…วัดเขาอังคาร or the Temple of Mars Mountain (literally)
Perched on a small hill, about the same height as it’s big brother at Phanom Rung, sits this quite strange but enchanting temple. I’ve read many stories about its purpose but it appears more shrouded in myth than seems possible. It’s a newly built temple on an ancient sacred site and built in an old style.
Exiting Nang Rong on the way here, there is a lonely sign post hidden in a small village. If you don’t have Google Maps or an amazing sense of adventure and incredible sense of direction then you may struggle to find your way! Down a nondescript side street, through endless brown fields waiting for their crops and the life giving rains that should come soon, along a tree lined dirt track that reminds you of someplace in Belgium, you finally reach a small crossroads where there is another sign, very handily written in Thai, pointing you the way. It’s a little disorientating because although you’re in the middle of traditional Buriram farming country, where the smell of buffalo poo and durian waft into your nostrils, every 100 metres you encounter a 16 wheeler truck. It’s as if you’ve inadvertently stumbled into a Colombian drug cartel’s manufacturing plant. Of course, that would be crazy but, in fact, just down the road there is a quarry and a factory producing gravel and stones to be sold at some distant place. This has a plus side and a down side. The plus is that the tracks are well used and passable at this time of year, in the dry season. The down side is the sheer amount of infernal dust that is thrown into the air both from the crushing process and the monstrous lorries.
Passing this rather surprising place, the track continues and ahead there is a hillock which, surely, must be the location of our temple. (It’s really an extinct volcano.) Five minutes later, after a winding climb, you’re at the summit, faced by a 20 metre long, golden Buddha, in his best “I’m lying down and relaxing” pose.
The site is very compact and is free to enter. There are many wonderful small statues dotted around and it’s a good idea just to wander amongst the trees looking for lost treasures, whether they be an upright Buddha staring at you from a clearing or a small shrine slowly being overgrown by the creepers. It’s a peaceful place, the quiet only broken by the glorious sounds of birds chattering away (or the occasional motor bike revving it’s engine as it parks) and the melodious rhythm of the monks chanting their prayers.
The main attraction is the sepia coloured temple that stands as high as a 3 storey building. The choice of colour is rare as most Thai temples are white but this is one of the great things that makes it unique. Inside there are some murals which are in a sad state of decay, telling the tale of Rama (I think) and his journey across India in search of Sita. In fact, with the outer walls looking like they’re covered in chocolate, there is a similarity to some of the old Indian forts. Surrounding the base of the temple are dozens of small statues resplendent in their orange robes, all looking to the distance wary of the marauding forces approaching from all sides. On top of the temple are some fabulously carved towers with intricately designed scenes (from where I don’t know). On closer inspection there are also hundreds of small Buddha figurines sitting in their pose, looking serene as always.
It’s worth taking some time to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere here. I would suggest a visit as part of a day trip to include Non Din Daeng also. Keep Phanon Rung and Muang Tam for a new day.