The Sanctuary of Truth, in Chonburi Province, is a huge and ornate wooden building that overlooks the sea. You might also hear the complex being referred to as Prasat Mai (New Castle / Palace) or the contradictory Wang Boran (Ancient Castle).
An easy day trip from the heart of Pattaya, it is a great place to spend a couple of hours. The main building is pretty awesome, and there are several other activities available if you want to add more to your experience. The fascinating building is sure to enchant all who clap eyes on it!
Philosophy of the Sanctuary of Truth
With definite spiritual symbolism, but with no affiliation to any particular religion, the glorious Sanctuary of Truth merges ideas from several belief systems. It seeks to show the “truth”, putting forward the ideas that civilization stems from a combination of philosophies and religions, and that the world’s decency comes from these philosophical and religious ideas along with art. The Sanctuary of Truth aims to realign traditional morals and values, and to promote peace and harmony.
It contends that that there are seven creators: Heaven, Earth, Father, Mother, Sun, Moon, and Stars. Each theme is represented throughout the building. Eastern beliefs often acknowledge four components of an ideal life: religion, philosophy, peace, and actual life. Turn your gaze skywards and you will see these ideas represented on top of the stretching spires.
To live the perfect life, individuals and the general human race must overcome various challenges, such as the struggles between good and bad, spiritual devotion, global wars, a burgeoning desire for commercialism, and neglect of nature. These tests of life are shown through carvings of scenes from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, two important ancient tales.
A stunning exterior with exquisite details
Almost every outer surface of the enormous structure is covered by detailed carved wood. You’ll see deities, people, animals, symbols, flowers, and more. Whilst the overall impression is certainly very striking, once you begin to really pay attention to the details you are likely to be awe-struck. Handrails, steps, balconies, window frames, roof edges, and columns – there are carvings everywhere!
Perched on top of the tallest point is a beautiful carving of a person riding a horse. This is Phra Sri Ariya Metrai, the last person to achieve enlightenment and become a Buddha in the current era. In the Hindu beliefs, he is thought to be the version of Vishnu (a Hindu god) that will appear to end the present time and begin a new age.
You will probably recognise elements from Buddhism, Hinduism, and various Chinese belief systems. Whether or not you are interested in the symbolism and interpretations, the gorgeous carvings are sure to enchant.
If you want to learn even more, you can join a free tour of the sanctuary. You are also free to explore the sanctuary at your leisure, or start the tour and drift off on your own. Only a certain number of visitors are allowed into the sanctuary area, with admissions regulated. You might have to wait a short while in the seating area before being allowed in. There is no time limit, however, once you in the area.
Covering more than 3,000 square metres and with an impressive highest point of 105 metres, there are certainly plenty of amazing carvings!
A fabulous interior with more fascinating features
The splendour doesn’t stop when you step inside the building, and the dim lighting helps to add to the atmosphere. Whilst still a work in progress, there are many more attractive carvings to admire as you wander around. Make sure you wear the hard hat (provided) in case something drops from up high!
The large main hall has a shrine in the centre. Although not a religious building as such, it is not unusual for people to pray at the shrine and leave offerings of fragrant and brightly coloured flowers.
Step out onto the balconies to get closer to some of the higher carvings and enjoy the excellent ocean views.
Allow around two hours, possibly more, to explore and enjoy the impressive structure.
See artisans hard at work
You can take a peek inside the workshop, located just a short distance away from the sanctuary, and watch as skilled craftspeople carefully work with the wood to create more attractive carvings. Large blocks stand waiting to be crafted and you can hear the chipping sounds as the people work. Some people work on larger items, whilst others perfect the smaller details. It is incredible to think that all of the sanctuary’s marvellous carvings were created by hand in a workshop like this.
Other attractions at the Sanctuary of Truth
The larger complex is somewhat like an amusement park, offering an array of activities for the whole family to enjoy. Most activities are subject to additional costs on top of the entrance ticket.
One of the free activities is a demonstration of Thai dancing. The shows take place at the restaurant at 11.30 am and 3.30 pm each day. Rows of seats are set out and the dancers perform various traditional dances whilst wearing traditional Thai outfits. Whilst it probably won’t be the liveliest cultural performance you will see in Thailand, it is worth watching if you are at the Sanctuary of Truth around the show times. The show lasts for around 30 minutes.
A recommended activity is to take a speedboat trip. You can admire the fabulous Sanctuary of Truth from the water and have fun bouncing across the waves. A speedboat trip costs 300 THB (approximately 8.25 USD) per person and takes around 30 minutes.
Elephant rides are available for 900 THB (approximately 24.80 USD). The elephants do not look particularly happy and healthy though, and there are reports that they are mistreated. This is probably an activity to skip. Other animal-related activities include horse riding and feeding goats. The horses do not look content and the goats were crying loudly at the time of visit. Although the main attraction, the Sanctuary of Truth, is incredible, the complex does not seem to respect the animals that it uses for tourist activities. It is highly recommended that you think twice before paying extra for any of the activities that involve animals.
Other activities include ATV riding, shooting, and Muay Thai (Thai boxing) demonstrations.
Practical information for visiting the Sanctuary of Truth
Admission tickets cost 500 THB (approximately 13.80 USD) for adults and 250 THB (approximately 6.90 USD) for children. Unusually, the price is the same for both foreign visitors and Thai nationals. A top tip is to buy your tickets online in advance through the Sanctuary of Truth’s website. Sure, it won’t yield a huge saving, but every little bit helps! Online tickets are priced at 450 THB (approximately 12.40 USD) for adults and 225 THB (approximately 6.20 USD) for children. These tickets allow you to enjoy the main building and join a tour if required.
The Sanctuary of Truth is located around four kilometres (2.5 miles) from the beating heart of Pattaya. It is well-signposted and ample car-parking is available if you visit by car or rented scooter. It would also be possible to cycle to the attraction. If you are a solo traveller, a motorbike taxi would be a convenient way of getting to the Sanctuary of Truth. The journey will cost around 50 to 100 THB (approximately 1.40 to 2.75 USD) one way. A tuk tuk (three-wheeled motorised vehicle) should cost around 150 to 200 THB (approximately 4.15 to 5.50 USD) one way. This is disproportionately expensive when considering the distance, but costs are pretty high in Pattaya, especially for tourists.
You could also make the journey independently using local transportation. Songthaews (converted pickup trucks) operate on set routes around Pattaya. It is possible to take two songthaews, followed by a short walk, to reach the Sanctuary of Truth. It would require a basic knowledge of the Thai language though, and knowing where to get off; it probably wouldn’t be worth the hassle!
Visit the awesome Sanctuary of Truth and be blown away by the magnificent details!
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