Despite the somewhat dreary look of the small railroad town of Chaiya, the settlement is actually one of the oldest and most historically significant in Southern Thailand. A number of superb examples of sculpture dating from the Srivijaya period (7th–13th centuries) have been found here.
Many of the sculptures show clear Mon and Indian influences, depicting figures such as Bengali-style Buddha images and multiarmed Hindu deities. These, and a variety of votive tablets, can be seen at the Chaiya National Mu seum. It also holds examples of Ayutthayan art. The mu seum is 1 mile (2 km) west of Chaiya and a 10-minute walk from the train station.
Right beside the museum is Phra Boromathat Chaiya (see pp350–51), an important Srivijayan temple. Within the main compound is the central chedi, which has been painstakingly restored. Square in plan, it has four porches that ascend in tiers and are topped with small towers. The 8th-century chedi is built of brick and vegetable mortar. Although the site is old, it is the memory of Phra Chaiya Wiwat, a locally venerated monk who died in 1949, that attracts the majority of worshipers today
The International Dhamma Hermitage at Wat Suan Mok, southwest of Chaiya, is a popular retreat for Buddhists from all over the world. Its attraction is its back to-basics religious philosophy established by the wat’s founder, Buddhadhasa Bhikkhu, who died in 1993. Within the temple a regimen of physica labor underpins a simple monastic life devoid of elaborate religious ceremony. Ten-day residential meditation retreats are held here, starting on the first day of each month.