Visible from a distance as it sits on a rocky hilltop with a magnificent view of the ocean, the extraordinary gigantic structure rises 105 metres into the sky. It’s dark exterior is adorned with thousands of intricate carvings of Buddha heads, Hindu gods and goddesses, sacred animals and other religious and spiritual beings.
An art installation, religious shrine and cultural icon in parts, The Sanctuary of Truth takes its inspiration from the four major artistic and philosophical influences in the country – Chinese, Thai, Khmer and Hindu – using art and culture as the reflection of ‘Ancient Vision of Earth’, ‘Ancient Knowledge’, and ‘Eastern Philosophy’.
No metal nails were used in its construction and the entire structure is carved from teak wood (with some of the main supports coming from trees over 700 years old) as per the instruction of its creator, Lek Viriyaphant, an eccentric millionaire with a passion for preserving the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Thailand; his other projects include the Erawan Museum and Muang Boran (Ancient City), which houses scaled down versions of many of country’s historical buildings.
Construction began in 1981, and over 250 wood carvers labour daily over this unique monument scheduled for completion in 2025. The four wings of the building, each dedicated to iconography of the four beliefs that inspired the construction, show the balance of different cultures. And while its aim to enable visitors to understand ‘Ancient Life’, ’Human Responsibility’, ‘Basic Thought’, ‘Cycle of Living’, ‘Life Relationship with Universe’, and ‘Common Goal of Life toward Utopia’, might seem a bit lofty to some, the detailed woodwork is definitely worth the visit. That and the elephant rides, culture show, and dolphin show, which will keep the kids occupied.