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Blood, bone saws and Buddhism


Blood, bone saws and Buddhism

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Two hours Southeast of Bangkok lies Chon Buri, a relaxed beach city which is often overlooked for its more famous and raucous neighbour, Pattaya. The city does, however, have one thing over its more famous neighbour – Wang Saen Suk. Or, Buddhist Hell Park. Sometimes spelled Wat Saen Suk, this park of horrors was constructed close to the Buddhist temple, Wat Saensuk Suthi Wararam, and an unassuming monastery equipped with stray dogs laying about in the heat and Monks going about their daily business. It’s very hidden away, so much so that we had to ask a Monk for directions to ‘Hell’ which he gave obligingly with a smile. Despite the park’s covert location, looking for it by driving through the various sois (alleys), letting the serene surrounding area unfold before us, added to the excitement of the trip and provided more shock value once inside the park. The grotesque images inside couldn’t be further removed from the nearby temple and city surrounding it.

The park has two entrances. One leads to a pretty run of the mill garden with Buddhist statues and deities, equipped with plaques in front of them explaining the story of Buddha. Over the wall, adjacent to this garden, is Hell Park. Hell ParkApparently, there is a sign in front of Wang Saen Suk saying, “Welcome to Hell”, but we didn’t see it. Instead, we noticed a huge statue of a rotund Buddha with gold teeth and a giant hole where his belly button should have been; you’ll know you’re at the entrance of “Hell” when you see him. Feel free to walk right in, by the way, entrance is free! As you enter Naraka (the Sanskrit word for Hell or Purgatory), you’re met with the sight of two massive statues. One is female and the other male and both have their incredibly long tongues hanging out of their mouths. The female statue has her arms raised, and her eyes protrude like she’s seen her emaciated frame and distended belly for the first time. Hell ParkShe appears shocked by her appearance, whereas her male counterpart seems frozen, his slack arms denoting a frozen psyche too terrified to move or acknowledge his surroundings. They are the Pretas (Hungry Ghosts), Nai Ngean and Nang Thong, supernatural beings known for suffering unimaginable levels of hunger and thirst. In their past lives, they are believed to have been deceitful, succumb to greed and compulsive behaviour, entertained jealousy, and participated in corruption. The accumulated negative Karama over their lifetimes subjects them to insatiable hunger and unquenchable thirst, usually for a revolting substance like faeces or the flesh of a corpse. Unlike Christian hell, which is eternal, Buddhist hell is temporary, though it may feel like forever for those suffering through it. A resident of Naraka (hell) remains there only until his or her negative karma has run out. Thereafter, the individual will be reborn into the world and live their life once again, either committing acts that afford them good or bad karma.

Below them stand equally emaciated and frightening statues with the heads of animals. Each damned soul is assigned an animal head depending on what sin they committed. If someone, for example, is given the head of a rat in Naraka, it means they were careless with the possessions of others and destroyed them. They can get specific too, like the soul with the head of the bird. Their sin was stealing the “dry uncooked rice” of another. As you walk further into the park the depictions of torture become more vicious. In one area we spot a man getting his genitals speared. The plaque in front of him states that he participated in sexually deviant behaviour. In another spot a woman is being impaled from the front and back with heavy circular concrete blocks, crushing her spine and abdomen; her plaque reads that she had an abortion. A large group, Hell Parklying below the Pretas, is being boiled in the cauldron. And finally, one poor soul is getting her tongue cut out. It’s quite a sight! If you’re travelling with children and you’re worried the park is too graphic for youngsters, fear not. Whilst we were there, Thai locals frequented the park with their children in tow, and they appeared excited and in awe, laughing and climbing all over the statues. It was quite comical watching a young girl smile as she climbed atop the statue of a man being sawed in half (see picture below). Or the brother and sister trying to outdo each other by seeing who could climb the highest on one of the statues. That being said, it’s at your discretion to show your children the park or not. All in all, Wang Saen Suk is a great afternoon trip if you have a few hours to kill and are travelling from Pattaya or Bangkok. The park isn’t that large, even though it’s the largest Hell Garden in Thailand. It will take no more than 45min to circle the grounds, maybe tack on an extra 15 min if you include the time spent posing for photos.


Source: Expat Life Thailand

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