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Thailand’s Own Inferno: A Visit to the Buddha Hell

Picture of Kelly Iverson
Updated: 25 August 2017
Bangkok has its share of seemingly strange attractions. From the Death Museum to a phallic shrine, the capital never disappoints those looking for a cringe-worthy site in the city. Visitors on the lookout for unorthodox attractions should look no further than Wang Saen Su Monastery Garden, otherwise known as Buddha hell. Here is everything you need to know about the underworld found outside Bangkok.

Buddha hell lies about an hour outside of the capital. As the name suggests, the attraction portrays Naraka, meaning Buddhist hell. When visitors first arrive, they will notice a large entrance way. The strange attraction sits on the grounds of a monastery and just adjacent to a temple, which explains why guests will see monks meandering the property. The gruesome statues start to pop up around the main entranceway, though the majority of them are found as the entranceway ceases—this is where things start to get weird.

Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson | Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

The Buddhist hell features statues around its courtyard depicting the sins that damned them in the first place. It is certainly a gruesome site, even for the bravest of traveler. Tongues being ripped out of statues’ heads, metal screws twisted through a woman’s abdomen, a bird pecking out a man’s eye—these are just a few things one can expect to see at the Buddha hell in Chonburi.

Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson | Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

The two main statues are of Nai Thong-Nang Thong and Ngean-Nai Ngean. This man and woman tower over the rest of the suffering figures. Their tongues fall from their mouths and go all the way down to their hips. Their bodies, though emaciated, are larger than all the other statues. Below the giant figures are descriptions of both of their sins, describing why they were damned to the Buddha hell.

Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson | Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

There are a number of statues found at the Buddhist hell that surround these two. The sins that put them there range from destroying wildlife to cheating on one’s spouse. The punishments differ depending on the sin one has committed. Various animals on the statues represent many of the sins. One who was jealous of others, for example, is the spirit of the rabbit. Their human head is gone, instead replaced with the head of a bunny.

Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson | Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

There are several attractions similar to this one in the Land of Smiles, but the Wang Saen Su Monastery Garden is certainly the largest and arguably the most gruesome. The extensive grounds are teeming with horrendous depictions of what life is like in Buddha hell. Luckily for those who are trapped here, Buddha hell acts as a layover of sorts before people are reborn again. They make up for their sins before they are reincarnated.

Courtesy of Kelly Iverson
Courtesy of Kelly Iverson | Courtesy of Kelly Iverson

The Wang Saen Suk Monastery Garden came to be in 1986, and since then, it has been luring in visitors to the capital with its promise of its gory depictions. Many of the suffering statues supposedly broke one of the Five Moral Precepts of Buddhism: do not kill, do not steal, do not indulge in sexual misconduct, do not lie, and do not drink alcohol. This attraction is certainly one of Thailand’s most unique, and visitors who have a few days in the capital may want to make the trip down here, if not just for the fascinating photo op.