from the Great Buddha himself.
Next on the tour itinerary is the beautiful Viharn Sien museum and temple. Within the temple are large white ceramic statues of the Chinese gods and deities that are bigger than life. A short walk across the road will bring you to the Viharn Sien museum which was built by Ajarn Sa Nga Kulkobkiat. It will take approximately two hours to walk this three storey museum created in the Taoist impressionist style by Chinese craftsmen and sculptors. Outside in the museum grounds are a good collection of stone and bronze sculptures depicting various Buddha, mythical creatures, deities and scholars. This place has great photo opportunities and Thaitourismguide provides a guide that will explain the history and myths behind these various sculptures.
A walk up a flight of steps will bring you to the Great Hall which is a rendition of the Great Hall of the Emperor in China. Massive dragon sculptures adorn the entrance way and pillars in this huge hall. Inside are a great collection of sculptures from China and recreations of ancient Chinese artworks. There are no less than a hundred different sculptures in this massive hall as well as very interesting displays of the “Terracotta Warrior” site excavations. You will get to read on the history of this excavation site as well as see a layout diorama of the entire site. Included are also some samples of items excavated including two life-sized terracotta warriors, a collection of warriors and a ceramic cast horse drawn carriage.
Going up to the second floor will bring you to the Thai historical room where rows upon rows of Khon puppets are on display. This room has some of the most complete collection of Korn puppets used for various cultural plays and representing the vastness of Ramekin myths and legends as well as the many types of characters from Thai mythology. Some of the puppets look very realistic but it is a rare opportunity to be able to see this many in one place that embodies true Thai culture.
A walk up the third floor will bring you to a breath-taking view of the surrounding area including a sweeping view of the Laser Buddha Mountain. Also on the outdoor patio are more warrior sculptures in various martial arts poses as well as more interesting sculptures.
One would by this time be in the mood for food and refreshments after a morning of travelling and walking! This tour itinerary will give you the opportunity to sample some of the freshest seafood right by the sea in laid back settings. Heading toward the Ang Sila old market and Plee Harbour area, you can settle down to a good seafood lunch freshly cooked and steaming hot accompanied by a refreshing cold drink to refuel you for the next stage of the tour. By the way, this is a great pace to try the delectable horseshoe crab eggs in a typical Thai style salad. Absolutely scrumptious and a recommended must try dish! After lunch you can take a walk along the market place where craftsmen ply their trade of wicker baskets, betel nut boxes, ceramics and handmade pestles and mortar. Also found here are the fresh seafood markets where dry marine produce are sold. This is a typical Thai old style market place seldom seen in the cities which makes for a very traditional Thai way of life experience.
The last leg of the tour will bring you to the Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden. This place is not normally found on a tourist itinerary but in this tour by Thaitourismguide, you will get a chance to see this most unusual garden right in Baan Saen. The Wang Saen Suk Hell Garden is actually a monastery but also sometimes known as the Thailand Hell Horror Park. This place is mostly frequented by locals and very few tourists actually make their way here due to the difficulty of finding the place without transport and not many travel agents have tours to this place. The cement sculpted statues are a little worn for wear and tear but it still makes for an eye-opening visit as it brings you to the core of Thai Buddhism and its beliefs about karma and the way of life. Thai parents mostly bring their children here to teach moral lessons on behaviour and action, serving as a teaching ground for what is morally righteous. The main purpose of this monastery is to give an inclination and depiction of the Buddhist Hell or “Naraka”.
The entranceway does not look like much but starting off from the left entrance, one sees a large fat Buddha and the sign at the entrance before proceeding inside written in Thai are inscribed the words “Welcome to Hell”! Appropriately stated further in is another sign that says “If you meet the devil in this life, make sure you have given time for merit making before you can defeat him in the next life”. Words worth remembering considering the scenes you will see as you go deeper into the garden.
Initially the statues all along the side depict heavenly Gods and deities, beautifully crafted but a little worn for a new coat of paint. Each character has an inscription that details the character. At the end of the row to these statues on your right is the monastery. On the left of the monastery temple is a large lake. In most temples, feeding the fish in the lake is one of the merit deeds you can do but this lake has other more unusual occupants, meaning tortoises. One rarely sees let alone feeds tortoises in a monastery but you can do it here. There is a vendor selling bread for the fish and vegetable for the tortoises. You can walk down the steps to the lake side to feed them which is in itself an experience while making merit.
Walking away from the lake is where literally all “hell breaks loose”. Most noticeable and towering above all the other statues are Nai Ngean and Nang Thong. These two emaciated, long limbed and tongued creatures represent the Thai Folklore of the Hungry Ghosts known as Preta. Horrific in size and looks is a sombre awakening to the possibilities of Hell as well as a Heaven in our minds.
Along the sides to this part of Hell is where the moral lessons begin. In life it depicts that one should not stab each other in the back, lie, cheat or whatever sins that may be committed and its retributions in hell. When a person dies, they are brought before the God who governs over sins committed in the previous life and dispenses the appropriate tortures in Hell. Around the Preta statues are twenty one animal head souls who are tortured according to their crimes. Each animal head represents a particular sin for example a pig head means the sin of corruption, cow heads mean drug abuse and so on.
The gory parts of the scene are where sinners are met out with punishments befitting the seriousness of their crimes or sins. The exhibits here may be a little gory but it serves as a good reminder to stay on the righteous path! Human souls are tortured by being ripped apart by hell hounds, limbs cut off and replaced over and over, disembowelment by hell birds and burnt or boiled in huge cauldrons. Note the little donation boxes next to each scene to encourage the merit of charity through penance. Laugh not for even in Western society we believe that charity begins at home!
At the end of all these cycles in Hell, the repentant sinner approaches the Buddha for forgiveness and a reincarnation into the next cycle of life where hopefully he or she would have learnt the painful tortures and lessons in Hell to have a better life in the next. All in all this is a very interesting tour where one gets to understand the root of karmic cycle in Buddhism. Some may find it entertaining, amusing or others may find it sobering depending on your view point.
The different destinations in this four point tour will give you an eye-opening view of Chonburi province out of the normal tour route with everything from breath-taking scenes to wonderful works of art, great food and off course sights for you to ponder upon about Amazing Thailand!