Wat Muang’s Giant Buddha Statue
Visiting the Biggest Buddha in Thailand
Wat Muang is a fairly large temple complex in Central Thailand’s Ang Thong province. Surrounded by farmland and countryside, the remote location may put many tourists off visiting. While you’re sure to see a decent number of Thai visitors, the temple rarely feels crowded.
The temple is famous for being home to the biggest Buddha statue in all of Thailand, though there are plenty more fascinating features to enjoy around the complex too. I’ve visited this temple around six times and always find something new to catch my eye!
Seeing the gigantic 92-meter-tall golden Buddha statue is certainly impressive. You’ll spot the huge seated figure rising up from the lush fields from some distance. Standing in front of the colossal structure is, however, quite awe-inspiring. Called Phra Buddha Maha Nawamin – and Mahaminh Sakayamunee Visejchaicharn in Thai – the statue depicts Siddhartha Gautama becoming enlightened. The seated, cross-legged pose is known as ‘Calling the Earth to Witness’ and is one of the most common positions for statues of the Lord Buddha throughout Thailand.
Steps lead up to the base of the statue, and people touch the long, slender fingers of the statue’s right hand for good luck. The elevated position also offers excellent views of the rustic surroundings.
Another striking feature of Wat Muang is the large, colorful statue garden. See detailed battle re-enactments, large saffron-clothed monks, characters from Thai folklore, legends, and literature, animals, and more.
There are statues from various belief systems, including Thai Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Animism. The large statue of Kuan Im, a Chinese deity, is definitely eye-catching. I certainly found these diverse statues to be a great visual representation of how different religions, cultures, and ideologies can mesh together.
The sections devoted to the afterlife are especially interesting. Thai Buddhists believe that souls will spend time in a heavenly or hellish realm between incarnations as a reward or punishment for deeds done during their lifetime.
A person who lived a good life and accrued positive karmic energy is likely to spend time in a blissful, heavenly realm. Statues show this to be a place of peace and joy, with Buddhist monks and characters dressed in traditional Thai outfits.
Conversely, a person who followed the wrong path and died with a karmic debt can expect to be sent to one of the levels of hell. Statues depict hell in all its gruesomeness and are meant to deter people from committing a range of sins and encourage people to lead a righteous life.
Largely because of morbid fascination, the hell garden is my favorite part of Wat Muang! There are graphic scenes of torture and punishment, with fearsome-looking Underworld Gods looming over wretched souls. There are statues that are half human and half beast. Scenes show people being boiled in gigantic pots, torn limb from limb by various creatures, hacked in half, impaled, climbing thorny trees, and in shackles. Some unfortunate souls are shown having their tongues ripped out, some are splattered in blood, some are bound and suspended above the ground, and there are those that appear to be desperately praying for salvation and redemption.
You can’t miss the gigantic statues of Phi Pret—one of the most feared ghosts in Thai folklore. Still sometimes blamed today for mysterious deaths in Thailand, people who are ungrateful, insolent, and materialistic may find themselves reincarnated as Phi Pret. The huge ghosts can be male or female (you can tell the gender of each of the statues at Wat Muang by cheekily peeking up their cloth coverings!) and have huge, strong hands, an emaciated body with a swollen stomach (caused by constant hunger), and a tiny mouth.
Wat Muang also has a number of interesting buildings spread throughout the complex. The silver-colored Wihan Kaeo gleams in the sunshine as serpent-like naga snake along the handrails. The building houses a museum filled with religious statues and antiques.
The ordination hall is a more traditional-style building, with golden features and a red-tiled roof. Step inside to see colorfully painted scenes of the Lord Buddha’s life and several statues. The building is encircled by large, pink lotus petals, often said to create the biggest lotus flower in the world.
There’s also a Chinese-style temple building, with dragons wrapped around red pillars, ornate Chinese artwork, and a large, golden, multi-limbed Buddha statue. To me, this statue looks almost like a cross between a typical icon of the Lord Buddha and a depiction of a Hindu deity with several limbs (such as Durga). If you look closely, you’ll notice that each outstretched palm holds a different object, including a prayer wheel, a scroll, and beads.
If you want to learn more about Thai agriculture, take a peek at a range of old equipment and implements (all mostly dusty) within the large wooden shed. At the side of the shed, you’ll also find a shrine where people leave expensive dresses, cosmetics, dressing tables, and other items in honor of a female ghost.
Full of rich symbolism, colorful and quirky statues, striking buildings, and plenty to see, spending a couple of hours exploring Wat Muang is highly recommended for anyone touring Central Thailand.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Wat Muang is located in the district of Wiset Chai Chan in Ang Thong Province. It is around eight kilometers outside of the provincial capital. You can reach the center of Ang Thong by buses or minivans from Bangkok and neighboring provinces like Suphanburi, Singburi, and Ayutthaya.
From Ang Thong center, the easiest way to get to the temple is to charter a tuk-tuk. Be sure to either arrange for the driver to wait for you or come back at an appointed time, as finding transportation outside the temple is difficult. A round-trip with a couple of hours’ waiting time should cost no more than 1,000 THB, though the price will ultimately depend on your negotiating skills.
Having your own transport is advantageous, and there is ample car parking at the temple.
Do – Activities & Attractions
If you visit Wat Muang at the weekend, don’t miss visiting the museum housed within one of the shimmering silver halls. The museum contains a number of Buddha statues in various postures, as well as statues of famous monks, antiques, and other religious memorabilia. You can also see the biggest solid silver Buddha image in all of Thailand.
Stroll around the small market near the carpark and pick up local snacks and souvenirs.
Stay – Accommodation
While there are more accommodation options in the neighboring provinces of Ayutthaya and Suphanburi, there are a few places to stay if you choose to overnight in Ang Thong.
Bualung Hotel – Situated in the center of Ang Thong town, Bualung Hotel is one of the cheapest accommodations near Wat Muang. There are basic rooms for between two and five guests, all with a private bathroom, TV, and free Wi-Fi. Free onsite parking is available. The hotel has a coffee shop, and you can order meals and drinks from the 24-hour room service menu.
Panpree Hotel – The two-star pet-friendly Panpree Hotel has ensuite single, twin, and double rooms. All rooms come with free toiletries and Wi-Fi, a wardrobe, a TV, a fridge, and a kettle. Rooms are all accessed from ground level, and you can step outside the front door to enjoy the leafy garden. There is plenty of onsite parking.
Smile Resort – Located around a five-minute drive from Wat Muang, Smile Resort is one of the closest places to stay near the temple. Prices are reasonable, and rooms are spacious. Each room has an ensuite bathroom, TV, tea and coffee making facilities, free Wi-Fi, and a desk. There are rooms for two and four. The garden is a pleasant place to relax, and you can rent bicycles from the hotel. Parking is available.
Eat – Restaurants
There are several snack and food vendors within the grounds on Wat Muang, where you can enjoy typical Thai street-food fare such as fried rice, pad Thai, and spicy papaya salad. There are several local Thai restaurants within a couple of minutes’ drive of the temple, though menus are unlikely to be in English. There are more options in the Wiset Chai Chan district town center and in the provincial capital, also called Ang Thong.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Wat Muang is open daily from 6 am until 6 pm, and the onsite museum is open from 9 am to 5 pm on weekends. The temple is busiest on Buddhist holidays.
Safety – Possible risks
As with many of Thailand’s temples, stray animals (particularly dogs) roam the grounds of Wat Muang. While some animals are used to being around humans, others can be fearful and aggressive. It is advised that you don’t try to pet stray animals within the temple complex and avoid walking too close to groups of dogs. If you are bitten or scratched, seek medical advice as you may require rabies and / or tetanus shots and other medical treatment.
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
There is no entrance charge to visit Wat Muang, though donations are gratefully received. Donation boxes are positioned throughout the complex.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
As with visiting any temple in Thailand, you should dress modestly and act respectfully. Women should ensure their shoulders are covered (a sarong or large scarf is ideal) and that lower garments reach to at least the knees. Men should wear tops with at least short sleeves (no tank tops). Don’t wear ripped or see-through clothing or items with slogans or logos that could be seen as offensive.
Avoid pointing your feet at Buddha statues and treat monks with respect. Women shouldn’t touch monks (or their belongings), and it’s polite to bow your head to be lower than that of the monk when walking past.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Wat Muang is located off the beaten track in rural Central Thailand; transportation can be unreliable and slow, there may be communication difficulties, and there definitely aren’t many tourist-focused facilities. You may need some patience when trying to get to the temple.
While Wat Muang is an interesting attraction, you probably won’t need more than a couple of hours to feel like you’ve fully explored the complex. It’s a great side-trip when traveling around Central Thailand, but many people perhaps wouldn’t want to make it the sole focus of a day out. Ang Thong has a number of other interesting temples that can be visited along with Wat Muang for a fuller day out.
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