Wat Yannawa

The boat temple

No pic at the moment -- Sorry!

What we say: 3.5 stars

Wat Yannawa is an important, if a tad quirky Thai-Chinese temple that's worth at least a 20-minute peek.

This is a good place to experience a working Thai-Chinese temple that doesn't double as a major tourist attraction.

Although it's not known exactly when the temple was established, a monastery has been here since the Ayutthaya era and it's certainly one of the oldest in the city, evidenced by a crumbling ordination hall and stone gateways near the river. The temple was first named Wat Khow Kwai, or "Buffalo Stable Temple", so it must not have been a very prominent temple in its early days.

In the 1800s, a thriving Chinese immigrant community grew up around the temple. This was a time of booming trade between China and Siam, and as the old Chinese trading junks were replaced by then state-of-the-art steamships, King Rama III apparently worried people would forget what the old junks looked like. His solution was to have a wiharn built on the temple grounds to replicate a Chinese junk, complete with stupas where the masts would be and a standing, very active looking Buddha image in the wheel room. Since then, the temple's buffalo related name was replaced with Wat Yannawa, which translates to "Boat (or Ship) Temple". Visitors can still walk around on the boat-wiharn and visit the Buddha, who has both hands at the ready in the "fearless" posture -- we guess someone has to steer the ship.

Though the odd boat/wiharn building is its most unique feature, Wat Yannawa also has a fascinating three-storey structure that houses an extensive collection of relics (bone fragments and ashes), supposedly of the historical Buddha, his chief disciples and famous Thai monks, all lit up in rows of glass cubes. You'll also find several Chinese Mahayana Buddhist statues, a display of crystals and many more bits of curio. The upper floors house a small book shop, meditation hall and an airy shrine on the roof that always seems to be empty. Out front is a very popular shrine to Kuan Yin, the Chinese bodhisattva of compassion, a reflection of the prominent Chinese influences that have persisted until today.

More details
Charoen Krung Rd, next to Saphan Taksin BTS station and Sathorn express boat pier
Opening Hours: Daily 09:00 to 17:30
Last updated: 13th July, 2013

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