Outside of Ao Nang, on the edges of Krabi province there lies a truly stunning temple complex; Wat Bang Riang. Wat in Thai means temple. Bang Riang temple (or in Thai, Wat Bang Riang) is located on the top of Khao Lan mountain in Thap Put area, it is 30 km from Pang Nga town and just over the boarder of Krabi’s western most district Ao Luk.
The Bang Riang Temple complex certainly will leave a mark in your memory, from it’s wide open stunning vistas, to its incredibility detailed statues and tapestries there is so shortage of impressive eye candy. As is relatively common in areas of Southern Thailand, Was Bang Riang combines both Thai and Chinese architectural styles. The actual temple complex consists of three main areas: One where monks keep some of Buddha’s cremated remains, in the center of the main temple there is a giant statue of a sitting Buddha, the last area can be seen off in the distance from the main temple area, it is Guan Yin goddess, surrounded by green tropical forests.
Either side of the entrance from the parking area is decorated with two massive five headed Nagas snakes that wind and twirl up the walkways railing. The main temple building Chedi, is a traditional herringbone construction with a small tower built in a traditional Thai style, this is aimed to keep the Buddhist relics save for future generations to come. The temple of Chedi Phutthathambanlu stands one hundred and nine meters high on the Khao Lan hilltop. Inside the Chedi, you can see the altar on which lies particles of Buddha’s bones, the walls are decorated with ancient paintings of religious scenes and imageries of mythical creatures from Bhuddha’s life. The three headed elephant Erawan, guardians Yakshas, lions and the Garuda birds, all of these are protecting the Buddhas relicts.
Don’t forget to change 60 baht to coins before entering the Chedi so you can carry out the Buddhist ritual of Wat Bang Riang. Once inside the open courtyard you will notice a round hallway around the Chedi decorated with 60 golden Buddha sculpts with the holes for coins. Make a wish and go around the circle putting the coins into each Buddha sculpture, The story goes that if after the last coin was dropped you can remember your wish, then it will come true.
As you walk around the Chedi, you will find an observation court with a garden and terrace, which offers a magnificent view of the green mountains surrounding the temple as well as the massive statue of both Buddha and Guan Yin. The walkway to the statues is a staircase, decorated throughout with plants, ponds and sculptures.
Chinese goddess Guan Yin (in Chinese) or Kuan Im (in Thai) is known in Thailand as the goddess of mercy. Many Thai’s also believe that Gan Yin brings them good luck and prosperity. In Buddhist hierarchy Guan Yin goddess stands on a step down from Buddha, she preserves women and children, and all who suffer, by blessing them with awakening and enlightenment. Curious fact, Guan Yin is not actually a “she”, the goddess just conditionally refers to the feminine. Guan Yin is more of a divine being, which can appear in both women’s and men’s guise. In Indian and Old Chinese traditions Guan Yin used to be represented as a man; it is only in today’s Buddhism which a woman’a appearance has been given. By the way, Kuan Im statue in Wat Bang Riang is the tallest temple in Southern Thailand. In front of the monument there is a small pool with the sculpture of Phra Mae Thorani – a chthonic goddess from Buddhist mythology. According to traditions she is typically represented as a young woman wringing the cool waters of detachment out of her hair to drown the demon Mara, who has been sent to tempt Gautama Buddha during his meditation under the Bodhi Tree. Phra Mae Thorani symbolizes Earth and is also called as “Mother of Earth”.
Keep right, and the uphill path leads you to the golden statue of Gautama Buddha meditating in lotus position – the biggest Buddha in the region. Buddha is covered by a roof made up by a number of five headed Nagas. This kind of Buddha refers to the Sabbath day and is called Phra Nak Prok. Before the statue there is a small alley with sculptures of lions, elephants and Yakshas, as well as a sculpture of the Phra Mae Thorani goddess.
On one side of the Wat Bang Riang there is a number of ‘Kuti’, they are basically special houses, which are built for the monks that have stopped at the temple for meditation or to partake in ceremonies.
After your visit to Wat Bang Riang you can relax and have some local food or a drink in the café on the open terrace looking out at the stunning expanses of rocky green mountains. The café is located at the opposite side of the parking lot from the entrance.
A bit of history…
The temple is mainly known as a Wat Bang Riang, however, it has an alternative name that sounds like Wat Rat Upatam. Its construction began in the late 1980’s by order of His Majesty King Rama IX, and the story of its establishment is quite interesting. In the 80s a pilgrim monk named Lung Por Chai arrived at the small village of Thap Put, where his mother recently moved and fell ill. He had to settle down and take care of her. He noticed that in the Thap Put area there is was no temple, and the locals would not hold a proper funeral service. So with the support of the locals, he decided to build a temple for everyone to use, and not just a humble abode of Dharma, but a goodly and impressive temple. According to his words, the idea of such a majestic construction was to attract people to the temple and incite an interest in Buddhism. He believed that the more beautiful the place is, the more likely it will be visited. The name of Wat Rat Upatam literally translates to “temple, supported by locals”. The original cost of construction for Wat Bang Riang was 70 million Thai baht. The recent additions have been overseen by a the monk Lung Por Chai who continues to reside on the property and manage the current renovations and planning for future additions/renovations.
How to get to the Wat Bang Riang temple from Krabi
Temple Wat Bang Riang is located 82 km form Ao Nang, Krabi, 30 km north-east from the Phang Nga city, 11 km from the of Thap Put village. From Krabi, take the route № 4 towards Phuket. After you pass the border crossing pointer of Krabi and Phang Nga provinces, after about 2 km turn right on a 411V highway. Follow the signs to the Thap Put and the temple Wat Bang Riang. The way from Krabi to Bang Rian temple takes approximately 1 – 1.5 hour, depends on traffic.
Before visiting the temple, remember that Wat Bang Riang – is a functioning Buddhist temple whose rules must be respected. In the temple area it is respectful to wear a closed light-colored clothing (shoulders and knees must be covered), and shoes should be taken off before going inside the Chedi. In case if you came here unprepared, you can buy a special shirt to go inside the temple area, they sell these close to the parking area. A donation of any size is customary to leave in the temple, however, it is optional. Even any little donation monks welcome with gratitude.