As one moves towards the Laos border the Lao influence becomes obvious, most notably in the temple design. And of all the Lao-style temples, Wat Phra That Phanom has the largest chedi – larger even than any in Laos.

Chedi Wat That Phanom

Here the colour scheme is red, white and gold.

As I arrived there was a procession of a few hundred worshippers who’d arrived in coaches. They passed three times around the chedi clutching burning incense sticks and lotus buds before kneeling and praying.

After visiting the temple, I went to the temple museum where I was approached by a novice monk, 20 years old. He’d been a novice for 8 years. I wondered what had happened in his life that he had left home at such a young age. Poverty is the usual answer, or an alcoholic parent, or parental abuse. Temples provide a useful refuge for desperate boys – but there’s nothing for the girls. This novice’s dream was to become a monk and to live in a famous Thai temple in London. He was therefore keen to practise his English. And the temple does provide English lessons to novices and to monks who wish to study.


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