Buddhist hell gardens and camping with monks

As you work your way north from Pranburi there are many wats (Buddhist temples) along the way. Some are very small and tucked away, some a bit larger with a big colorful temple, and then there are the large ones that might freak you out. I could see from the road a sprawling complex with a giant statue of Buddha Maitreya being built and drove into Wat Kaew Prasert. I made my way up to the top where the construction was going on and was welcomed by the workers waving me inside. In a western country they would probably have it gated off and no trespassing signs, but here your free to mosey on in and explore the guts of it. Climbing up through the inside you reach an upper platform with beautiful views over the coast.

Surprisingly the Burmese workers had better english than I had heard form a Thai in a long time. They told me all about the project and how they were building it. The entire massive structure is being built by hand, with all the cement being brought up in buckets from below. They’ve already been working on it for three years and will need another year to complete it. One of the guys told me I should go take the trail into the woods and was making a chopping motion like he was cutting wood. I assumed he meant they were building something over there also, but never would have expected the madness I would find. If I had some warning of what was coming it wouldn’t have been so crazy. As soon as I walked into the trees I could see statues killing statues in very grotesque ways. Further past them there were more normal Buddhist and Hindu statues. I had never seen anything like it and didn’t know where to start. Wat Kaew prasert was becoming much more than I expected. To ease into it I decided to start over in the peaceful looking area.

As you make your way down the hill you pass a lot of fairly normal statues for a temple, except for one I had never seen before. Literally there is a tiny little man statue that is filled with bees, and they’re coming and going from his mouth. There has to be a nest inside of his belly, and the way they’re crawling all over his lips is a bit creepy.


At the bottom things get sort of random with a group of huge dinosaurs and a kangaroo with a piglet in their pouch.

At the bottom of the scary area is a little sign, which gives some warning I believe. The picture that pointed to the right, which is where all the normal type statues that I’ve seen many times were, was peaceful looking. The picture with the arrow to the left didn’t look so peaceful.


At the bottom of the area it starts off with some people in white running, an old lady with kids looking up towards everything, some guys begging for their lives in front of what looks like a king, and a bunch of people sinking underground like it’s quicksand and a guy pointing down at them. This is the entrance to a strange land.

It becomes obvious that there are regular looking people being tortured and killed by tall scary guys, which all wear red shorts and have really nice mustaches. I suddenly felt bad for having my Christmas mustache. These guys didn’t represent the stash too well. As I made my way up into the madness I started to get chills down my spine and every tiny noise spooked me. I know they’re only statues, but there were a couple times that i swear one looked at me. It felt like walking through a graveyard, but the dead people were standing all around you. I’ve never seen anything like it. It gets really gnarly with dogs eating people, birds eating people, hands being chopped off, people being sawed in half, hammering spikes into people, carving guts out, force-feeding blood, hanging by the mouth, peeling the skin of bodies, and the worst, rats eating off guys genitals.

There were a bunch of others as well, but that gives an idea of what the place is like. Some of them really look life-like as well, which adds to the vibes the place gives you. If all this isn’t enough to give you bad dreams, all along the side are the creepiest statues I’ve seen in my life. The bodies look like tall alien skeletons that are ready to pounce on you, and each one has a different type of head. There’s a rooster elephant, alligator, tiger, deer, monkey, and many more. These guys are definitely up to no good. My guess is they are waiting to eat the bodies, or just like to watch the show (turns out that for different sins your head is turned into different animals, like for stealing cooked rice you are given a rooster head).

I tried to ask some people what was going on, but we couldn’t communicate. I really wanted to know the story here. The complex has a lot of other areas as well. There’s an area which looks to be Chinese Buddhist, and another that is all Hindu. These are very peaceful and help calm the mind. I didn’t like leaving Wat Kaew Prasert without knowing the meaning of it all, and as soon as I could, found out on my friend google that it was a Buddhist hell garden. The gardens represent the hell realms. Unlike christianity, the buddhist hell (Naraka) is a maze of all types of terrible chambers, which get worse as you go along. For Christians hell is eternal, but for the Buddhists it’s a transitional passage where guilty souls must pay their dues before being reincarnated into a new life. Anthropomorphic deamons are the ones giving out the torture. So be good, or there are some unfriendly places you may visit. I needed to be in Bangkok the next day to meet my little brother, who was flying in for Christmas and New Years. The night before heading into the city I found myself inland away from the beach along some river, and the sun was setting fast. I loaded up on food from a market along the river and started watching for a camping spot. I passed a few temples, but there was one that caught my attention for some reason. It just looked welcoming. I drove in and headed towards the back. A monk came walking by and I asked him about camping, or more like made hand motions of a tent and sleeping. He smiled and shook his head yes. They had one large temple that looked very new, and he showed me over to a spot by the entrance of it. It was a pretty cool little spot in the grass with the temple towering up over me. While I set up camp, a few of the monks came over and watched with big smiles, and tried their english on me.

One of them showed me pictures of Ducati motorcycles on his phone, which he was obsessed with. When finished, I opened up my feast from the market. I didn’t have utensils, but it didn’t matter. I was so hungry I shoveled it down with my hands. Then Mr Ducati (Mr. Hatsanai Hattakham), came over with a spoon, some coffee, and two bottles of water. Then showed me a few more pics. About ten minutes later he brought me over a bag of cut up watermelon, tea, cookies, and a carton of milk. Before I had even finished, he brought me another bag of goodies. It was incredible the generosity he was showing me. Whenever he came over he would show me more pictures of him with motorcycles and tell me about places he had rode. At one point I got out my book and started reading it with my crummy little flashlight. A minute later here comes the friendliest monk on earth with a nice LED flashlight for me, and tells me it’s mine to keep. Then if all he had done wasn’t enough, while I was in my tent he came twice more with bags of fruit, water bottles, cookies, cartons of tea and milk, and candy. I pretty much had room service all night camping next to a temple. It would have taken days to eat it all. I’m pretty sure he showed me every single picture on his phone. I’m glad I picked the spot because it really seemed like he could use an outsider to talk to. Before I left in the morning he gave me more coffee and fruit, and a meal for later. Wrapped in a banana leaf, it was a perfect little snack for along the road that day.

I hated leaving without being able to give him sort of gift, but he definitely racked up a bag full of good karma. I think he will be bypassing any hell gardens when he dies.

About Trueworldtravels

Following my heart around the planet. Bringing to life the unique world around us through writing and photography.
This entry was posted in camping, Motorcycle world travel, Photography, Thailand travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Buddhist hell gardens and camping with monks

  1. Anonymous says:

    Ryan, this is another great post. I really enjoyed it, especially how it all tied together with the motorcycle loving monk. Great work.


  2. ellengerl57 says:

    Sounds like good carma for you too- going through a hell garden and then being taken under a wing of a monk.


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