Many of you may have never heard of Wat Ban Rai.
We’ve all heard of the expression “hidden gem”, though. Many places have been alluded to as hidden gems.
I found something that perfectly defines what hidden gem means:
A hidden gem is something which is extremely outstanding and not many people may know about.
And this definition literally describes Wat Ban Rai.
Wat Ban Rai (Elephant Temple)
If you have traveled around Southeast Asia, you may have noticed the similar features among Buddhist and Hindu temples. They are either conical or bell-shaped; some, with pyramidal roofs. Temples and shrines are mostly gold or white or a combination. Even Chiang Rai’s famous White Temple complex isn’t totally white.
Wat Ban Rai, however, is unique. It’s rainbow-colored and shaped like an elephant!
The elephant temple is placed in the middle of a lake with a massive area of 48,562 square meters.
There are two gigantic nagas around it. Nagas are a group of serpent gods in Hindu and Buddhist mythology.
Wat Ban Rai is the largest ceramic mosaic stupa in Asia to date. Besides its distinct elephant structure, the shrine boasts of its amazing statues and paintings.
The artworks depict Buddha’s life. From pillars to walls to ceiling, the elephant temple will not fail to fascinate every visitor. Every visit is like a walk in an art gallery.
The whole shrine is even FREE to explore!
Wat Ban Rai’s history
Wat Ban Rai is a very important temple to Isaan people as it was re-built from donations and personal contributions. The donations came not only from prominent people in Thailand but also from worshippers.
Around 100 million baht was spent on rebuilding Wat Ban Rai. The temple was in bad condition when forest monk Luang Por Koon came to Nakhon Ratchasima. He then asked the villagers and his lay disciples to source for fund. Many people came forward and helped.
Wat Ban Rai may be a colossal piece of artwork, but it remains as a vital place of worship for Thai people. When visiting, respect is expected of everyone (religious or not).
How to go there
From Bangkok, a 3.5-hour bus ride will take you to Nakhon Ratchasima province. Take a bus from Mo Chit Bus Terminal 2 and buy a ticket to Korat. Buses to Korat depart roughly twice per hour. From Korat, you need to take another bus to Dan Khun Thot where Wat Ban Rai is located. Once you reach Dan Khun Thot, hire a tuk-tuk for the short ride to Wat Ban Rai.
Now, this may look like a long ride for you but Wat Ban Rai is really worth seeing. It’s best to spend a couple of hours at least to explore the whole shrine.
Besides, Wat Ban Rai is just one of the amazing sights in Nakhon Ratchasima province. You can visit Thailand’s “little Angkor Wat”, Phimai Historical Park. Soak in the beauty of a wide selection of flowers and plants at the Flora Park. And in case you didn’t know, the famous Khao Yai National Park is situated on the Southwestern border of Korat. There are many notable Buddhist temples in Nakhon Ratchasima province. You can actually spend 3-4 days to explore its best attractions.
Wat Ban Rai may not be as popular as the Grand Palace or the Wat Pho in Bangkok. But if Thailand’s hidden gems are what you’re after, this fascinating temple is truly one of them. I hope the photos on this page made you put Wat Ban Rai on your must-see list in Thailand. Ask away if you want more info!
Sheila, a.k.a. The Solo Tripper. Former news desk editor, full-time traveler, freelance writer.