Wat Si Phan Don, aka Wat Sri Panton, most definitely will not appeal to the more traditional visitor who likes temples and things peaceful and subdued, which is no doubt why this temple doesn't appear on most visitor itineraries to Nan. However, this is a temple which jumps out and grabs your attention with its brilliant façade and complex gilded carvings. For those who like well OTT buildings this was magnificent, and for me, probably the best decorated small temple that I have ever seen, anywhere, not just in Thailand. When I first saw it all I could say was Wow, and Wow again. I really loved this place and would highly recommend a visit to anyone who loves elaborate carving and gilding, as I do.
The temple was built in the 1960's and is near the top of Thanon Suriyapong road, on the left just as you turn off the main 101 road down to the centre of Nan City. There is a small amount of parking at the front of the temple grounds. The temple used to be called Wat Salee Panton, Salee being a Bhodi tree, but the large old tree was cut down during road widening and the temple had to change its name.
It is not just the outside of the temple which is impressive (particularly note the elaborate gilded Naga serpent on the stairway) but the inside is very well and highly decorated as well with plenty of bright murals on the walls and nicely carved roof decorations, the roof being held up by a number of slender tall teak (?) columns. Also, sitting in the front and to the right of the main Buddha statue, there is a smaller seated Buddha statue, around 1 metre high, which I particularly loved. The posture is reasonably standard but the Buddha's expression was lovely, the artist made him look as if he was having a “Eureka' movement, possible having just discovered the answer to the meaning of life. I hadn't seen that expression before on a Buddha statue and found it really charming.
Also in the main temple you will find some Chinese style numbered sticks near the main Buddha image, which you can shake in the container, and the one which falls out is meant to predict your future. Just match the number up with the printed small sheets nearby and you can read your fortune – in both English and Thai. I don't quite approve, but as in most temples, if you don't like the prediction, you can just shake the sticks again for another try and just take with you the prediction sheet which you like best!
While at the temple, visit the 2 ornate Nan long boats in the sheds near the entrance which the temple uses during the annual Nan River races. Also there is another small building just beyond the pond which houses a large seated fat Buddha, similar to the ones one often sees in China called 'Happy Buddha' but this one with a more reflective expression. I liked that one as well.
Definitely a great temple to visit, for me at least.
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