A supernatural day in the Thai countryside

Amazing surprises are waiting for you way off the tourist radar

Leave frenetic Bangkok behind and journey in into the the vast green rice belt of Suphanburi Province. If you like, we can stop at one of the shrimp farms along the way for a roadside snack of grilled prawns.

When people ask us about places "tourists have not discovered yet," offbeat Suphanburi is at the top of our list. This historic town in Thailand's "rice belt" could not be more different than Bangkok. It is clean and pretty, and offers insights into some of the more unusual aspects of Thai culture and spiritualism.

Down the road is the city of Suphanburi, which is older than the ancient capital of Sukhothai and the site of an epic battle between the Burmese and Siamese. This rural farming center is clean, green and laid-back--quite a change from Bangkok. You stop to visit the City Pillar, which was once at the heart of the old city. Next door is a huge and wildly ornate Chinese temple and a towering dragon. We will also also make a quick stop at Wat Pa Lelai, a very old monastery.

Lunch today is at a charming century-old market filled with ancient wooden shop-houses. While every Thai town once had a market like this, most have given way to shopping malls. There is plenty of great food to choose from, but this market is especially well known for its traditional Thai sweets. Take a few to nibble on in the afternoon.

Later, we drive deep into the countryside to listen to the rice grow and enjoy the fragrant air. You can still see plenty of old fashioned teak houses on stilts along the way. This seems like an odd place for the things you will see next, beginning with what local folk believe is one of the three largest reclining Buddhas in the Kingdom, and maybe the world.

Although it dates to the Sukhothai period, periodic restoration makes it look much more like it was made in 1963.

Not far down the road is highlight of the day. Sprouting inexplicably from the center of endless rice farms is a sprawling temple complex that is surely one of the most unusual places you will ever visit. In a vast field behind a ten story seated Buddha are hundreds (maybe thousands if you care to count them) Buddha statues of every description stretching to the horizon.

To the wealthy and eccentric man who created the complex, this was his vision of heaven. Across the road and beyond a beautiful pavilion floating above a reflecting pool, is his vision of hell. Here you will see hundreds of life-sized, luridly-painted statues set in gory tableaus that are meant to instruct Buddhists to remain on the path to nirvana. The statues are labeled with the sin or vice which brought each their own unique, eternal punishment.

We allow plenty of time here before returning to Bangkok when the day fades.


Private car/van, admission to places shown in the itinerary above. Please buy lunch for your guide.

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