“What the hell are Hell Temples ?” l hear you asking.
Well it’s nothing to do with Satanism that’s for sure!
There are a number of Hell Temples scattered around Thailand; most have some kind of outdoor sculpture garden with graphic displays of punishments bad folk can expect to suffer in Buddhist hell.
The purpose of such places is to shock people into being better, and to follow the path of Buddha.
Wat Pa Non Sawan
(Video in Thai but great views of the temple grounds)
This is one bizarre temple in Roi Et province.
When you enter you have no idea what lies inside. You’re greeted by a beautiful display of some wonderful, colourful statues of monks and mythical figures, while some others are a little bit more odd.
The grounds at the front are almost magical, and its a strange world you’re entering, as you follow the path to the back of the compound.
It gets even stranger as you pass between two guardians and enter the Hell Garden to see what your fate could be in the afterlife.
Here you are met by a rather graphic display of extreme torture endured by those who were condemned after death for their evil deeds.
Even if the Hell Garden is off-putting for you, the temple compound at the front is fascinating and worth an hour or two of your time.
Getting there: The temple is about 30km from Roi Et town in Roi Et province. Follow the the Roi Et – Thawat Buri – Selaphum Road. It’s about 13 km past Thawat Buri. You’ll see the entrance on the right.
Wat Wang Saen Suk
Wat Wang Saen Suk claims to have the largest ‘Hell Garden’ in Thailand, and it’s pretty much the most visited as it’s in a popular beach town.
You’ll be left in no doubt as to what you are about to see. A large sign at the entrance reads “Welcome to Hell”.
Two huge Hungry Ghosts stand guard above those being tortured for their sins.
Depictions include being beheaded for undermining Buddhism, getting a bird’s head to replace your own if you steal rice, and the rather horrible disembowelment by a vice for having an abortion.
Most of the terrifying punishments have English language descriptions of what the reasons are behind them.
Best to read them and be nice!
Getting there: Wat Wang Saen Suk is in the beach resort town of Bang Saen at 150 Bang Saen Sai 2 Road, in Chonburi province. Well known Pattaya is just a few short km away.
There is plenty of transport available between the two towns, and the drive is only about 20 minutes.
Wat Phut Udom
Wat Phut Udom is probably one of the closest Hell Temples to Bangkok, and likely the least known about.
Weird is a good word to describe this semi-rural temple, which houses part of the hell scenes underground.
It’s vaguely like a House of Horrors show you might have seen in the west.
It’s best to wander the grounds first and see the blood thirsty antics there before descending into the fiery pit to behold more gruesome sufferings down there.
Afterwards there is some relief from the pain, with an oddball outdoor ‘museum’ of seemingly pointless collectables and knicknacks in another part of the grounds.
The main temple building is well worth a look inside for it’s well preserved colourful murals depicting historical events.
If all this torture is too much, take a short side trip to Thai Wake Park a 20 minute drive away to relax by the lake over a cold drink. It will give you a chance to meditate over your life!
Getting there: Wat Phut Udom is at 25/5 Moo 9, Lamlukka Road, Lam Sai sub district, Lamlukka District, Pathum Thani Province. Its not easy to get to so we recommend using a taxi as the most practical idea. From central Bangkok take the MRT to Chatuchak stn or BTS to Morchit stn and grab a taxi from there. Not every taxi will want to go out there!
Wat Mae Kaet Noi
As gruesome as it comes, Wat Mae Kaet Noi presents a stomach churning display of the horrors that await those heading for Buddhist hell.
The most striking part of this torture garden must be the horrific and almost pornographic depictions of punishments for sexual offenders.
Everywhere you look there are sculptures of men and women who are grotesquely disfigured, and covered in blisters, festering sores and gaping wounds.
Red demon-like monsters are stabbing, ripping, severing and operating complicated torture machines.
As if this vomit inducing presentation isn’t enough, you can put 10 baht into a slot and get surround sound of the terrible screams coming from the tortured wicked.
If you haven’t passed out already, you can get a little light relief in the small garden showing what Buddhist Heaven might be like!
Getting there: 3km from Mae Jo University on Highway 1001, at Pa Phai in San Sai district, Chiang Mai.
Wat Pa Lak Roi
While not quite as graphic as some other Hell Temples this one still gets its message across though its many blood thirsty displays.
You won’t be left in any doubt about what you’re in for if you’re a prolific sinner.
As in some other temples, you are seduced first by some pretty average sculptures of mythical beasts and people, before walking into the main event.
There is some other weird stuff here too, including animatronics of traditional Thai dance shows and automated blessings.
Getting there: From Korat city (Nakhon Rachasima) head for Joho. At the main intersection turn into Highway 205 (towards Chaiyaphum) and follow for about 17km. Watch for the signs to the temple and turn left there. It’s about 2km up the road.
(Hell is at about halfway in this long video)
This large temple complex is most famous for its gigantic Seated Buddha image, but tucked away in the grounds is yet another hell garden guarded over by two giant Hungry Ghosts
The displays here are a bit less sickening than in other Hell Temples but still fairly graphic.
They’re neatly laid out in fenced compartments and easy to walk around. Selfies with tortured souls might not make the best Instagram pics though!
This temple has a huge amount to see apart from the scenes of hell, and we will be doing a full review of it soon.
Getting there: Wat Muang is at 19 Hua Taphan, Wiset Chai Chan District, Ang Thong province, about 8km from Ang Thong town. 8 kilometers from from Ang Thong town. Follow the Ang Thong – Wiset Chai Chan road (Highway 3195) and turn at Km 29 and after 1km you’ll see it on the left.
There are frequent buses from Bangkok’s Morchit Mai bus station to Ang Thong town, from where you can hire a Songtaew or Samlor to get you to the temple.
Wat Phai Rong Wua
A fairly well known temple with an extensive display of the horrors of hell.
If you’ve read this far you don’t need us to tell you what to expect here!
Other attractions include a 26 meter high bronze Buddha statue, and the world’s largest multi-spired bronze building.
Getting there: Wat Phai Rong Wua is on Highway 3422, Bang Ta Then subdistrict, Song Phi Nong district, Suphanburi province. There are frequent buses and passenger vans from Bangkok’s Morchit Mai terminal to Suphanburi town, from there you can hire a songtaew for the 18km trip.
There are a few more of these Hell Temples around the country but we guess by now you might be feeling a little off-colour!
If you’re near one of these places, it’s worth a look for yourself although one will probably be enough.