Wat Huay Pla Kang - Chiang Rai

Wat Huay Pla Kang - Chiang Rai


Posted 2023-04-20 by Krystle Richardsonfollow
My first encounter with the Goddess of Mercy came on my way out to a homestay in the mountains surrounding Chiang Rai. A massive white head popped quite unexpectedly over the crest of a hill, and as the road curved around, her towering form came into full view.

The goddess sits on a hill in the Huai Pla Kang province, gazing down on Wat Huay Pla Kang and the surrounding hills and valleys. She's just shy of 25 stories tall, and from her hilltop perch, enjoys sweeping views of the surrounding area.

With a water jug resting in her left hand and her right hand making the mudra of patience (shuni mudra), the serene lady looks like a giant version of the many Buddha statues you'll see in this region of Thailand. Indeed, many people refer to her as "the Big Buddha of Chiang Rai." However, if you want to be accurate, her name is Guanyin, and she is the Chinese depiction of Avalokiteshvara, a bodhisattva (fully enlightened being) who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas.

Avalokiteshvara is depicted in varying ways across cultures, sometimes emanating as male, sometimes female. And if you think you've never heard of this bodhisattva, the truth is that you actually have!

Tibetan Buddhists believe each Dalai Lama is an emanation of Avalokiteshvara in human form. The current Dalai Lama is the 14th in an unbroken lineage that stretches back to 1391 when the 1st Dalai Lama was born.

Wat Huay Pla Kang is open from 7 am to 9:30 pm. You can head there in the late afternoon to enjoy spectacular sunset views and see the statue and temples lit up at night. However, be aware that many other people share this same plan, so be prepared for crowds.

We decided to skip sunset and go at 7 am. We were delighted to discover we had the place almost to ourselves, apart from a few monks and keen photographers.

If you like to take your time in places like this, it's worth arriving at opening time. We didn't have to rush, and we got to chat with one of the monks while we enjoyed some Thai tea at the base of the statue. You'll also find coffee, water, and an array of food options, complete with plenty of places to sit and relax.

Though the temple, pagoda, and gardens surrounding Guan Yin are beautiful, the most compelling aspect of the place is that you can go up into the towering statue and look out through her eyes.

It costs around 40 baht per person to enter the elevator, and you'll be escorted up by an elegantly dressed attendant. Once you're at the head of the statue, there are a few paths to choose from. You can head down the stairs to look out Guanyin's eyes, or you can walk behind the elevator to go up another level.

On the front-facing side, you have the opportunity to gaze out the eyes and the central third eye. Around the back, there are two levels of curved viewing areas from which you can gain a panoramic view of the mountains and valleys spanning out around Wat Huay Pla Kang.

It's also worth exploring your immediate surroundings. The interior walls of the statue's face are decorated with intricate carvings, featuring an abundance of animals, plants, dragons, bodhisattvas, and pastoral scenes.

Note that, as with all Buddhist temples and holy places, you'll need to take your shoes off before you enter any of the structures. It's also important to dress modestly.

Avoid wearing revealing clothes, and remember that your idea of "revealing" might differ from what they expect at a temple. A good general rule is to ensure your top covers to around your elbows and your skirt or pants extend at least to your knees. Worst case scenario, if you aren't sufficiently covered, they have scarves you can borrow (possibly for a small fee).

While there certainly is a "touristy" aspect to Wat Huay Pla Kang, it doesn't seem to draw the same selfie-obsessed crowd who flock to Chiang Rai's White Temple. No shade on people taking pictures, of course. But tourists push it a bit far at the White Temple, turning it into an obstacle course of cameras, phones, and selfie sticks that you have to dodge.

So, if you'd rather enjoy a quiet cup of tea with a monk or two, add Wat Huay Pla Kang to your Chiang Rai itinerary.

82004 - 2023-06-11 06:20:42


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