A central law in Buddhism is that of Karma, doing good and taking responsibility for your actions. In 1984 the monks of Khun Han branched out from their traditional practices and began doing their part to do good for the local environment. Starting out collecting empty bottles to clean up the area and recycle, they soon amassed more bottles than they knew what to do with. With a stock pile of over 1 million bottles (Heineken, Chang and red bull) they decided to test their hands at art and architecture. Over the years, what this group of monks has created through their creativity, hard work, Buddhist dedication and discipline is truly a one of a kind masterpiece.
My first impression walking up to Wat Lan Kuad, ‘The Temple of a Million Bottles,’ was seeing shoulder high walls entirely constructed from bottles. There must have been hundreds of bottles making up these walls and I could only imagine what it looked like inside. The entrance to the complex is a large archway supported by 8 columns and an A-framed ‘roof,’ both of which are also built and decorated with bottles. The handiwork of the monks first started in the rear of the complex where they decorated their individual bungalows with bottles. Now, the stairs leading up as well as the walls and roofs of all bungalows are all made of bottles. Winding along the tree covered pathway there are around 20 buildings to view; monk bungalows, a large water tower, a crematorium, prayer rooms and even bathrooms for tourists, all which have been built from bottles.
The main temple sits on the western side of the complex and has a large reflection pool at the rear. Using 1 million bottles to build the walls and roof, the attention to detail is striking. The patterns are laid out perfectly and every bottle has its specific place. Some bottles have been filled with concrete to provide additional strength in some areas. Enduring the sweltering heat, I spent quite a bit of time here viewing the temple. One thing I noticed about the temple was that no matter the time of day, there was a constant glisten coming from the bottles on the roof. It seems the monks built the temple in such a position that captures the strong Thai sun and makes the temple shine brilliantly throughout the day. It really is an awesome site to see, and I lost track of time as I walked around in sheer awe.
Inside the temple is a small shrine and a mosaic of Buddhist culture. Mosaics and paintings are common to see in temples, however, there is something that makes this one stand out from the rest. When standing at the entrance to the room the mosaic looks like any other, but as you move in and get a closer look you can see what makes it special. This one is made completely from the caps of the recycled bottles. The characters, animals and scenery have all been fashioned from bottle caps. The labels are still visible on the tops of some, while others have been painted or colored to fit their place in the picture.
Khun Han is not a large town, and if you weren’t looking for it you might actually pass by the only sign in town pointing towards the temple. The sign happens to be kitty-corner to one of the two 7-11’s in town. Following the sign will lead you down a narrow road lined with lemon grass plants one one side and a few small residences on the other. Its not far before the green spires from the temple make themselves known and the bottle walls come into view. Once you see these and take your first steps in the gates, you’ll know your trip was worth it. Click here to see more photos of the temple complex.
Khun Han is not on the typical tourist route, however, visiting the temple is relatively easy. An overnight bus from Bangkok will have you in Khun Han roughly 9 hours later. The small farming town is located in the Si Saket province, one hour north of the Cambodian border. Aside from Wat Lan Kuad, Khun Han is mainly known for its rubber trees, rice fields and waterfalls. The temple really is a one of a kind and if you have time on your trip to Thailand I highly recommend trying to see it. I’m more than happy to offer information about getting there and where to stay. Feel free to send me an email if you’d like any information.