PHU PHRA BAT HISTORICAL PARK / WAT PA PHU KON (THE BLUE TEMPLE)
This one day tour covers the oldest religious artefacts in Isan (including 4,000 years old cave paintings at Phu Phrabat Historical Park) and one of the most recent (Wat Pa Phu Kon, The Blue Temple, completed in 2013 at a cost of 10m USD). Across the day we will peel back layers of history right up the present moment.
We start the tour at Phu Phrabat Historical Park which for thousands of years has been seen as a mystical & magical place due to being peppered with bizarre rock spires, whale-sized boulders and improbably balanced rocks. The park’s massive mushroom-looking rock formations were the work of erosion that took place when the terrain was immersed under an ocean 15 millions of years ago. Narrow “stems” of sandstone somehow hold up the weight of harder and larger chunks of rock up above as if defying gravity.
These rocks have become an inspirational backdrop across 4,000 years for multiple groups of people:
As far back as the Neolithic era, hunter-gatherer communities took shelter in these mushroom-shaped rocks, leaving behind cave paintings which remain strikingly clear to this day. The best known are located at Tham Woau and Tham Khon, leaving an ancient voice that still talks to us today. Their descendants are also believed to have lived at the site throughout the Bronze Age and beyond.
Then around 1,000 CE, members of the Mon Dvaravati civilization were also drawn to the area. They crafted tall stone markers around many of the largest rock formations, indicating that the “balancing” boulders were deemed sacred. The most impressive set of stones is found at Kou Nang Usa, also known as “Thai Mini-Stonehenge.” Ranging in height from one to three meters, seven markers have stood through the centuries in a circle surrounding a jagged rock formation rising from a broad stone floor. Since then these have been used for religious ceremonies by animists, Hindus and Buddhists.
Just beyond the historical park’s borders, a 1.5 metre-long carved footprint, known as Phra Phutthabat Bua Bok, is said to have been magically imprinted into the rock by the Buddha himself. It’s this legend that Phu Phra Bat, or “Buddha Footprint Mountain,” was named after. The print is marked by an imposing Lao-style chedi built in 1922. In the surrounding temple grounds, several more rock formations are joined by garish concrete statues of tigers and Buddha images.
The Park is also linked to the famous legend of Nang Usa which you can read more about here.
This park has an area of about 4.9 square kilometers with well-planned out walking routes to take you to the key sites and locations. There are shorter and longer routes to cater for every level of walker.
There is only a basic noodle shop located at the entrance of the park so lunch is taken at a good Isan restaurant in Ban Tiu, the village at the base of the hill.
After lunch we head to Wat Pa Phukon, The Blue Temple, which is as equally magical as the Park. Finished in 2013 at a cost of 10m USD, this is one of Thailand’s most stunning modern temples not least for the 65 foot marble Buddha statue. The marble was imported from Italy and crafted here in Thailand. The cost for buying, shipping and carving the marble on its own was 1.5m baht and it is quite site. It sits on bed covered in intrinsicate carving depicting Buddha in other poses.
The temple itself is normally spotless and includes a few shops selling items and T-shirts relevant to the temple. The temple itself, perched on top of a hill, is also a great view point on it’s on with commanding views of Isan country side.
All funds for the temple were donated by an elderly Thai lady in the name of the King.
After the temple we make a sunset drive back to Nakara for a rest followed by a full Thai traditional dinner.
8:00 Depart Nakara Villa
8:50 Arrive at Phu Prabhat Historical Park
9:00 Tour the park covering all main sites
12:00 Leave the park
12:15 Lunch in Ban Tiu (village next to the park).
13:00 Leave Ban Tiu
14:00 Arrive at Wat Pa Phukon
15:30 Leave Wat Pa Phukon
17:00 Arrive back at Nakara Villa
18:30 Traditional Thai Dinner
This tour is fully inclusive with the exception of lunch and drinks.
Registered tour guide
Air conditioned SUV or Mini Van including all petrol costs
Entry prices to all parks and exhibits
Bottled water in the van
Traditional Thai Dinner (soup, 2-3 dishes, rice, fresh fruit, soft drinks)