Wat Pho Chai is the most important and revered temple in Nong Khai. The temple houses the Buddha image of Phra Sai, a sacred image, which is much revered by Lao and Isaan people alike.
The centuries old Phra Sai Buddha is cast from gold in the posture of "Subduing Mara". The Buddha image is believed to date back to the ancient kingdom of Lane Xang.
Legends say that the three daughters of Setthathirath (*), the King of Lane Xang, commissioned three personal Buddha images. Theses images were believed to reflect the faces of the three daughters of the king. All of them were given names relating to the names of the three princesses, Phra Serm, Phra Souk and Phra Sai. An illustrative, and large mural can be seen at Wat Pho Chai. The mural was painted to record this historic event.
The three revered Buddha images were originally housed in Vientiane, Laos sleepy capital on the opposite Mekong Riverside, around 20 km of Nong Khai. However, around 200 years ago, the images were brought to Thailand during the invasion of Laos through the troupes of Rama III, King of Siam.
In a stormy night, Phra Souk fell in to the Mekong River while in transit to Nong Khai. The two surviving and remaining Buddha images were placed in Nong Khai's Wat Pho Chai and Wat Ho Klong. King Rama IV ordered, that the image of Phra Serm should be taken to Bangkok. Only Phra Sai was left in Wat Pho Chai. A visit to this most revered Buddha is rewarding and interesting alike. Wat Pho Chai is on the main highway 212, from Nong Khai to Phon Phisai, at km 2 on the left hand side...
* Setthathirath (Lao: ເສດຖາທິຣາດ; 1534–1572) is one of the greatest leaders and kings in Lao history. He successfully defended the kingdom of Lan Xang against the Burmese conquerors.
Setthathirath erected many Buddhist monuments in Laos and Isaan, including the famous Wat Xieng Thong in Luang Prabang and the Phra That Luang stupa in Vientiane.