Small but atmospheric
Published/Last edited or updated: 8th November, 2020
Hidden away in the middle of Surat’s old town, Wat Sai is a small but atmospheric Thai-style temple featuring a wooden wihaan with impressive carvings and some quirky bits inside. While not a major attraction, it’s well worth a stop as you explore the Ban Don area.
Cutting through an alley and car park from Bandon Road, you’ll first notice a typical Central Thai-style ordination hall fronted by a small Khmer-style prang. Get closer and look to the right, and you’ll notice a large brick-and-mortar house, complete with louvred wooden shutters, that looks to be around a century old. Set beyond some flower bushes, the nearby two-storey building containing the monks’ quarters also displays some colonial-era charm.
The largest building is also the most interesting: an eye-catching wihaan crafted in 1932, entirely of wood save the sloping orange ceramic tile roof that rises to a wooden gable topped by original wooden chofa finials. Delicate wooden eaves mark the upper edges, while broad brown lower walls are broken up by original doors and shutters.
Step inside this distinctive old wihaan and you’ll find dark teakwood floors, ceilings and pillars. Painstakingly composed woodcarvings that appear to depict lotus ponds are placed above a small shrine area with a Buddha image and some old glass cabinets. Light shines through a long, narrow window with fretted frames running the length of the sidewalls. Portraits of monks hang from each pillar. During our visit, a dog snoozed on the floor as recorded Buddhist chants sounded from a radio.
Hung up on the back wall, dozens of vintage Thai magazines appear to have been preserved from between the 1930s and ’60s, with covers displaying popular Thai kings of the past, famous religious sites and people in traditional costumes.
Despite its central location, Wat Sai is hidden behind neighbourind buildings and few travellers wander through. Not long after we arrived, the shades-donning abbot motioned us over for some conversation in a mix of English and Thai. He and a younger monk were two of the friendliest people we met in Surat, even giving us a bottle of cold water as we left.
Address: Between Bandon and Namuang Rds, just west of Soi Tonpo, Surat Thani
Coordinates (for GPS): 99º19'32.24" E, 9º8'42.68" N
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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.