Despite its many beautiful attributes and convenient location in the historic district, Wat Ratchabophit is usually overlooked by travellers. Leave the crowds behind at the more popular temples and give this quiet mid 19th century wat a wander.
Built during the reign of King Rama V (Chulalongkorn), the temple has an unusual design that centres on a 43-metre-high gilded chedi enclosed in a circular cloister. Adorned with unabashedly colourful segments of Chinese porcelain that combine to form elaborate lai Thai diamond patterns, the cloister is one of a kind.
The colours—blues, reds and yellows all of a slightly faded quality—mingle with black lacquer window designs and doors inlaid with intricate mother of pearl designs. The overall effect yields one of Bangkok’s prettiest temples.
The ashes of several of Chulalongkorn’s family members are enshrined in smaller chedis on one part of the grounds, which may partly explain the temple’s perpetually peaceful atmosphere. There never seems to be more than a few locals strolling around or taking a break on the many benches spread out beneath the trees. Depictions of European soldiers as guardians ensure that any noise-makers keep out.
The ordination hall is often closed to the public, which is a shame since it too is unusual as Thai temples go. The partially gilded ceiling slopes at the roof to meet Romanesque looking pillars. Apart from the Buddha image, which enshrines the ashes of King Rama VII at the base, it looks almost like the inside of a church and is a good example of Chulalongkorn’s preference for mixing Thai and European styles.
In the monastic residence you'll find several attractive Colonial-period buildings along with the odd napping cat. Across Atsadang Road to the south stands Wat Ratchapradit, a smaller but similarly soothing temple enshrining the ashes of King Rama IV.
The relaxing Saranrom Park, formerly used for royal parties, is also a stone's throw to the southwest on the way down to Wat Pho. A short walk north takes you to Phraeng Phuthon Square.
Between Atsadang and Feung Nakorn roads, a ten-minute walk east of the Grand Palace.
David Luekens first came to Thailand in 2005 when Thai friends from his former home of Burlington, Vermont led him on a life-changing trip. Based in Thailand since 2011, he spends much of his time eating in Bangkok street markets and island hopping the Andaman Sea.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.
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