When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. And if you are a Buddhist monk and life gives you empty beer bottles . . . build a temple out of them.
That was the philosophy of a group of Thai monks in the early 1980s who looked at the innumerable glass beer bottles littering their eastern Thailand hometown of Khun Han and saw more than trash. They saw potential.
At first, the monks picked up a few of the bottles to create artistic decorations from. Then they gathered more discarded vessels to build a modest monk living quarters. Eventually, they decided to construct an entire temple out of found beer bottles.
And suddenly, those innumerable beer bottles littering the town became, well, numerable. By the time their temple was finished the monks had gathered over 1.5 million used bottles for the temple’s construction. Although locals rounded down when they gave the temple its nickname: Wat Lan Kaud or “The Temple of One Million Bottles.”
Travelers are very welcome to visit the temple†. You’ll know when you’ve come upon it because the wall around the temple compound is built from beer bottles too—green Heineken bottles and brown Chang Beer bottles, to be specific. Inside, the temple’s walkways are made from beer bottles, as are the temple’s crematorium and visitors’ restrooms. Even the temple’s water tower is made of beer bottles, which gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “water on tap.”
One thing you won’t see these days on a visit to Khun Han are many beer bottles littering the streets. The townspeople bring virtually all their used bottles directly to the temple. One wonders what the monks will build from them next.
† Resist the urge to sing “99 bottles of beer on the wall.” And, as with visiting all temples in Thailand, don’t wear shorts or skirts that end above the knee.
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