I have mentioned before that I have two good friends, Leslie Shaw and Colin Law, who have been helping me get around to some of the Buddhist historical sites for my photographic work. 
At the end of March they teamed up together for the first time and got me over to Tumpat in Kelantan in north-eastern Malaysia to photograph some of the old Thai temples there.
Our trip was neccesarily a short one as Leslie was flying out to the land of Oz, and Colin needed to get back to look after his aging Mum and young daughter.
We started early on Friday morning and had a great trip along the North-Eastern highway through the countryside just under the Thai border, taking a slow drive and reaching the capital of Kelantan, Kota Bharu, at around 3.00pm.
There we were able to stay at the Kelantan Buddhist Association, where we were met by Anoma who immediately took us to the Dragon Boat Temple, which dates back some 400 years, though most of the buildings date from the last century or so.
Map of the Tumpat District
Again we were fortunate in meeting Khun Chris, a resident Chinese monk who spoke good English, who undertook to show us round and gave us quite a bit of information about the temple, and showed us some places we might otherwise have missed.
One of the things I especially liked about the temple were the wood carvings adorning the doors and windows of the main Shrine Hall, which tell Jātaka stories and illustrate the Life of the Buddha.
The following day we met Nanda and his family, whom we had been put in touch with prior to our trip, and they took us to a number of temples in the Tumpat area.
The statue is in a rather unkempt condition as were a lot of the other parts of the temple, but they do have a really fine Dhammacakka Wheel, and an interesting Tibetan Shrine Room there.
We then went for lunch which we had at a stall inside Wat Pilkulthong. This Wat lays claim to having the tallest Buddha statue – but tallest in what area I am not sure. There is a photograph of the very fine statue at the end of this post.
I normally publish the photographs in albums, which is usually fine as it gives some overall context to the photographs, and allows me to write up some further information, provide maps, etc. But then if there aren’t enough photos for an album from a visit then nothing gets published, and that is what has happened at this Wat.
The last place we visited that day was Wat Machimaram, close to the Thai border. I always look for a theme for an album when visiting a temple, and here there were some very fine friezes, which cover the walls of the Main Shrine Hall.
These introduced me to Phra Malai, who features in a number of the friezes showing the tortures applied in the lower regions. Phra Malai is a kind of Theravāda Kṣitigarbha, who descends to Hell to preach the Dhamma and bring comfort to the unfortunate inmates who are suffering for their bad deeds.
He is supposedly a Sri Lankan Arahat with great magical powers, which earned him the reputation of being second only to Ven. Mahāmoggallāna. I had never heard of him in Sri Lanka, unless he is the same as the reputed “last Arahat” of Lanka, Ven. Maliyadeva, who flourished around the 13th century.
We had intended to go on to other temples that day, and we did have the time, but the weather changed and a great storm broke out. As both Leslie and myself were also really tired out by then anyway we decided to retire to KBA for the day.
The next day Leslie had to fly to Kuala Lumpur to meet his onward flight to Melbourne, and Colin and myself drove back to Bukit Mertajam. On the way we stopped by at one of the finest temples we saw on our trip: Wat Uttamaram just outside Tumpat in the neighbouring Pasir Mas district.
Unfortunately for us the Head Monk, Phra Khru Udomdhamma Patibhano (Than Boon), who speaks English, had gone for a Sangha meeting in Kedah that day and so we were unable to get any information about the temple – there didn’t even appear to be a signboard, which there was in all the other temples we visited, and we weren’t able to access the interior of the main temple either.
Altogethere there are five albums from the Kelantan trip, they are can be accessed from the Malaysia page on the Photo Dharma website.
- Individually they helped me to make two trips each to Borobudur and to Angkor in 2009 and 2010. ↩
- Unfortunately this is not so, as it is only 40 metres long, whereas the one in Chaukhtatkyee Pagoda in Yangon (built in 1907), which I visited in December, is almost 72 metres long, and the one at Bago is even longer. ↩