The Sanctuary of Truth – Pattaya’s Wooden Wonder

Rising105 meters into the sky, the Sanctuary of Truth is a one-of-a-kind gigantic structure that pays homage to the ‘Ancient Vision of Earth’, ‘Ancient Knowledge’ and ‘Eastern Philosophy’. It looks like a Thai temple or a palace, but it’s actually neither of them, so many people just look at it at as a monument to Thai craftsmanship.

Covering thirty two acres of land, on a rocky hilltop overlooking the ocean, the Sanctuary of Truth is the most magnificent sight in North Pattaya, and one of the most popular tourist attractions in Thailand. It is entirely carved out of teak wood and features the most beautiful and elaborate wood carvings I have ever seen, inspired by the four major artistic and philosophical influences in Thailand (Chinese, Thai, Khmer and Hindu). Buddha heads, sacred animals and all kinds of  religious and philosophical themes are depicted in the thousands of wooden sculptures and carvings adorning both the interior and outside walls of the sanctuary.

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The Sanctuary of Truth was the brainchild of Lek Viriyaphant, also known as “Khun Lek”, an eccentric billionaire who wanted to show people the rich architectural and cultural heritage of Thailand. He gave the green light for the construction of this unique monument in 1981, after researching traditional Thai architecture for many years. He christened it the Sanctuary of Truth and insisted it be constructed exclusively out of teak wood. That’s precisely the reason why construction is moving along so slow. Although the carvings look absolutely mind blowing, the 250 wood carvers working on the sanctuary every day can only do so much.

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Construction is scheduled to be complete in 2025, but sadly, Khun Lek past away a few years ago, and won’t be able to admire his finished masterpiece. He did leave specific instructions, though, and work goes on according to his meticulous plan. Still a work in progress, the Sanctuary of Truth is already under siege from waves of tourists wanting to see the detailed hand-carved decorations first hand. So to keep at least some of them away, so the carvers could continue doing their job, a steep entrance fee of 500 Baht ($16) was set, but many would pay much more for the chance to see Pattaya’s wooden wonder.

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The Sanctuary of Truth features four wings, one for each of the four beliefs that inspired its construction. Each of them manages to impress through the beauty of the designs and attention to detail, and it’s easy to lose track of time staring at all them trying to convince yourself they were indeed hand carved. The travel brochures speak of ‘understanding ancient life’, ‘life relationship with the universe’ and ‘common goals of life towards utopia’, which is a bit too much for the average tourist, but you don’t need to understand all that to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you at the Sanctuary of Truth.

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As you might suspect, some of the outside carvings have already deteriorated after decades of harassment from the elements, but the carvers are working hard to repair any damage and fulfilling Khun Lek’s dream.

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