There is a steep hill located in the center of a few busy and winding thoroughfares passing through Jomtien, Thailand – a quiet suburb of its insane and depraved big brother, Pattaya. When I’m staying in Jomtien, which is several times a year because I have good friends who live here, I pass by the hill all the time. Every time I go by it in the car, my quads start twitching, my breath quickens, and my body temperature rises. And then, my vision becomes sharper, a sense of calm overcomes me, and, inevitably, a smile lights up my face.
Called “Buddha Hill,” the reason for my profound reaction is simple: I’ve had some of the most physically traumatic shocks of my life on that hill, but also some of the most beautiful and gratifying memories.
Before you think I’m some sort of serial killer that drags his victims into the thickly wooded forests on the hill, let me explain.
For the last two years, I’ve attended my friend Judd Reid’s Uchi Deshi kyokushin karate camp right there in Jomtien. Part of our super intense training is to wake up at ungodly hours of the morning and run up the streets to the base of Buddha Hill, which is just our warm-up. We then line up at the bottom of this 45-degree paved road and sprint as fast as we can to the top. Then, we walk back down, line up, and do it again. It’s definitely one of the most physically shocking exercises I’ve ever done in my life, and “The Hill” becomes dreaded by anyone who’s been through one of these camps.
But it’s also a revelatory experience because of what’s at the top of Buddha Hill (you guess it, a Buddha). In fact, after sprints and running to the top of the hill, shadow boxing and other training, we get a chance to relax and walk around.
The vistas of surrounding Jomtien, the high skyscraper condos of nearby Pattaya, and the beach and expansive Thai ocean in front of us are inspiring, and we usually are up there at dawn.
Aside from the great view, the best reason to visit “Buddha Hill” is the massive golden Buddha statute and temple shrine that sits at its top. For those who don’t want to sprint up Pratumnak Hill (its real name), there are convenient staircases that will lead you up there with a 15-20 minute walk, or so.
You’ll be spellbound as you are breathless when you reach the top, as the approximately 40-meter tall Buddha statue peacefully sitting in lotus position, one hand in his lap and one on his knee, is something you won’t easily forget. In fact, there are also seven smaller Buddha’s in the park-like complex at the base of the Big Buddha, each representing a different day of the week – a Thai tradition.
There are signs and placards that explain how Monday’s Buddha signifies bringing people peace, Tuesday’s gives you peaceful sleep (in a reclining position), Wednesday’s celebrates your kindness, Thursday’s offers peace of mind to allow meditation, and Friday’s Buddha grants happiness.
For the “weekend Buddha’s,” Saturday’s keeps you safe and protects you from the elements, while Sunday’s ensures that the needy are looked after and helped.
There are also other historical, cultural, and religious tidbits and displays for you to take in, and the experience will be as golden as the early morning sun reflecting off of the massive Buddha!
Just remember that you are in the presence of a serious religious site, so stay respectful in your behavior and dress, and keep your voice down or stay quiet as others reflect.
I also advise going first thing in the morning – definitely before 8 am – because armies of tourists show up in huge buses after that hour!
That’s all I have today out of Asia. Be sure to follow our Instagram account to get the latest pics!