Options abound for pilgrims
Life compiles a list of historical temples where you can make merit and start the new year with good deeds
It's time to say goodbye to 2022, and doing good deeds to bring in the New Year seems to be the norm. Those who are staying in Bangkok can benefit from this rare opportunity to have a peaceful vacation while most leave the capital.
The expansion of the rapid transit system and boat passenger service has made it easier for Buddhist pilgrims to arrange a seamless day excursion to a holy site and make wishes for success, good health, fortune and prosperity in the upcoming year.
Life compiles a list of several historical temples along the Chao Phraya River, on Rattanakosin, and on the Thon Buri side to provide inspiration for those still in the capital.
Visitors can board a life-size replica of a white royal Chinese junk that is docked at Wat Yannawa to travel back in time to the early Rattakosin period when Siam was a significant port for marine trade.
With a life-size replica of a white royal Chinese junk built during the reign of King Rama III, Wat Yannawa brings visitors back to the heyday of Siam's bustling nautical trade. A pair of white chedis were crafted to replace mainmasts and a captain's cabin on a deck houses an archaic Lanna-style Buddha statue in the posture of subdued mara, which is believed to have been brought from Laos.
Once known as Wat Khok Khwai, this temple was constructed during the Ayutthaya era and declared a royal temple during the Thon Buri era. Located only 200m from the Taksin BTS station, visitors can worship a holy Buddha statue in the Ayutthaya style and a Deva figure adorned with Himmapan animal-inspired motifs in the historical ubosot.
Its base was formed like a junk to signify travel over the cycle of birth and death, while the walls and doors were painted with unique murals illustrating the royal lantern festival, Thai-Chinese style lanterns and kratong to honour first-class craftsmanship and wisdom.
The neighbouring Chinese-style shrine was constructed during the reign of King Rama III and recently underwent extensive refurbishment. For protection, luck, happiness and prosperity, pilgrims can offer prayers to statues of the gods Cai Shen (the deity of wealth), Guan Yin (the goddess of compassion), three Buddhas and Nezha.
Wat Suthi Wararam has connected with the younger generations with its collection of contemporary religious artworks.
Wat Suthi Wararam
Just a 15-minute walk from the Taksin BTS station, Wat Suthi Wararam has modernised its two-storey Thai-style ubosot to resemble an art gallery, where pilgrims can learn about Buddhism through a variety of contemporary religious artworks.
Before Thanphuying Sutthi, a wife of Chao Phraya Wichien Siri (Men Na Songkhla), renovated this temple during the reign of King Rama V it had originally been built during the Ayutthaya period but was abandoned. Now, a towering white Buddha statue sits at the front of the ubosot and a Buddhist art path is flanked with various eye-catching white sculptures of mythical Himmapan creatures.
A red and gold mural depicting the Isipatana Mrigadayavan forest, where Lord Buddha delivered his first sermon, is mounted behind a white marble-like Buddha statue with a dhamma wheel in the ground floor's main hall.
Look around and it seems like you're in Tribhum, or the three Buddhist realms. The gilded black ceiling displays a congregation of angels listening to a sermon as well as fanciful creatures inhabiting the Himalayan forest.
On the 2nd floor, paintings of four Buddhas and dhamma wheels that depict the birth and death cycle, modern-day life and zodiacs can be found on the walls.
Wat Suthi Wararam has connected with the younger generation with its collection of contemporary religious artworks.
The ubosot of Wat Thong Nopphakhun is known for its stunning murals and windows. (Photo: Thanarak Khunton)
Wat Thong Nopphakhun
According to legend, Wat Thong Nopphakhun was built in the mid-Ayutthaya era and restored during the reigns of King Rama III and IV. The temple once served as a school for monks and villagers to learn about arts and craftsmanship in various fields and the Fine Arts Department designated it a national ancient monument in 1977 after discovering a collection of 1,900 venerable scriptures in its Tripitaka Hall that depicted the glories of the Ayutthaya kingdom, the way of life and traditions.
It's only a 350m walk from the BTS Klong San station to Somdet Chao Phraya 17, and its ubosot sports windows designed to resemble monk ranks and a door that is modelled after Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut (the Great Crown of Victory).
Inside, it is home to a statue of Luang Poh Thong, which was probably made during the reign of King Rama III. All stunning murals were painted by Phra Kru Kasinsangvon, the second abbot of the temple and a student of Krua In Khong, the royal painter who worked under King Rama IV.
For instance, a likelife curtain is raised up as a group of Indra and angels assemble to hear Lord Buddha's teachings. You may also view a monk's everyday activities and the Vessantara Jataka narrative, which depicts how people lived in the past.
A highly-revered statue of Luang Poh Saeng Phetch is enshrined in the nearby vihara. It rests on a gilded gold teak base that depicts Narai riding a garuda and capturing a naga. Legend has it that a statue of Luang Poh Phra Saeng Phetch was formerly installed in a monk's wooden dwelling, which was later burned down, leaving just the statue.
The ubosot of Wat Thong Nopphakhun is known for its stunning murals and windows.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram. (Photo: Wichan Charoenkiatpakul)
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram
Just a 500m walk from Rajini Pier and Sanam Chai MRT station, Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram from the Ayutthaya period was rebuilt during the reign of King Rama I, and then had a significant refurbishment during the reign of King Rama III.
Its ubosot is home to a statue of Phra Buddha Theva Patimakorn and some ashes of King Rama I. The beautiful murals on the walls depict Mahosatha Pandita (The Great Bachelor of Mithila City), the disciple Phra Etadagga and the eight effigies of the Holy Priests standing on the lowest pedestal.
Its vihara houses the enormous 46m statue of Phra Buddha Saiyas (Reclining Buddha), with mother-of-pearl inlaid soles featuring 108 auspicious symbols. The Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn complex stands on the other side and is embellished with colourful mosaics in tribute to four kings of the Chakri Dynasty.
Wat Phra Chetuphon Wimon Mangkhalaram is home to the gigantic 46m statue of Phra Buddha Saiyas and the Phra Maha Chedi Si Rajakarn complex.
The architecture of Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan combines traditional Chinese and Thai design elements.
Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan
Situated 1km from BTS Klong San station, Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan was constructed during the Ayutthaya period, and Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Pichaiyat, better known as Thad Bunnag, refurbished it during the reign of King Rama III. Using coloured tiles, Chinese stones, ballast and cement, it combines traditional Thai and Chinese architectural styles to create a simple yet luxurious appearance.
A Buddha figure in the Sukhothai style with an oval face, spiral-like hair and a protruding chest is housed in the ubosot, whose walls display auspicious symbols like a butterfly for long life and a pomegranate for many offspring. Its roof features pink Chinese-style pediments with ceramic pieces and handcrafted coloured tiles showing flying dragons.
Visitors can ascend to a lofty stupa compound to worship statues of Maitreya, Konagamana Buddha, Kakusandha Buddha and Kassapa Buddha as well as Lord Buddha's four footprints. It combines Khmer and Indian architectural styles to imitate Mount Meru, the centre of Buddhist cosmology.
Wat Suthat Thepwararam houses the sacred statue of the Phra Srisakayamuni Buddha and is known for beautiful 200-year-old murals.
Wat Suthat Thepwararam
Just 500m from the Sam Yot MRT station, Wat Suthat was built during the reign of King Rama I to house the sacred statue of the Phra Srisakayamuni Buddha brought from Wat Maha That in Sukhothai province.
Its ubosot was constructed during the reign of King Rama III and has been recognised for its astounding 200-year-old murals which depict the Buddha's life, and the gathering of Hindu deities such as Brahman, Shiva, Ganesha and Surya to listen to a sermon.
In several sequences, mythical animals like garudas, nagas, singhas and kodchapaksis can be seen grazing around the Himmapan forest while kinnarees -- a hybrid of a woman and a bird -- bathe in the Anodard pond. The vihara also sports murals in the Ayutthaya style featuring uncommon figures like 10 different kinds of elephant, ratchasi, the lion king and makon, a hybrid of a crocodile and a naga.
Wat Ratchaburana was built during the Ayutthaya era and rebuilt in art deco style.
Standing at the foot of Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke Bridge, Wat Ratchaburana was erected during the Ayutthaya era and was damaged by a bomb during World War II. It was rebuilt in 1967 in art deco style and its ubosot is enshrined with a Sukhothai-style statue of Buddha Maharaj, which King Bhumibol Adulyadej created to pay tribute to King Rama I.
The 10 lifetimes of the Buddha are shown in wood windows and doors, and sculptures of Indra and Brahma riding the elephant Erawan and a swan can be found in the gables. The temple also features a columbarium where people of Japanese descent can honour their ancestors according to Zen principles.
Wat Ratchaburana was built during the Ayutthaya era and rebuilt in art deco style.
Wat Kanlayanamit Woramahawihan was built in honour of King Rama III. (Photo: Karnjana Karnjanatawe)
Wat Kanlayanamit Woramahawihan
Sitting on the Thon Buri side, Chao Phraya Nikon Bodin donated his house and land in 1825 to build Wat Kanlayanamit Woramahawihan as a tribute to King Rama III. Its ubosot was built in 1837 to house the gigantic statue of Phra Buddha Trai Rattanayok, which is inspired by the Sam Por Kong Buddha statue at Wat Phanan Choeng in Ayutthaya.
Its name means good friend and the temple combines Thai and Chinese style architecture to show suble charm. It's home to Thailand's biggest bell and people congregate here to pray for prosperity, good relationships and protection.
Phutthaisawan Throne Hall houses a revered Lanna-Sukhothai statue of Phra Buddha Sihing.
Phutthaisawan Throne Hall
Situated in the Bangkok National Museum, the Phutthaisawan Throne Hall was constructed in 1787 and renovated during the reign of King Rama III. The entrance is guarded by four sculptures of nok thanthima (garudas with a bird's head, a peacock's tail, human limbs, ox's ears and crocodile's eyes), and a lush courtyard is landscaped to mimic the Himmapan forest.
Pilgrims can offer prayers for safety and success at the front of a revered Lanna-Sukhothai-style statue of Phra Buddha Sihing that Krom Phra Ratchawangbovorn Mahasurasinghanart brought from Chiang Mai.
The timeworn murals on the walls illustrate Buddha's life and the gathering of angels to pay respect to Buddha. In keeping with Hindu tradition, the hall is decorated with a selection of carved scripture cabinets and lacquered and gilded screens with stunning paintings that depict episodes from the Ramakien epic.