Just north of Pattaya on Rachvate Cove Naklua, in 1981, 35 acres of prime ocean front land were purchased and saved from certain vulgarity by an unassuming Thai businessman. The man in question probably gets a mention here and there, but his name I’ve forgotten and that’s probably the way that he wants it. Upon the 35 acres has been built a wooden structure, not a Temple and not a Shrine. It’s a ’Sanctuary’ and until visiting this place, I had absolutely no idea what a sanctuary really was. I now know exactly what one is, it’s this place. Don’t bother looking it up on Wikipedia because that will just confuse you more, just come here and the minute you enter it’s ornately carved wooden gates, you’ll immediately understand.
The Sanctuary isn’t finished, and nor will it ever be complete. It’s a continuous work in progress that reflects the world in which we live, a constantly changing landscape over which we only have a certain amount of control. It shows the relationship between Human Beings and the Universe …. Father, Mother, Earth, Sky, Sun, Moon and Stars. In Eastern philosophies these are the truths of being human, the truths that philosophers had searched for from time immemorial. Now, you’ve probably gathered that I’m a bit of a sucker for all of that ’Truth’ stuff, but here in Naklua, nobody is trying to ram anything down your throat.
The topbox on the Scooter attracts attention, nice attention that’s not from the law. Nobody wants my money, they want me to explore, enjoy and to report only nice things about them. A ticket is produced, a guide summoned and a horse and cart appears for my convenience. I’m red but not because of the already burning sun, red through embarrassment. To decline the offerings would be offensive to them, but to accept them is offensive to me … mai pen rai
The Sanctuary stands on top of a concrete base but everything else is wood. Meticulously carved by an increasing number of artisans who have been retrained in the almost forgotten art of wood carving. The salt air destroys the wood and any metal fastenings rust within five years. It’s a labour of love that‘s never ending and never finished. The attention to detail is stunning but the real joy of this place is in the way that the light plays around the structure. It’s quite surreal and impossible to describe. The uninvited guide wants me to keep on moving but I don’t want to ’look’, I simply want to ’absorb’. I take a million photographs but what’s the point? You need feelographs to get any real hold on this place.
As the tour comes to an end, I wander off into the workshops and talk with the carpenters. I’m invited to try my hand on an actual, but no doubt soon to be hidden, small carving. It makes me feel like a part of the building and one day I’ll return and try to find my tiny contribution. Enough said. If you’re interested then one day you’ll visit this place, and if you’re not then you wont …. mai pen rai.