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Eco Friendly Buildings: The Temple of A Million Bottles

By Edited May 20, 2015 1 9

In recent years, architects across the world have striven to design the most eco-friendly buildings possible.  Huge multi-billion dollar projects from around the globe, such as New York’s Bank of America Tower and Dubai’s Burj al-Taqa are at the forefront of the race to create energy-efficient, zero-emission skyscrapers for the future.  These projects have garnered a lot of media-attention, and rightly so, but there are many small-scale examples of eco-friendly architecture that fail to attract the recognition they so obviously deserve.  One such building is Wat Phra Maha Chedi Kaew, or Wat Laan Kuwat (The Temple of A Million Bottles), as it is more commonly known.

Wat Laan Kuwat and surrounding moat.

Wat Laan Kuwat was the brainchild of a group of Buddhist monks from the tiny rural town of Khun Han, in the north-eastern province of Sisaket, Thailand.  In 1984, a couple of local monks, tired of seeing the surrounding fields littered with glass, decided to start collecting bottles and using the reclaimed materials to decorate their shelters.  The villager elders liked the results so much that they resolved to help the monks build an entire temple from recycled glass.  This was the beginning of a dream which has to date gathered over 1.5 million bottles, and constructed over 20 eco-friendly buildings within the temple grounds.

The Main Temple

Wat Laan Kuwat
The main temple building, arguably the most visually stunning of all the constructions, is composed of literally tens of thousands of recycled beer and energy drink bottles.  Its walls are made mainly from small M-150 and Red Bull energy drink bottles, and its roof from green Heineken beer bottles which, when bathed in sunlight, lend Wat Laan Kuwat the impression of a glistening emerald.


Beautiful Murals

Inside Wat Laan Kuwat

Even more impressive are the eco-friendly murals, fashioned from discarded bottle caps, which decorate the walls of the temple.  The backdrop to the altar is one such mural depicting Buddha sitting in meditation under an enormous fig tree surrounded by fields of elephants and deer.


The Living Quarters and Crematorium

A monk's living quarters at Wat Laan Kuwat.

A wander round the grounds of “The Temple of A Million Bottles” uncovers the extent to which these monks have gone to contribute to a greener environment.  Each of the monk’s residential quarters is uniquely decorated with reclaimed glass. The stairways, walls and even the roofs of the dwellings, shimmer in the afternoon sun. 


Crematorium at The Temple of a Million Bottles
Even the temple’s crematorium is constructed from recycled beer bottles.  One imagines that locals who once enjoyed a tipple would enjoy setting off on their journey to Nirvana from here.  But the temple’s abbot, San Kataboonyo, refutes this inference, stating that the temple ought to be regarded as a symbol of cleansing from within, rather than any kind of homage to excessive living or alcohol.

How to get there

Despite the impressive beauty of the complex, Wat Laan Kuwat plays host to few tourists.  The occasional busload of Thai pilgrims stops by, and even more infrequently, the odd backpacker or two, looking to get off the beaten track.  But the temple’s remote location and lack of public transport connections combine to make it an attraction few ever get to witness in person.


Those who do decide to make their way to see this unique construction are advised to rent a car or motorcycle from the large provincial town of Ubon Ratchathani,  100kms away.  Or perhaps more appropriately, you could visit this beautiful eco-friendly building by bicycle.  Just be sure to bring a lot of sun cream.  And don’t forget your camera!

Wat Laan Kuwat (The Temple of A Million Bottles) Get Directions
Khun Han, Sisaket, Thailand
Get Directions
Ubon Ratchathani International Airport (UBP), Amphur Muang, Ubon Ratchathani.


Dec 20, 2011 6:56am
Very interesting. I never heard of the "“The Temple of A Million Bottles”. They are doing a great job reclaiming and reusing what would otherwise be considered garbage.
Dec 20, 2011 7:38am
Yeah, it's an amazing place that very few have ever heard of. I stumbled upon the place on a road trip and have been back 3 or 4 times now. It really is an inspiring story.
Dec 21, 2011 5:05pm
Very nice article. Interesting read. Glad to hear that they are doing this. More of this type of building needs to be done. E
Dec 21, 2011 6:19pm
Thanks. Yeah, I agree about the fact that more of this needs to be done.
The friends who I took to visit here want to build a garage in their yard made from bottles. But I don't how easy/difficult it would be to get planning permission in the UK for such an undertaking.
Jan 3, 2012 10:41pm
More people need to upcycle and reuse. Reading about The Temple of a Million Bottles should inspire some ideas to do so!
Jan 7, 2012 12:19am
I'm a teacher here in Thailand and one of the things that I really like about the curriculum is the fact that upcycling(recycling old things to make something better than what they were originally) is taught to all students in upper elementery grades.
Jan 4, 2012 12:22am
This has to be one of the most unique things I have read. The idea of building housing from recycled materials let alone an entire temple is awesome!
Jan 7, 2012 12:21am
One of the things that Thais(especially rural Thais) are renowned for is their ability to improvise and make something useful from what most people would call trash.

Thanks for reading.
Feb 4, 2012 6:45pm
These buildings are amazing! I've seen buildings made from cans before (not sure if they were meant to be permanent or not) but never anything made from glass bottles. Thank you for sharing this. Highly enjoyable reading.
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