Located adjacent to the sea in Naklua, north Pattaya, the Sanctuary of Truth is a remarkable structure. Painstakingly carved from wood using traditional techniques and constructed without using any metal nails, it’s difficult to describe in one word what the Sanctuary of Truth is. This building is part temple, part museum, part art gallery and part workshop. At its highest point, the wooden structure is over 100 metres high and makes for an impressive sight against the backdrop of the Gulf of Thailand.
The Sanctuary of Truth is the brainchild of Thai millionaire businessman, Lek Viriyaphant. Khun Lek passed away in 2000 but his legacy lives on with his cultural projects which include the Erawan Museum and Ancient City (near Bangkok) as well as the Sanctuary of Truth in Pattaya. Work began in 1981 and isn’t expected to be finished until 2025 at the earliest.
The style of the building and its location present their own set of considerations for the people who work on the building. Exposure to the tropical climate and sea air takes its toll on the wooden structure with some parts being replaced even before others have been made. But the combination of natural weathering and different protective finishes applied to the wood also gives the building a distinctive range of coloured tones from dark brown to light honey.
Khun Lek knew the construction would be a long process when he began the project and by deliberately using wood for the construction he wanted to demonstrate that, in accordance with Buddhist beliefs, nothing in life is permanent. Khun Lek’s foresight helps preserve traditional woodworking traditions and skills and being able to see the artisans at work makes the visit even more rewarding.
The design features and carvings are rich in symbolism with an eclectic mix of Thai, Khmer, Indian and Chinese influences spread throughout the four wings of the building. Although Buddhism is represented at the Sanctuary of Truth, so too are Hinduism, Taoism and Confucianism.
The Sanctuary of Truth is open daily from 08.00-17.00. Admission for walk-ups is 500 Baht per person. Tickets can also be bought online via the Sanctuary of Truth website.
You may hear locals refer to the Sanctuary of Truth as ‘Wang Boran‘, ‘Prasat Mai‘ or ‘Prasat Sutjatham‘. Although this isn’t a traditional Thai temple, it is a religious building and does contain some Buddha images so visitors should dress respectfully and cover knees and shoulders. Work is still ongoing at the Sanctuary of Truth so there are areas where you will be requested to wear the hard hat they supply you with on entry. There are also some areas with scaffolding which are off-limits to the public.
There are guided tours every 30 minutes in English (other languages are available including Chinese and Russian). The guided tour is included in the cost of the ticket price, but on my visit I was advised you are not obliged to join a tour and can make your own way around the building if you wish to do so. But with so much to take in, a tour can be helpful to explain some of the meaning behind various design elements. There is no time limit to how long you spend at the Sanctuary of Truth so even if you do opt for a guided tour, you can still explore the site at your leisure afterwards. A display of traditional Thai dancing takes place daily at 11.30 and 15.30 on a covered stage in front of the main building.
In addition to the Sanctuary of Truth there are some other ‘attractions’. Sadly, this includes elephant rides and a pony and trap to ferry visitors around. There is also an area for ATV rides and a separate rifle shooting range. For an alternative view of the Sanctuary of Truth, visitors can book a speedboat trip at the ticket office for an additional 300 Baht per person. The trip lasts 25 minutes and takes you around the cape and surrounding area.
For food and refreshments, there is a Family Mart directly opposite the entrance to the building, but if you want dining or drinks with a view, Naklua Kitchen restaurant has an impressive location overlooking the Sanctuary of Truth and ocean beyond. The restaurant is located within the main grounds and is open daily 10.00-22.00. You don’t need to buy a ticket for the Sanctuary of Truth if you just want to eat or drink at Naklua Kitchen and simply enjoy the views which are said to be at their best at sunset.
How to get to the Sanctuary of Truth
The Sanctuary of Truth is located towards the end of Naklua Soi 12. Any tour office in Pattaya can arrange a visit with return transport, but the location is also quite easy to get to independently. From central Pattaya take a songthaew heading towards the Dolphin Roundabout (near the Dusit Thani Hotel) in north Pattaya. Most songthaews double back along Beach Road when they reach the Dolphin Roundabout, but occasionally some do go on to Naklua in which case you just ring the bell and get off at Naklua Soi 12. Chances are though, you will need to change songthaew at the Dolphin Roundabout and get on another songthaew heading north to Naklua. Get off at the entrance to Soi 12. Songthaew prices on these routes are 10 Baht. From the start of Soi 12, you have the option of walking or taking a motorbike taxi to the Sanctuary of Truth. I opted to walk on my recent visit with my leisurely stroll taking 15 minutes. The current one-way price for a motorbike taxi is 20 Baht between the Sanctuary of Truth and the start of Soi 12.
entrance to Sanctuary of Truth on Naklua Soi 12
If you are in a group, you may find it more convenient to hire a songthaew for private hire to take you all the way to the Sanctuary of Truth. Expect to pay a minimum of 100 Baht (one way) for this from central Pattaya.