The bright colours, rich ornamentation, dazzling spires and steeply sloping, multi-tiered roofs of temples are most likely the picture of Thai architecture in many people’s minds. But if you travel around Thailand, you will find more ‘exotic’ structures, either built upon mythological beliefs, narrating folklore or expressing identity of a particular group of people. Whatever function they serve, they are interesting and unique and can probably stir your imagination like no other attraction.
Toad Museum, Yasothon
A short while after a riverfront building in the shape of a giant sitting toad was erected in 2015, it quickly became a landmark in the northeastern province of Yasothon. The Toad Museum narrates the story of Phraya Khankhak, a local prince whose skin looked like a toad’s. He fought with famine by conquering Phraya Thaen Fa, the god of rain, and made an agreement that humans would tell him when to receive rain by launching a rocket into the sky. This is how Bun Bang Fai, or the Rocket Festival, started. Apart from the story of the mythical toad, there is an exhibition of the history of the province, and Bang Fai rockets shown in 4D theatre and multimedia presentations. There is also an exhibition about toads, with specimens and information about 500 types toads from around the world. There is a footbridge on the top floor where you can gaze out over the Thuan river and the nearby Great Naga Museum.
Dragon Temple, Nakhon Pathom
Only about 40 km west of Bangkok, Nakhon Pathom’s Dragon Temple, or Wat Samphran, captivates the eyes of visitors with its pink tower, around which coils a green dragon. Each claw of the dragon is believed to have power to answer prayers. You can get to the top of the 17-storey temple by climbing a seemingly never-ending spiral staircase inside the dragon. However, it is open only on Sundays, Buddhist Holy Days and public holidays. There are also lots of animal structures and sculptures in the temple grounds, all with Buddhist symbolic significance.
Elephant Temple, Nakhon Ratchasima
Located in Nakhon Ratchasima, the gateway to Northeast Thailand, the Elephant Temple, or Wat Ban Rai, is a hidden gem on a less popular tourist route. The temple features a colourful turtle-shaped building with a massive elephant’s head, situated in the middle of a lake and accessible by a bridge. On each side there is a majestic, many-headed naga serpent guarding the entrance. Inside the temple, there is a statue of the venerable Luang Pho Khoon Parisuttho, one of Thailand’s most revered monks, whose idea the temple was built upon. The walls and ceiling are covered with beautiful paintings. On the rooftop stand two golden statues—of the Buddha and the ever modest Luang Pho Khoon. It offers a relaxing view of the lake and the town.
Bueng Si Fai, Pichit
Bueng Si Fai is a large freshwater lake in the south of Pichit town, a province in the north central region of Thailand. Around the lake, which is full of fish, are places of interest, such as a park for recreational use, an aquarium, a crocodile pond and a zoo, besides a giant crocodile statue which is the landmark of the lake. It was built after a legend originating in Phichit, Kraithong and Chalawan, about Chalawan, a crocodile lord who abducted the daughter of a wealthy man and was finally killed by Kraithong. There are also crocodile statues at other places in the province, such as Si Sattharam Temple and Khlong Khu Temple.
Dragon Descendants Museum, Suphanburi
Close to Suphanburi Pillar Shrine, Dragon Descendants Museum is in a giant, brightly coloured fiberglass dragon. It is such an awe-inspiring structure that you might mistake the museum for a shrine or a temple. Established in 1996 to celebrate 20 years of Thai-Chinese diplomatic relations, it was designed to present the 5,000-year-old Chinese civilization in the form of a legendary creature. The museum houses artefacts and a multimedia exhibition of the history of China and Chinese-Thai people, and biographies of important people, philosophy, local wisdom, and important inventions of Chinese ancestors. It is open from Wednesday to Sunday and on public holidays.