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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrSituated on the western bank of the Chao Phraya river, Wat Prayoon is one of the less popular temples of Bangkok, yet not one to be avoided.
HistoryWat Prayurawongsawas, commonly known as ‘Wat Prayoon’, was built in 1828 as a monastery by the Royal Finance and External Affairs Minister, Chao Phraya Phra Klang , a descendant of the Persian Bunnag clan. He turned his personal coffee garden into the monastery garden itself, only to be transformed four years later into a royal monastery by King Rama III, and it bears the current name ever since. The temple is actually a family temple of the powerful Persian descendant Bunnag clan.
ArchitectureWat Prayoon possesses all the regular structures of a Buddhist temple, the library, the meditation halls, the assembly, and of course, the chedi. Aside from its colorful mirrors, the unique element which sets it aside from other temples is it's red 1.5 meters tall iron fence, built from old war axes, swords, and lances. Once running throughout the whole temple compound, today only a small portion can be seen, leading from the entrance to the chedi.
The tallwhite chedi also makes the temple easy to spot. Eighty meters wide at the base and shaped like a bell, it is the first chedi in Thailand to be built in the architectural style of Sri Lanka, and it is said to house the relics of Buddha himself. Eighteen smaller chedis are spread throughout the courtyard, which impresses not only through size, but also because of its architecture. Another highlight is the Buddha museum, a display of images and artifacts depicting Buddha, which was uncovered under the chedi in 2006.
The most popular attraction of this temple is no doubt the Turtle Mountain , which is built in the shape of a melting wax candle. Legend has it that King Rama III was contemplating a candle and had a revelation which led him to have the temple built in the exact same shape of the candle's dripping. Under the mountain are sheltered several spirit houses in the memory of the dead, featuring a blend of Western and Eastern architecture.
Another legend surrounding the famous red fence claims that they were originally brought as a gift to King Rama by the British to be used in the Grand Palace. Since the King was unimpressed with their quality, he used them for the temple instead. To make up for this, the British brought a new gift: the quantity in sugar equal to the weight of the iron fence.
VisitingSurrounding the base of the temple is the staircase that leads to the top, where the climbers are rewarded with a breathtaking view of Bangkok. The spires can actually be entered, providing a good spot for panoramic pictures.
Around the mountain is a small moat where visitors can engage in the most exciting attraction of the temple: feeding the turtles that inhabit it. For a small fee you can buy bananas and papayas on a stick, and in just a few seconds they will have vanished.
The temple is a great alternative to the big crowds swarming Wat Arun and Wat Pho every day, especially if you are looking for a pleasant afternoon in the shades of the temple gardens without giving up on a pinch of Thai culture.
The temple is open daily from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. There is no fixed entrance fee, but based on donations.
How to Get ThereWat Prayoon is located on the Thonburi riverside, at the foot of the memorial bridge, right across the Saphan Phut market. Every cab driver knows about the market, and once there you cannot miss the temple by its red fence and tall white chedi. If you go alone, you can take the Skytrain to Saphan Taksin and then take a boat upriver, but the difference is small compared to taxi prices, as they are very cheap in Bangkok. If you travel in groups, taxi is by far the best option. Make sure that the driver understands where you want to go (smart phone GPS helps), as they tend to confirm without actually being certain of it, while some do this on purpose to lengthen the way.
Other AttractionsThere are many attractions in the vicinity of Wat Prayoon. Further up the river and just 10 minutes by boat away you can visit Wat Arun, the famous temple of dawn, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, where Thai massage was invented and reputedly still rises up to the standard, and the Grand Palace. If you don't want to extend the trip and prefer to remain within walking distance, you can visit the nearby Portuguese community, or several other temples, such as Wat Kalayanamitr and Wat Buppharam. If you linger around the area after dusk make sure you don't miss the night market of Saphan Phut to get a real taste of Thailand lifestyle.
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Author: aelumag. Last updated: Feb 26, 2015