Sunday, 5 July 2009

Pattaya Day 6 - Sanctuary of Truth

{* Sanctuary of Truth *}

If you expect that this is a place with a history, you'll be disappointed. It couldn't have a history as it hadn't even completed. It had been building since the 1980s, and work was still being carried out when we were there. By the look of it, it will at least take another decade to finish it (the guide suggested 2025). I guess our tickets would help to build it.

Without reading too much on it (I like surprise), I imagine it was similar to Wat Phra Yai that I visited 3 months ago (you can read my article here). It turned out they have nothing in common, and had to say it's a pleasant surprise.

Sanctuary of Truth, Prasat satchamtham, Pattaya, Thailand
Construction work being carried out
Apart from being something that built for the tourists, it's hard to classify as a temple or a museum or simply a work of art. I say it's a bit of all three.

Considering Thailand is the Land of the Wats, tourists easily mistaken to think that any touristy place in Thailand is going to temple.

The Thai name for Sanctuary of Truth is Prasat Satchantham (you might see other way of writing its name. Commonly Prasat Sut Ja-Tum. This is a typical problem with transliteration). The name 'Prasat' is translated as 'Castle', not 'temple'. One shouldn't expect it to be a wat.

Instead of "Sanctuary of Truth", maybe it should be opted for the literal translation of "Castle of Philosophy", which sounds like something coming out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Ring.

Whatever it is, it's a showcase of the masterful craftsmanship of its carpenters, for the whole place is built out of wood. This is quite unique in Thailand. I have traversed the length of Thailand from Phuket in the south to Changmai in the north, I had yet seen anything like this. The organic nature of wood making this structure much more "spiritual". I was told that no nails or glue were used to put the pieces together (this is similar to most Chinese ancient architecture. Only dovetailing and other established traditional interlocking structures that evolved over many centuries).

For those who's dead set on only looking at historical buildings, this would be a let down. For those who don't mind just admiring the skills and the stunning visual impact the building has on its observer, and enjoy looking at the numerous exquisitely carved wooden sculptures, and reliefs. It's a feast for the eyes. This wowed me as it's so unexpected such project exist in Pattaya, given some of its culturally tarnish image.

Like Angkor Wat where it has many stories of Buddha are part of the structure of the building. Speaking of Amgkor Wat, I don't believe the similarities between the two are coincidental. This structure has a strong influence of Khemer architecture. Like the strong pyramidal shape of the whole building (which in turn originated in Hindu architecture).

Sanctuary of Truth, Prasat satchamtham, Pattaya, Thailand
Strong pyramidal shape. It rises an impressive 105 metres

There's the four-head "reliefs" that reminiscent of the similar architecture in Angkor Thom. You can read my travel diary to Siem Reap here.

Sanctuary of Truth, Prasat satchamtham, Pattaya, Thailand
Four faces in Sanctuary of Truth

Four giant stone faces of Avalokiteshvara, Angkor Thom, Cambodia
Four giant stone faces of Avalokiteshvara, Angkor Thom, Cambodia

While it has strong influence from the the Khmer architecture. It actually has 4 gopuras, each represents the religious representations of Thai, Cambodia, Hindu and Chinese.

Yes, it's a place that one would describe as a tourist trap with the many touristy sideshows. I don't mind at all. Seeing this building worth my whole trip. Some of us may enjoy the sideshows, especially for the kiddies.

{* Animal rides *}

There's the buggy ride as well as elephant ride.

{* Dolphin Show *}

This show is definitely came out of the left field. Of course, a zoologist ignoramus like myself would expect a bottlenose dolphin sprung out of water. It turned out to be nothing I have seen before. And what's more it performed in a river. Since this place is so close to the ocean, the water would be estuarine (a mix of sea and fresh water).

{* Thai Traditional Dance *}

The Traditional Thai dance, which was included in the ticket was nice enough until a couple of machete wielding guys starred to go at each other. Like the dolphin show, this part of the Thai martial art didn't fit in too well with the place. I left before the performance ended. The machete seemed too much of a close shave to me (I use electric shaver).

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