40 km from the famous Thai resort of Pattaya is a resort town Bang Saen, the main attraction is - Wang Saen Suk Hell or the Temple of Heaven and Hell.
The garden at the Buddhist monastery features numerous sculptures illustrating the posthumous destinies of sinners and the righteous.
What happens after death? There is no person of any creed or culture who is not interested in this eternal question. All religions preach the concept of the posthumous punishment of sinners. This very peculiar place is a sculptural illustration of the Buddhist hell.
"Welcome to Hell!" - is the encouraging inscription that greets visitors at the entrance. It should be taken seriously, because the spectacle to be seen can be a disquieting experience for those who are overly impressed. The Temple of Heaven and Hell is divided into two unequal parts, with 80% of the area dedicated to Hell.
According to Thai belief, donations made in the garden of hell can ward off misfortune. Money should be dropped into the hole in the belly of the sculpture at the entrance to the garden. The number of baht donated must be equal to the sum of the last 2 digits of the year of birth and age in years. Influence on their own karma and can be a good deeds directly in the garden. This can be done by buying and releasing birds or feeding fish and turtles in the pond.
The beginning of the exhibit is peaceful. Tourists see sculptural images depicting the Buddha's life journey, his deeds, his interactions with his disciples and animals. Other compositions show the righteous meditating or walking in the Garden of Eden under the kind gaze of the Buddha.
They endured his posthumous judgment and enjoy eternal bliss. One of the compositions just shows two people on trial. Then on the approach to hell follows an alley with images of the animals of the year according to the Chinese calendar, and sculptures denouncing the failure to follow simple rules of life.
The rest of the temple shows naturalistic scenes of the afterlife of Buddhist sinners in hell. You have to hand it to the creators of the sculptures - they are really impressive and intimidating. The figures look grotesque, which somewhat mitigates the negative emotions. Nevertheless, the emotional jolt you get is permanently imprinted in your memory and can influence the further actions of the people who have been there. This applies first and foremost to the Thais.
In the center of the man-made hell are giant, emaciated figures of a man and a woman with haggard faces and huge tongues. The inscription beside them exhorts us not to yield to the temptations of the devil and to make sacrifices for the purification of our sins. Next to them is a cauldron with sinners boiling in it. The compositions around it clearly show exactly what punishment awaits sinners after death. It's not just about Thais, because the explanatory inscriptions are also duplicated in English.
The insides of the murderers will be pecked out by birds. The bodies of serial killers will be hacked to pieces. Thieves will have their hands chopped off, and drunks will have boiling lead poured down their throats. For disrespecting elders, their spines will be broken. The larynx of swearers is ripped out.
The posthumous fate of violators of traditional moral precepts is unenviable. Adulterers will be forced to climb up and down a tree with sharp spikes. From above they would be pecked by crows, and from below they would be stabbed with spikes. The stomachs of women who have used contraceptives will be compressed with iron presses. Rape and abortion are punished by a stake in the genitals. A transvestite's face will end up on her navel after death. According to the Buddhist belief, sinners after death turn into different animals according to their sin. Cheaters will become toads, bribers will become pigs, bullies will become crocodiles. Nature desecrators will become goats, drug dealers will become cows, and arsonists will become snakes.
How to get there
You can go to Bang Saen by hiring a local minibus in Pattaya. Another option is to take a bus to Bangkok to Sukhumvit. Then, after paying 2$, take a minibus to Bang Saen. You can get here from Bangkok by bus from Victory Monument subway station.
The travel time is an hour and a half and the cost is $3. Affluent travelers can also take a cab. The fare from Pattaya is $14 and from Bangkok is $28. On the outskirts of Bang Saen there is a banner sign to the temple. The green and yellow roof of the monastery also serves as a landmark. You can also ask locals for directions.
The main visitors to the temple are Thais. There are especially many of them on Saturdays and Sundays. Farangs (that's what Thais call foreigners) who don't like the hustle and bustle are better off here on weekdays. The temple is open until 18:00. Admission is free.