Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, the temple of a million bottles

25 July 2015
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Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew, the temple of a million bottles

Thailand is, without doubt, a remarkable place. Beyond its culture and natural beauty, innovative ideas here are drawn from very simple ideas and often turn this country into a great source of inspiration.

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple is one such inspiration. It was constructed, with a lot of dedication and vision, entirely out of empty beer bottles. The project, which commenced informally among the resident monks, gained momentum when the governor and the local community mobilized each other to support the initiative despite some initial mistrust. Empty beer bottles began to be taken to the temple as a contribution for the project as well as a form of recycling waste in the region.

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple

Located in Sisaket, near the border with Cambodia (about 640km from the capital Bangkok), the Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple is now a complex of 20 buildings made from more than 1.5 million bottles. Apart from the main temple which was built in the traditional style above a lake, other buildings include prayer rooms, a crematorium, accommodation and even toilets for visitors, all made out of bottles.

Concrete support structures exist, but all the walls are made of reused packaging which is divided into two types only: green bottles of Heineken beer from Holland and brown bottles of the local beer Chang. To some it might appear to be a small reward for such painstaking work but it is not lacking in creativity! With only these two items, very diverse decorations and combinations have been worked into the walls. The monks also commend its practicality in maintenance. They say that “the colour of the bottles does not fade and they are very easy to clean”. Another touch is that, the outside of the buildings are decorated with various mosaics made from bottle caps, further showcasing the project’s commitment to recycling local materials.

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew Temple

Maybe the most interesting thing is that, even with all this innovation in the use of elements, the temple maintains key characteristics of traditional Thai architecture, like the typical shape of the roofs of the Sala Thai, one of the national symbols of Thailand. The project also aims to link the architecture with key principles of the Buddhist religion. The monks would like the project to be seen, not only as a form of ecological and sustainable construction, but also as a symbol of the process of cleaning the human mind that has the capacity to constantly transform and reinvent itself.

All the dedication and patience placed in the project has already brought great returns and the complex is considered one of the main ecologically correct edifices of South-East Asia and is slowly becoming a well-known tourist attraction for the region.  

Initiated in 1984, the temple is a continuous project and empty bottles continue to be received. Monk Abbot San Kataboonyo says that they do not plan to stop working, “the more bottles come, the more buildings we will build”. What about making your own contribution and sending a bottle?

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