I have to admit I like a good roadside attraction. It there’s a Stonehenge made of cars, a giant statue of the Jolly Green Giant, or a palace made of corn, chances are good I’m going to stop there. That’s why, on my trip around Eastern Thailand, I make it a point to visit Sala Keoku, what I shall now deem “The Crazy Religious Statue Temple.” Created in 1978 to reflect the vision of local religious/cult leader, Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, the temple features a dizzying variety of fantastic, bizarre, concrete Buddhist and Hindu sculptures.
Let me be clear, this is a very odd place. Along with giant Buddhas, you also find giant rat gods, naga snake apparitions, faces sitting on hands, outstretched arms with multiple faces seemingly growing out of them. The list of strange images goes on and on. What’s even weirder is that the place is unmonitored; in other words, you can climb and sit on all of the statues, like a kids’ park, and no one will say a thing. While I’m there, all I can think is, “Wouldn’t this place make the world’s best mini golf course?”
Apparently Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat built a similar “park” like this over the border in Myanmar. You have to wonder what his motivation was. I understand he was a sculptor along with a religious icon; perhaps this was all an exercise in self-expression? Sometimes I like doing a bunch of research about a place, trying to understand its social and historical context. But Sala Keoku temple is not one of those places, at least not for me. I prefer to let it stand in my memory as a mysterious anomaly, that strange, inexplicable “Crazy Religious Statue Temple” on the Thailand/ Laos border, and leave it at that. Wow.
(Who hasn’t lain in bed, late at night, wondering “Why did that person break up with me? Why did my boss fire me? Why did my partner snap at me?” Ruminating is a part of being human, and it’s tough. But what if we could train our minds to accept, even occasionally, that some things in life are inexplicable and unexplainable? What if we could teach our brains to stop looking for answers? At least once today, try adopting an attitude of perplexed acceptance. As Geoffrey Rush’s character says in “Shakespeare in Love, “I don’t know. It’s a mystery.”)