Thailand’s Million Bottle Temple
Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew is a lesson in recycling
Located in Thailand’s province of Si Saket, Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew could be an excellent lesson in recycling. Often referred to as The Million Bottle temple (or Wat Lan Kuad in Thai), the quirky temple complex was built using more than one million old glass bottles donated by the local community.
With a penchant for anything unusual, I’d seen pictures of this cool temple and knew I had to visit someday. When the opportunity arose, I grabbed it!
The bus ride from Si Saket was scenic, winding past rolling fields and small villages. On reaching Khun Han, I was a bit unsure as to how to find the temple, but some friendly locals quickly pointed me in the right direction. A short walk later, I found myself in front of a wall made from old beer bottles—I had arrived!
The story behind the temple is that in 1984, a local monk grew tired of the large amounts of litter strewn around the town. He and his followers invited people to bring their old bottles to him to build a temple. As the collection of beer bottles and other bottles grew, so did the complex. The main sala (hall) was the first structure built, with other halls, restrooms, and a crematorium following.
Although the labels have been removed, it’s easy to spot Thailand’s favourite beers—Chang, Leo, and Singha all come in brown bottles, while most of the empty green bottles once contained Heineken. Smaller glass bottles appear in parts of the temple, once filled with energy drinks like Thai Redbull and M150. Even the bottle tops haven’t gone to waste, having been used to create large mosaics and other decorative touches.
From the outside, you may feel a little disappointed; the wall is showing signs of age, and many bottles have been broken, leaving jagged edges and a rather scruffy appearance. Do note, however, the bottle-made prayer wheel designs along the wall.
Pass through the concrete-and-bottle archway, complete with a bottle-top design at the top, and explore the complex. Although relatively small, it’s definitely impressive! Rooves, walls, pillars, handrails, statues, and even sections of flooring are all made from bottles, held in place with sturdy concrete.
The large hall has a reclining Buddha statue made from glass bottles, as well as a number of other smaller statues of the Lord Buddha and famous monks. There are spiritually themed mosaics on the exterior walls as well as a large mosaic inside. The smell of incense and flowers hangs thickly in the air, and you may see people making merit and praying.
A small sala (pavilion) sits surrounded by water, with a short walkway spanning the pond to lead inside. Upturned bottles are set into the floor – it’s quite strange to walk across the sturdy glass. Water lotus plants float on the water, and the atmosphere is serene.
As with most temples in Thailand, be sure to remove your shoes to enter the sacred halls.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
The interesting Million Bottle Temple is located in Khun Han, a sleepy town in Isan’s province of Si Saket. Hourly buses connect Khun Han with the provincial capital of Si Saket, and the prices are low. You can reach Si Saket by bus from nearby provinces, such as Surin, Buriram, and Yasothon. Long-distance buses run between Bangkok’s Morchit Station (Northern Bus Station) and the main bus station in Si Saket. The journey takes around nine hours, and there are several departures each day.
Alternatively, you can reach Si Saket by train. It is on the Northeastern Line, which runs between Bangkok and Ubon Ratchathani via Ayutthaya, Saraburi, Pak Chong, Nakhon Ratchasima, Buriram, Surin, and Si Saket. Si Saket train station is located in the heart of town, and it’s easy to reach the bus station, from where you can continue to Khun Han.
Local buses drop people in the centre of small Khun Han near a roundabout. The Million Bottle Temple can be reached within around a ten-minute walk.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Although one of the main things to do in Khun Han is to see the quirky Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, the peaceful town can also be a great place to escape the tourist crowds and experience life in rural Thailand. There are several waterfalls around the town, including Samrong Kiat, Prom Wihan, and Huai Chan. In the wider province, you’ll find atmospheric Khmer ruins to explore, like Wat Sa Kamphaeng Yai, Wat Sa Kamphaeng Noi, Ta Leng, Prasat Ban Prasat, Prang Ku, and Wat Maha Phuttharam.
Stay – Accommodation
Kradung Nga Boutique Inn – Offering good value for money, Kradung Nga Boutique Inn is located just over two kilometres from Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew. The cheerful hotel has clean and spacious en suite double and twin rooms, each with free Wi-Fi, a TV, a desk, and ample storage space. The onsite restaurant serves delicious Thai fare, and the hotel has free parking.
Rerawadi Resort – The beautiful Rerawadi Resort is a peaceful and charming accommodation within easy reach of town. Attractive statues fill the leafy grounds and guests can relax in the swimming pool and on the sun terrace. The resort has a welcoming restaurant serving both Thai and European cuisine. There are varied sleeping options, including cute bungalows, rooms in a townhouse, suites, and apartments. All are en suite, and free Wi-Fi is available throughout the resort.
Pongsin Resort – Fairly small with a peaceful and natural atmosphere, Pongsin Resort has an intimate vibe. The quaint wooden bungalows are built in a typical Thai style, and each has a private bathroom, balcony, fridge, kettle, and beautiful wood furnishings. Alternatively, you can stay in an en suite room complete with pastel hues, a fridge, and a kettle. The resort has a swimming pool and restaurant, and you can arrange ATV rides around the rustic surroundings.
Eat – Restaurants
There’s a good selection of basic Thai-style restaurants in Khun Han town. Within short walking distance of Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew / the Million Bottle Temple, most serve typical Thai fare and local specialities. The Isan (Northeast) region of Thailand is known for dishes like sticky rice and som tam (spicy papaya salad), larb (a meat salad with mint), and grilled chicken. Isan food is known for being spicier than in other parts of the country, and the region is also famous for its love of “jungle food.” Try khai Mot daeng—a salad made from the eggs of red ants! You’ll also find plenty of food carts around town.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
The Isan region is known for its incredibly hot, dry, and dusty summers, with temperatures soaring to uncomfortable levels in April and May. Flooding may occur during the peak of the rainy season (August to October). Generally, the cool season (from November to February) is considered the best time, weather-wise, to explore Northeast Thailand.
That said, you can visit Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew at any time of year. The unusual temple is open every day from 8 am until 5 pm.
Safety – Possible risks
Be cautious of the temple dogs that claim Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew as their own. They can be territorial and become aggressive if you venture too close to them. Don’t try and pet the dogs, and seek medical attention if bitten—you may need rabies and tetanus shots.
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 admission fee for the Million Bottle Temple, although small donations are appreciated.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
As when visiting all temples around Thailand, you should take care to dress conservatively and act respectfully. Cover your knees and shoulders, remove your shoes to step inside the halls, and avoid talking too loudly. Women should avoid touching monks; should a monk talk with you, show respect by performing a gesture known as the wai (palms together in front of the chest with a bow of the head) rather than trying to shake their hand.
Reality Check – Be Aware
Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew really is one of Thailand’s most unusual temples, and it’s impressive to see the dedication that has gone into building the site. The temple is, however, reasonably small, and you will likely spend no more than an hour exploring the complex. The temple’s monks are continually expanding the temple and adding new features, so there may be piles of cement and donated bottles lying around the complex. Over time, some glass bottles (particularly those in the outer wall) have become smashed and broken. Do take care not to cut yourself.
There aren’t many other significant places of interest to see in the locale, and you’ll probably want to try and catch a bus out of the town on the same day that you arrive and make your way to your next destination. It is, however, a terrific place to include on a trip around the lesser-visited Thai region of Isan.
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