Wat Puet Udom: Thai Hell Temple
A Cool but Creepy Hell Temple near Bangkok!
Wat Puet Udom is a Buddhist temple in Pathom Thani, one of the small provinces that borders Bangkok proper and is often considered to be part of the wider Bangkok area.
The temple sees relatively few visitors in general, with even fewer international tourists making the trip to this offbeat and unusual temple. When two friends and I visited Wat Puet Udom, there were perhaps around another ten people exploring the complex at the same time.
You’ve probably already seen a fair number of temples during your time in Bangkok, but if you’re a fan of the strange and bizarre, the off-the-beaten-track Wat Puet Udom definitely deserves a place on your itinerary.
I have something of a penchant for Thailand’s so-called hell temples – spiritual places with everything you’d expect from a Buddhist temple, only with the ghastly addition of gruesome scenes from hell!
When looking for hell temples near Bangkok, I had come across Wat Puet Udom and it piqued my curiosity. Enlisting two friends with a love for the unusual, we set off to see if Wat Puet Udom was as creepy as we imagined; it definitely didn’t disappoint!
As an aside, Thai Buddhists believe in reincarnation as a soul works on gaining enlightenment to eventually reach Nirvana. However, there is a break between each incarnation when souls go to a heaven-like place or somewhere akin to hell.
The destination depends on deeds during their life and karmic debts. Each heaven and hell realm is divided into different tiers, with various blissful rewards or horrific penalties on each. Hell temples seek to show people the pain and punishments that await them in the afterlife if they don’t follow a righteous path.
The first things that struck me as unusual were the statues throughout the grounds. As well as the “normal” figures of the Lord Buddha and creatures from Thai mythology, there were those that were certainly different: two cracked and crumbling torsos in the back of a rickshaw next to an old petrol pump; gigantic, ferocious-looking warriors standing over emaciated and bloody half-naked people; and a ghoul-like entity with protruding ribs, a tongue that stretched almost to the ground, spindly fingers, and drooping breasts.
Other curiosities outside the temple include gigantic birds, statues of creatures that are half man and half beast, sexually explicit scenes, skeletons, and naked bodies with exaggerated anatomical details.
One of the most shocking statues was one that appeared to show a man performing an abortion on a woman, with a bloody, tiny red fetus being pulled from the woman’s vagina. Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending on your view) the written explanation was only in Thai.
And all this is before you even enter “hell!”
The temple building itself is a dazzling jewel, with golden roof details and small characters from Thai mythology adorning the walls.
Unlike many hell temples which usually have a hell garden, the true horrors at Wat Puet Udom are hidden away underground, with a large hell section underneath the sparkly temple. And the entrance is through an enormous gaping mouth …
I couldn’t help but giggle as I entered the huge mouth, stopping, of course, to have pictures taken of me entering the jaws of doom. It’s exciting not knowing what lies ahead, but also a little spooky entering the dark, dank, and gloomy underworld – both literally and metaphorically.
A sign seeks to prepare you for what is to come:
“The messengers of death are waiting.
You are going to travel far away.
Have you any provision for the journey?”
It doesn’t seem that spooky at first, with painted scenes of happy couples and statues of monks surrounded by small Buddha icons. I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed!
But then things start to get creepy, and another sign announces, “Here you are in the hell.”
Graphic paintings adorn the walls, showing exactly what will happen to believers for committing various earthly transgressions. Naked bodies sit in demon-guarded roaring fires while others are forced to climb towering, thorny trees. More desperate people are boiled in a gigantic pot while others are stabbed, sawn in half, or have various body parts ripped off.
What made this especially interesting for me was that, unlike many other temples where information is provided only in Thai, there are descriptions in English to show what the different punishments are for. For example, your tongue will be ripped out for telling lies!
While some sins are almost expected – like murder, theft, adultery, and intoxication – others are a little more enlightening. For example, did you know that it’s a grave sin to cheat by using a false weighing scale? I could imagine this would definitely be a moral wrong, but probably not something to be punished for so harshly in hell!
It’s not only paintings that seek to fill visitors with dread and a desire to improve their ways. There are numerous disturbing statues to further hammer home the points. Birds rip the flesh of tortured souls, demons gouge people’s eyes out, and people are whipped and subjected to all manners of brutal treatment. Naked women hang from tree branches, and (one of my favorite images!) a grinning skeleton rides a bicycle.
Some displays are animated; simply pop a coin into the controls to fill the air with haunting screams and wails, religious chanting, and other noises, and watch as scenes judder to life.
I was intrigued, disturbed, entertained, horrified, and amused as I explored the underground caverns and tunnels of hell. It was also definitely an eye-opening experience that gave me greater insights into Thai Buddhist beliefs. However, exiting through another large mouth into the sunshine was definitely a relief, with fresh air, light, space, and a sense of life rather than death.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
Wat Puet Udom isn’t easy to reach by public transport. It is likely possible to use a combination of public buses and/or minivans to get close to the grounds, but you would probably need to be able to speak Thai to figure out the transport and require lots of patience to deal with delays. If you did want to reach the temple by public transport, your best bet would be to go to the bus stops near Future Park in Rangsit and ask for routes that travel along Lam Luk Ka Road. Get off the bus around three kilometers after passing Lam Lak Ka Hospital; the temple is a five-minute walk from the main road.
My friends and I opted for the easy way of catching a taxi to Wat Puet Udom from Future Park – a large shopping center in Rangsit, Pathum Thani. Various public bus services connect Rangsit with different places around Bangkok, but the easiest way to be sure you’re getting on the right bus is to catch your ride from Mo Chit Bus Station. Of course, you could also take a taxi directly to the temple from the city center.
Wat Puet Udom is located 40 kilometers from Future Park, and the one-way taxi ride took just under an hour. We paid 900 THB for a taxi to take us to the temple, wait for a couple of hours (as return taxis can be difficult to find from the temple), and take us back to Future Park.
Do – Activities & Attractions
Exploring the temple grounds and descending into the depths of Buddhist hell are the main reasons to visit Wat Puet Udom. There are also a couple of smaller activities to enjoy while at the temple.
Buy a bag of colorful fish food and stand on the wooden platform tossing handfuls of food to the gaping mouths eagerly waiting in the water. It’s meant to bring you good luck!
You can also purchase cheap bunches of grass to feed to the resident buffalos. Whether or not you choose to feed the animals, it’s worth stopping by the buffalo enclosures to see one of Thailand’s most agriculturally important creatures.
Bang the large gongs to create a resounding boom that is meant to ward off evil spirits; find a quiet section within the grounds (away from ghastly statues!) to sit for a while in contemplation, and see the robotic skeleton that bows to people walking past.
Stay – Accommodation
As with most Buddhist temples in Thailand, there are likely basic areas within Wat Puet Udum where people can spend the night. Temple accommodation is typically on the floor of a hall with access to basic toilet facilities and with donations as payment. This is not, however, a practical solution for most travelers. Plus, the temple is easy to reach from Bangkok, so most people would likely take a trip from their city-center accommodation. There are several accommodations within a couple of kilometers of the temple too.
Lux Inn – Lux Inn is one of the most affordable places to stay near Wat Puet Udum. The standard double rooms have air conditioning, a private bathroom, TV, and free Wi-Fi. You can order from the room service menu if hunger strikes, and the property offers laundry services.
Pathuma Garden – A pleasant mid-range option near Wat Puet Udom, Pathuma Garden has standard and deluxe rooms, all ensuite. The standard rooms are comfy but compact, while the deluxe options have a balcony and seating area. All have free Wi-Fi. The gardens are a pleasant spot to unwind, and the hotel offers 24-hour room service, free parking, and airport transfers (for an additional fee).
Prima Hotel – The modern and stylish Prima Hotel is ideal if you want some pampering close to Wat Puet Udom. There are standard and deluxe twin and double rooms, all light and airy with quality furnishings and attractive décor. All rooms have a private bathroom, air-conditioning, and a fridge. Guests can make use of the refreshing swimming pool – which is set in beautiful gardens – and the restaurant serves tasty Thai cuisine.
Eat – Restaurants
Within the temple grounds, there are a few street-food carts and snack stands that sell basic Thai fare and refreshments.
A short walk away, you’ll find basic outdoor eateries that sell staple Thai dishes, like stir-fried pork, chicken, and shrimp with rice, omelets, soups, and noodles. The cute Sweet Home Café is a five-minute walk away, and you can enjoy various hot and cold drinks and Thai sweets.
If you’re looking for somewhere fancier to dine, head back to Future Park; the shopping center has various restaurants catering to global tastes. And, of course, in nearby Bangkok, you can find a plethora of restaurants that serve Thai specialties and meals from across the world.
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Wat Puet Udom is open every day from early morning until late in the afternoon. There’s no particular time that’s better to visit than others, though avoiding the hottest midday period is recommended for most outdoor places in Thailand. You can, however, escape the heat by going underground into the hell section.
Safety – Possible risks
Watch your head when exploring the inner underground hell section of the temple as the ceilings are pretty low. Be careful of turning around suddenly and banging your head (or another part of the body) on archways and sharp protruding parts of statues. Be wary of tripping too, as the floor is uneven in places and can be slippery.
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 charge to visit Wat Puet Udom, although (modest) donations to the temple are always gratefully received. Be sure to have a stash of small coins available if you wish to set the animatronics into action.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
As with all temples in Thailand, wear modest clothing to visit Wat Puet Udom. It is, after all, still an active place of worship. Ladies should cover their shoulders and wear shorts/dresses/trousers or skirts that reach to at least the knee, and men should avoid singlets and excessively short shorts. Don’t wear see-through, low-cut, or ripped clothing, and avoid anything with slogans or images that could be seen as offensive.
Reality Check – Be Aware
While Wat Puet Udom is a fascinating temple for anyone who loves quirky and unusual places, it is probably not going to be the most impressive temple you’ll visit on your adventures through Thailand. It is not set up for international tourism at all, and offers insights into local spirituality. Some of the English information is difficult to comprehend (likely because of being lost in translation) and it’s unlikely there will be anyone around who can explain – you’ll have to use your imagination!
Many of the statues show signs of wear and tear, with some that are positively decrepit. While for me this somehow enhanced the experience, don’t go expecting somewhere pristine and gleaming.
Perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind is that the displays are very graphic and gruesome. It is not somewhere to take children, and highly sensitive people might want to skip the hell section.
Destination: Wat Puet Udom — a freaky, colorful hell temple (NSFW)
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