…Yes. I Finally Found It.
What’s the big deal in that?
Well; I thought I’d visited the place a couple of years ago, but I hadn’t. At the time, I’d consulted several travel-related websites that had sent me to the wrong place. Although Wat Suan Mokkh is considered a must-visit attraction I was seriously disappointed. In fact, I titled my article “A Wat To Miss.” That can happen when you’re about two kilometers from where you’re supposed to be.
So; yesterday I decided to make amends. I needed to go Surat Thani, and Wat Suan Mokkh is about thirty minutes or so further north.
I’d figured my route, I knew exactly where I was going. I didn’t need Ms. Chuckles. And I sailed straight past the place without seeing it. Twenty kilometers too far north, I realized Ms. Chuckles might have been a good idea. Except, when I illicited her help, she didn’t know where the place was either.
In theory, it’s easy to find. It’s set in a wooded area just to the of left the main north-south highway – if you’re going north – which I was. The problem is, the entrance is hidden behind a few food stalls, and food stalls are a ubiquitous feature of this stretch of road. So, if you’d like to visit, please see the map link at the bottom.
Another problem is the place has several names. Its full name is is Wat Suan Mokkhaphalaram, which can be abbreviated to Wat Suan Mokkh, or Suan Mokh. But it’s also referred to as the Suan Mokkh Forest Monastery – a monastery being it’s principal function. And that becomes very clear when you search the web. Almost all the sites refer to the ten day retreat that’s held every month. Me? I just wanted to visit the wat and the gardens.
I’m quite sure that rising at 4am, eating meager vegetarian meals at 8:30am and 12:30pm, sleeping from 9:30pm on a concrete slab with a wooden pillow, and maintaining strict silence for ten days, is very good … for something. But certainly it would not be good for me.
So, what did I find?
Well, for starters, the main buildings are not the usual highly-decorated red and gold affairs. They’re quite austere, which I suppose is what you’d expect if you have to focus your mind on the simplicities of life.
But the other thing I noticed is that all the other tourists – and yes, there were a few – looked at the buildings, walked around for five minutes and left. But there’s so much more to see…
Now; I certainly didn’t visit all the places listed on the sign board, but I did wander around for a good ninety minutes. There are many many pathways that lead away from the main buildings up into the 150 acres of ancient forest.
I figured it would be difficult to get lost. There were some signs in English, and everything seemed to lead uphill. I decided that when I’d explored enough, all I needed to do was head downhill. It worked.
Most of the small roads lead to the tiny hobbit houses where the forty or so resident monks live. They’re roughly 100 meters apart, and don’t vary in style very much – except from primitive to very primitive. Perhaps if your mind is somewhere else, you don’t notice.
Definitely my mind was not correctly focused because as I wandered along I was thinking what a great rally special stage the roads would make!
To be honest though, the place is serene.
The further into the forest you walk, the quieter it becomes.
The traffic noise from the main highway becomes just a low background hum.
I found myself trying to walk quietly, not stepping on any dry leaves, or loose gravel.
I felt guilty when I failed.
At one point I found lots of stone tablets resting against trees…
Then there were more, and more, until I found the…
…which was deserted. I have no idea how old these tablets are, but there is a wide variety. Please check the gallery below…
Some, as you may have noticed, seem to be moulds for making more tablets. But what gets poured or pressed in the moulds? Clay maybe.
Then I followed a sign to a church…
Eventually I reached the site of the cremation of Buddhadasa Bhikkhu, the founder of the monastery…
Which was where I found the much revered and well protected remains of Lord Buddha’s Hi-Fi. Seems he even had stereo 🙂
And, this far into the forest, there is not much else to photograph but trees … which were old, and very tall. If you like trees, here’s a whole gallery of them…
Just before heading down the hill, I spotted a sign to a hilltop viewpoint where apparently you can see the sea. But the sign had no indication as to how far this was, two kilometers or twenty? And nudging both midday and forty degrees, I decided this was not the right time.
On the way back down to the main buildings I spotted…
And then finally, back at the buildings…
Well, that was a fascinating morning. I didn’t see it all. In addition to the scorching heat, I wasn’t there at the right time of year. It needs to be cooler and damper. I missed some of the buildings, and I didn’t climb the mountain. Another day.