YASOTHON – Home To The Biggest Toad In The World
This is a relatively new attraction for Thailand being what I’m sure is the biggest toad in the world and if not, well at least in Yasothon. By saying new, I mean the majority of it has been completed as this is an ongoing project over the last couple of years but there is still further and ongoing work required to finish it 100%. The good news is there are no entrance fees to go in (this may be due to the attraction being situated on a public park – or because its not yet finished), the bad news is that there really isn’t much to see and you’ll be done in less than one hour including time to look through the small number of traders selling a few odd things and food.
The first time I saw this attraction in the distance, I had to do a double take and ask myself WHY? To me from first impressions, it looks like a cane toad. Where I come from, cane toads are an introduced species causing serious problems to the native eco-system with no natural predators to keep them under control. In Queensland Australia, they were introduced back in 1935 by sugarcane growers who wanted a way to combat pest beetles affecting crops in the industry and hence why we refer to them as “cane toads” (scientific name is Bufo marinus). They are something that is despised by the vast majority of the population with the old saying, the only good one is a dead one. So, with that background, I was left in utter puzzlement as to why someone would want to construct a four story (some reports say 5 story) monument that looked like a cane toad. This required me to dig down and do a bit of research as to the “why” of it all.
The reason for choosing a toad comes down to local folklore. There is actually two stories I’ve come across and I’m probably sure there are other versions out there:
First story (Source: Sakhon Chanapaitoon, former director of the National Science Museum) is about a prince called Phaya Khang Khok who defeated the King of Rain (Phaya Thaen) and thus saving the world from flooding. Out of 32 species of toads in Thailand, I’m still somewhat confused why the structure appears to be modeled on a cane toad given there were 31 other varieties to chose from. Back to the folklore, after the Prince won the battle, an agreement was reached with the King of Rain that humans would notify the King of Rain when they were ready for rain to come by firing rockets (bang fai) into the sky.
The second version (Source: Wikipedia) states that it was Lord Buddha during his incarnation as King of the Toads (Phaya Khang Khok) who drew away everybody to come and hear his sermons which angered the King of the Sky (Phaya Thaen). As a result, the King of the Sky withheld rain for 7 years, 7 months and 7 days – the King of the Naga (Phaya Naga) declared war on the King of the Sky but lost. You may know that Naga’s are connected to water (rivers, lakes etc) and Phaya Naga is the personification of the Mekong River being the mightiest of water sources.
After losing the battle, Phaya Naga convinced Phaya Khang Khok to continue the war against Phaya Thaen who eventually lost and a treaty was entered into to supply life giving rains each year. It goes on that the bung fai’s are fired into the sky each year to remind the King of the Sky of the treaty and to bring rain. To me, the second version appears a little more compelling to believe, but its inevitable that different regions can change things around to claim as their own hence the different versions. At the end of the season, kites (called wow thanoo) are flown to signal to Phaya Thaen that enough rain has been sent.
The park can be broken into 4 parts of interest:
- The Biggest Toad – which has a viewing platform at the top and is suppose to hold a museum but at the time I went, this was still under construction;
- The Naga – is suppose to be housing a convention/art display;
- The grounds – like most grounds/gardens in Thailand, these are well maintained;
- Retailers – small group of retailers where you can find something to buy.
And now for the pictures:
Picture of the front of Yasothon’s Biggest Toad in the World showing the entrance and viewing platform in the mouth.
Looking back at the head of the Naga which currently houses an art gallery.
Scene depicting a bang fai parade with Yasothon being the biggest bang fai event in Thailand. If you are wondering what that long white (newly painted) wall is in the background, that’s the Yasothon prison.
Close up of the mock carriage carrying an ornamental bang fai rocket.
Some pictures showing the gardens. A few gardeners were about on the day attending to these gardens.
Area in-between the Naga and the Biggest Toad showing food stalls on the right and you can just see on the left the area where stalls are selling various goods.
There’s even room for a stage, but this is only temporary likely only being there for special events and in this instance, the time of year was between Christmas and News Year.
Picture showing you the goods stalls that you saw on the left two pictures up. There’s really a bit of everything if you are looking for a little souvenir.
This vendor is selling palm sugar if you are in the market for some. In the background you can see a food vendor as well as some other vendors going on with their day.
Another angle of the goods stalls being the front coming from the direction of the car park. If you are looking for the toilets, back right hand corner where you see the red, green and blue thai script will get you in eyesight of them.
Picture from inside the Biggest Toad looking out to the observation deck were you can see the Thuan River which cuts through Yasothon.
On your way up, or going back down again, keep an eye out for obstacles to negotiate. Unless you are a small child, 100% guarantee you will hit your head on something if you aren’t keeping your eyes up.
About halfway up you reach this area that seems to be little more than a backdrop for a photo opportunity if you are into that. There is a lift inside the Biggest Toad, but on the ground floor it states for “VIP use”. If you are unable to climb 5 stories of stairs, you will have to give the observation deck a miss. I doubt very much you could find someone who would be willing to escort you to the lift etc which while unfortunate for those with mobility issues, is pretty much the norm in Thailand. Of course, you wouldn’t be told no outright, you would just be told they don’t have the key or key is kept offsite.
Panoramic view from the observation deck.
In 2014, the Bangkok Post reported when the concept was launched the following to be housed in the Biggest Toad in Yasothon:
“The first floor will display a history of the province and house a 4D theatre showing movies about a mystic toad. The second floor will educate visitors on bang fai rockets, including history, legends and scientific content. There will also be models of bang fai rockets and multimedia presentations.
The third floor will show the lifestyle of people in the province. The fourth floor will have specimens of toads and information about 500 types of toads around the world. There will also be all the types of real toads found in Thailand.”
As already noted, all of the above is still under construction but I will check back from time to time and provide an update when things change.
There’s a map which gives you an idea of some other places to see while in Yasothon. Sign of the times showing locations with accompanying QR codes for tourist attractions.
On this day, a large group of school kids arrived just as we were leaving and the first picture gives you a better idea of sizing the scale of the Naga with the Biggest Toad in the background. The grey car in the second picture showing the buses the kids arrived on belongs to one of the teachers and parked directly behind us. While not impossible, it was more difficult than just a matter of inconvenience for me to reverse out which obviously didn’t matter for the owner of the grey mazda. The guy next to the mazda was just the driver of the first bus who was hanging around but quickly disappeared and joined his mates when he saw we were annoyed with the parking choice of the grey mazda.
And to end things, what is Thailand without the sight of independent business operators parked on the road taking the initiative to pick up some passing trade. These were separated from other food stalls on the land which makes me think they may be opportunistic without paying any rent. I can’t say for sure because more than likely the other food vendors would be up in arms over the possibility of losing some trade to these guys. At least you would expect someone connected to the land coming around with their hand out which in turn would keep the other vendors in check. In the background, you can see a second dirt car park. We were park following the concrete road around to the right of this picture down about 100m. The above picture is the ‘T’ section you will hit when you first come in and your only choice is to turn left (ie, don’t turn right) going around these vendors or to park in the dirt car park before reaching the T section. You can see in the far background the white car leaving the attraction.