Hin Maak

Two hours to the west of Nong Khai are two holy sites renowned throughout Thailand for their religious importance and their extraordinary architecture. Wat Hin Maak Peng was the home of the highly revered monk, Luang Poo Tet Tet Lang Sii, cousellor to His Majesty the King. (Click for map)

And 5 km before is the magical Pra Sutham Chedi, in the temple of Wat Aran Ban Pot.

The graceful Pra Sutham Chedi was completed in 2001 and dedicated to five venerated monks from the temple of Wat Aran Ban Pot. Sitting atop a small hill with a commanding position overlooking the Maekong river, the Chedi combines elements of the traditional holy reliquaries (Taat) for which this area is famous. But the design is in a class of its own, transcending those purely local motifs, & combining elements that seem to remind one of Islamic styles.

Inside, golden effigies of the five monks, a plush red carpet and gold columns, curiously avoid being kitsch, & above is a fantastic foil of simple stenciling.

The first time I ever visited Wat Hin Maak Peng was with my great friend, Lisa, artist and partner in Mut Mee. She led me very quietly to an ornate small white building with large glass windows. Gesturing me to kneel and pray, she said,"Look inside, and you will see the great monk in a state of deep meditation."

I looked up and there he was motionless and unblinking and I sat for an age waiting in wonder for even a flicker of movement, but none came. Suddenly the penny dropped... I was staring at a waxwork. "Yes, she said smiling..."

"... but that's what my Thai friends told me the first time I came here."

While a waxwork of a great bishop in an English Cathedral, say, would elicit peels of laughter; strangely, the waxen image of Luang Poo Tet Tet Lang Sii sitting here, simply doesn't. It only adds to the mystery, beauty and grace of this temple, high on its rock (the "Hin" in the name), in a singularly commanding position overlooking the mighty Maekong.

Pictured left is the mausoleum of Luang Poo Tet Tet Lang Sii who died in the mid nineties. Inside is his bronze effigy and display cases showing his belongings.

These include such things as a flashlight and a mirror... and their aim is to demonstrate the paucity of his personal property in order to emphasize his lack of dependence on the material world.

The temple is known for its 'Thudong' …monks who have taken on ascetic vows in addition to normal monastic precepts. And deep in the bamboo groves of the temple grounds are their "Koti" where they live and meditate.

The gardens of the temple are exquisite, especially those leading down to the personal residence of the great monk. Filled with huge trees and rare orchids, their peace and splendour make this place highly worth visiting.