About 20 km outside Ayutthaya stands Wat Kai – or in English, “Chicken Temple”. And, indeed, it does have chickens scratching about. However, it’s much better known for its monkeys than its fowl. They slowly loll across the temple grounds as if they own the place. Perhaps to keep them away from the main temple, there’s a man-made cliff on the opposite side of the road. Here visitors feed them fruit.
Unlike other monkey groups I’ve encountered, these aren’t aggressive; they won’t grab food from your hand or try to raid your pockets. They just wait to be fed. And by the number of banana skins littering the place, they’re fed well.
The temple is also known for its dozens of life size plaster figures, most of which feature the torments of hell. Whereas in the Christian tradition one is judged at the gates of heaven, according to Thai beliefs, one descends first to hell where one is judged and suitably punished until the penalty has been paid, before ascending to heaven, and later being reborn. Here’s the judge:
The punishment relates to the wrongs that one has done. Adulterers, for example, have to climb a spiny tree to escape from savage dogs, whilst having their genitals eaten by crows. Alcoholics have to drink from a red-hot bottle. The worst offenders get boiled alive.
Starving is another form of punishment; the tall figure on the right with the long tongue has a tiny mouth, so she can’t get enough nourishment. Other figures are being sawn in half, having limbs chopped off, bearing immense weights, and generally having a pretty bad time. The X-rated tableaux are all rather disturbing. Fortunately for you, dear reader, my camera battery went flat shortly after I arrived, so you are spared more gruesome pictures.