Kedah is located in the northern part of the Peninsular Malaysia near to the Thai border. Kedah is often referred to as the 'Rice Bowl of Malaysia' as you will see stretches of green paddy fields with lush green rainforests, rubber estates, and kampongs (villages) as you travel around Kedah.
It is not the most visited part of the country by foreigners, but Kedah is actually one of the prettier states in Malaysia. It's about 45 km south of the Thai border and 100km north of Penang. This is where my travel expedition began in exploring the many Siamese temples that are located mainly in the kampongs.
In the beginning during my preparation for this travel expedition, I was skeptical like any non-native Northerners would. My imagination was running wild thinking where am I going to put up the night, how far are those temples form towns, etc. I faced difficulties in finding a detail map for direction to all the temples in Kedah. Then I started to refresh my bold experience in going to Kelantan in the past where the journey was much more treacherous whereas Kedah can be reached via the North-South Highway at ease.
Driving from K.L. we should pass by major cities and towns e.g. Ipoh, Taiping, and Penang before reaching Sungai Petani. One can find a suitable hotel easily in Sungai Petani. If you to go further up north, you can easily choose a hotel too in Alor Setar the capital city of Kedah. There are plenty of hotels to suit your budget after travelling a long distance covering over 400 km from K.L.
Taking the route from Sungai Petani to begin the temple visit, you can enroute back to the North-South Highway heading up North direction. Exit at Gurun toll plaza before reaching Alor Setar.
Following the simple direction to Wat Sungai Siput provided below, you can reach all the temples featured in this travelogue.
Sitting majestically in meditation post against the blue sky is the 21 meter tall sitting Buddha in this 200-year-old Siamese temple. This architectural marvel of the solid Lord Buddha sculpture is located in Kampung Kalai and is about 50 km from Sungai Petani town.
It is the biggest stone and clay Buddha statue in Kedah state, sitting on a decorated lotus plinth base that was built in 1984 (B.E.2527). The four concrete walls of the base are crafted with Buddha's Jataka epic stories.
The temple is frequently visited by devotees and visitors who offer prayers and seek blessings. It is a popular place of congregation for devotees on special Thai occasions, festivals and religous prayers.
The remains of the previous Chief monk Prak Nikcrodthamadtada or Ven. Chao Koon Bao is kept here.
Featured here are CK Bao's amulets blessed in B.E.2536 that are still available at Wat Kalai for donation.
The above white piece of Phayant cloth with red color print is good for protection and blessed by CK Bao with the temple code stamped on the surface. This particular piece is in limited quantity.
CK Bao's Phra Sivichai made from holy soils is very well known and a favorite among seasoned collectors. His Phra Sivichai is highly sought after by most businessmen particularly Penangites. Thus, the price of CK Bao's Phra Sivichai clay votive tablet can command a hefty price and it's difficult to get.
From our findings if you are willing to travel further up north to Wat Prom in Perlis, you may be able to find an alternative solution to obtaining a good piece of clay Phra Sivichai votive tablet at a reasonable price.
Let's divert our attention a little to Wat Prom Wigtr in Perlis. Wat Prom Wigtr is commonly known as Wat Prom by the locals. Archan Chiang is one of CK Bao's desciple whom learned the art of making efficacious Phra Sivichai using the same method and holy soils.
All Phra Sivichai are baked in high temperature and as a result it can have 2 variation of colours. Black colour is due to under heating during the heating process of the clay. Brown reddish colour (Phra Sivichai B.E.2541 example shown below) is the most common colour due to the correct heat temperature during the clay baking process.
At this present moment there's a new batch of Phra Sivichai (Srivijaya) considering it was made in B.E.2552 by Archan Chiang that are still available at the temple counter. The 1st batch presumably made in B.E. 2541 are also available from the temple but in limited quantity. Please note the differences in the temple box packing of the 2 batches.
CK Bao was the longest serving Chief monk of Wat Kalai in this small Thai village community. He was ordained as a Buddhist monk during his teens. During his lifetime, he was well respected by the community who often seek help from him in terms of religious services and traditional medication healings for the ill. Sadly, CK Bao passed away at 80 years old in B.E.2539 (A.D. 1996) due to old age.
WAT SUNGAI SIPUT
This is relatively new but lovely temple located admist the thick rainforest in Lubuk Merbau area. The temple is only 10 years old (since 2000-2010) and recently celebrated its 10th year anniversary on 31st August. Its achievement thus far was largely attributed to Archan Tia.
To read more about Wat Sg. Siput please go to the temple's official blog at http://archantia.info/
We managed to visit this temple to help raise funds for the building of an Ubosot during the new release of Somdej and Nang Kwak amulets made of special materials by Archan Tia. In total 3,000 pieces of Nam Kwak and 2,000 pieces of Somdej was created during this fund raising event. All amulets are handmade and was released to devotees on 31st August 2010.
The direction to go to Wat Sg. Siput is provided below for easy navigation.
Tips for First-Timer; Don't be afraid and have confidence that Archan Tia will bless your journey. Ask the locals if you are unsure of the way.
1. Exit at Gurun toll plaza from the North-South highway. Turn right at the traffic light junction.
2. Go straight for about 15km. When see Kg. Gajah Putih/ Lubuk Merbau signboard, turn Left.
*Do not be afraid as you might think that you are heading to nowhere when travelling along this small village road. Along the way you will find Wat Kalai signboard.
3. See Lubuk Merbau/Nami signboard, turn Right.
4. Pass through Wat Kura (Tortoise Temple). Go straight further.
5. See Kg. Sg. Mas & Padang Durian signboard. You will see Wat Sg. Siput signboard. Turn Left.
6. Wat Sg. Siput is about 1-2 mins further inside.
(Wat Titi Akar)
Wat Visutthipradittharam is also known as Wat Titi Akar that is located at Kampung Titi Akar not far away after Wat Kalai. The current Chief monk is Porthan Choi with lots of metta and kind hearted. The temple compound and its buildings are very well maintained.
Wat Titi Akar is another old temple with many years of history that had served the Thai community here in the past.
This temple is is located at Kampung Cina. The people in the temple surroundings are very warm and friendly. This temple is quite reputable with many support given to other Buddhist temples. Here you can find various amulets from other Thailand temples for donation.
Surprisingly this temple is also home to LP Thuad's relic. The above rian issued by Wat Phodhichetiyaram is represented by LP Thuad's relic at the rear. This relic phenomenon also appeared at Wat Thepsuwannaram, Kampung Wat Padang Peliang.
WAT NANAI (Wat Veluvanaram)
Located at Kampung Tok Set not far way from Wat Phodhichetiyaram. This temple is need of donation to fund the building of its Ubosot. We did not get much info about this temple due to the timing factor. With the generosity of visitors, I am very certain that Wat Nanai will be able to build its Ubosot.
WAT THEPCHUMNUM (Wat Naka)
This temple is well known and associated with LP Lingdum also known as Porthan Orchi. The temple compound is large and well managed by the Thai villagers in this small community. LP Lingdum lived during the same era as LP Khron "Tok Raja" of Wat Bangsek in Kelantan.
LP Lingdum monastical name is Phra Kru Nikrodhammathada. This is the story of LP Lingdum from a published article. Born on Wednesday, 18th July 1888 in Kampung Phakhla, Kampung Terap district, state of Saiburi (now present day Kampung Chang Deng, Padang Terap district, Kedah). His lay man name was Nai Chum Suwannarat. His father's name was Nai Boon Keow Suwannarat and his mother's name was Nang Boon Thong Suwannarat. They were both Malaysian of Thai origin. He was the 2nd of 3 siblings in the family. His elder brother passed away at 7 days old. His younger brother Nai Yot Suwannarat carried the family name of Suwannarat.
At age 13, his father sent him for religious studies under Phra Ajahn Oon, Wat Phakhla (now known as Wat Chang Deng). Not long after that Ajahn Oon was affected with paralysis and had to leave the monkhood. Phra Ajahn Oon's disciple Phra Kwanthong then sent Nai Chum to study under Phra Ajahn Thong at Wat Kampung Padang. On Sunday 22nd May 1904, Nai Chum became a novice monk under Phra Ajahn Si of Wat Pakhla. In 1905 he left the Wat to help his family in the fields (planting), orchard and husbandry. On Sunday 21st June 1908, he was ordained at Wat Pakhla in Kampung Pakhla. His ordanination name was Phra Chum Cheiyamani. He studied Phrathamvinai and Phrapatimok under Phra Ajahn Plian at Wat Lampan.
In 1911, he was trained as Chief monk of Wat Pakhla. In 1932, he was bestowed the title of Phra Thamthorn by Phra Khru Visutsilayan Siyakman the Chief monk of Kedah. Then in 1983, he was appointed Phra Uphaca (Pra Prathuan) and was trained to be the Chief monk of Kedah.
Through his miraculous virtues, his saliva was claimed to be able to cure sickness. According to a witness Nai Praphan Sunwanlaong of Kampung Tong Prok, once Phra Khru Visutsilayan (LP Lingdum) was invited for prayers (Suad Ban) at a Chinese family's house, the owner placed a small cup of medicated oil in front of Phra Khru in the hope that the oil will be blessed to cure his son's illness. While Phra Khru was praying he became thirsty and mistook the cup of oil as a cup of Chinese tea. When Phra Khru took a sip, he immediately spitted back the oil into the cup. The owner of the house saw the incident and thinking that Phra Khru had blessed the oil, took it as medication for his son. His son was cured of the illness after using the oil. The news of his miraculous cure spead. People then started calling him "Orchi" (in Chinese it means black tongue or Luang Phor Lingdum).
On 1st May 1950, he received the official letter of appointment as the Chief monk of Kedah from the King of Kedah. He was bestowed the title Phra Khru Nikrothammanodcayakthada, Chief monk of Kedah. On 5th December 1962, he was bestowed the title Phra Nikrodhammathada Therawut Khunnaphiwat Rajasaiburi Sangghapamok by King Bhumipol Adulyadej, King of Thailand at the Imperial Palace in Bangkok, Thailand.
On Monday 21st November 1966, at 11.30pm, LP Lingdum passed away at Wat Thepchumnum due to high blood pressure. On 11th March 1968, his remains was cremated at Wat Nikrodharam in Alor Setar, Kedah.
Located at Kampung Wat Padang Peliang is this historical temple that is closely associated with Rajamuni Samiramo (Luang Phor Thuad). This is considered an important holy site where the body of LP Thuad was laid to rest for a night during the entire journey to transport the body from Gerik to Wat Changhai to be cremated.
This temple is also well known for Porthan Reung and Luang Phor Win in modern times. Both the Buddhist Masters had since passed away.
It's worth mentioning here that Porthan Reung is one of the Top 5 great monks in Kedah in the older days. The other 4 were LP Lingdum of Wat Naka, LP Thong of Wat Jitaram, Porthan Chuai of Wat Titi Akar, and Porthan Shean of Wat Chanhom.
LP Win is famous for making Takrut that has strong invulnerability power. From hearsay the police heavy crime division came to pay respect and seek LP Win's assistance to stop producing such powerful Takruts.
LP Win's monastic Buddhist name is Phra Khru Phawanaphijut. He is another legendary forest meditation master famous for his Loving Kindness "Metta" and Compassion "Karuna" personal qualities. LP Win originated from Kampung Titi Akar and received his formal ordination from Wat Thepsuwannaram. LP Win then travelled to Wat Mahatat in Thailand to learn Samadhi and Vipassana meditation and at later stage he resided in Wat Phothi Chareantham (known as Wat Sungai Puyu, Butterworth) in the late 60s and became the temple's Chief monk. LP Win's live long journey (1911 - 2006) came to rest and his remains was kept in Wat Thepsuwannaram for visitors and devotees to pay respect.
With this article may you also be able to find joy in visiting Thai temples in Kedah. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu!