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The Sanctuary of Truth

From the Viewpoint
View of the sanctuary from the upper viewpoint.

Monumental projects in Thailand are almost always community-based, usually undertaken by temples. Rarely are they undertaken by a single individual, other than the king. One of the few exceptions to this rule was the eccentric billionaire generally known as "Khun Lek." First, he conceived the Ancient City as a place for Bangkok residents to see the rich architectural heritage of Thailand. He also build a huge art museum in the shape of the mythical three-headed elephant Erawan. Then, about 20 years ago he started construction on a temple-like structure near Pattaya, which he christened "the Sanctuary of Truth."

Construction was only begun after many years of research by Khun Lek himself. Although the overall shape roughly follows traditional Thai architecture, the temple is richly detailed with wood carvings depicting the four major philosophical and artistic influences that can be seen in Thailand: Hindu, Khmer, Chinese and Thai. In fact, the building is being constructed entirely of wood. That's the main reason it is taking so long. A team of 250 woodcarvers are at work on the sanctuary at any given time, yet construction is not expected to be completed for another five years.

The Khmer Styled west wing
The Khmer styled west wing of the building.

Each of the cruciform-plan building's four wings reflects a different one of the four styles. One wing recalls the monumental architecture of the Bayon Temple at Angkor Wat, while another is decorated with Chinese motifs. The wing forming the main entrance is stylistically Thai. Much of the exterior appears complete, although some parts now have to be repaired due to their long exposure to the elements. Most of the new work being done now is on the interior. The inside is being covered in the same rich carvings as the outside, and there's now a large altar in the center of the rotunda.

Sadly, Khun Lek passed away a few years ago, so he will never see the sanctuary completed. But the work goes on according to his meticulous plan.

Sunlight on interior
Sunlight streams onto the intricately carved interior of the Sanctuary of Truth.

Although incomplete, the building site is open to visitors who want to view the work in progress. The 500 Baht (