I was visiting the Prison Museum on Mahachai Road the other day, and as I had parked my car near the side entrance for Wat Suthat I thought I should go in and pay my respects. I have been to this temple before of course as it is one of the most important royal temples in Bangkok. The Lonely Planet puts it under the “other” section for temples in Bangkok. I probably would agree with them that it isn’t worth a look if you are just in Bangkok for a short time. Maybe save it for your second visit. But, it is a fascinating area and well worth exploring on foot if you have the time. When I was there it was something like 38 degrees Celsius so I must admit I didn’t linger much. But, do check out the Giant Swing in front of this temple as well as a couple of Hindu shrines. Also within walking distance is the alms bowl village where they make the bowls for the monks. In fact, there are literally dozes of “Buddha shops” around here selling many objects for Buddhists.
Work on Wat Suthat was started in 1807 during the reign of King Rama I. He felt that his new capital in Bangkok needed a large temple in the center of the city much like Ayutthaya and Sukhothai of the past. He even had transferred the large Buddha image from Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai to Bangkok. Today, the ashes of King Rama VIII are encased in the base of this Buddha image. In the temple grounds there is also a statue for King Rama VIII, the present King’s elder brother. The Buddha image is made of bronze and has a knee span of 6.25 metres and a height of 8 metres. It is considered to be the largest remaining Buddha image from the Sukhothai period. The work on the temple was continued by King Rama II and finished by Rama III.
The large wihan faces north and is surrounded by a clositer that has dozens of Buddha images (see below). Around the building there are a collection of 28 Chinese pagodas while at each corner there are bronze horses which date back to the reign of King Rama III. There are also a number of other statues of Chinese origin. As I mentioned before, many temples in Bangkok have these Chinese statues as they were used as ballast in Chinese trading junks. The original wooden door panels of this building are now at the National Museum. Some of the carvings were apparently done by King Rama II himself and are well worth a look if you ever go there. Inside you will be amazed by the height of the building and also the large Buddha image. As in other temples, you are allowed to take pictures but please do so in a respectful manner. As you can see from my picture, the temple was very crowded. Once you have finished in the wihan, it is worth leaving the cloisters to explore the rest of the temple grounds which you will find to be much quieter. Between the wihan and the sleeping quarters of the monks you will find the very large ordination hall. probably one of the biggest in Bangkok. Take your time, there is plenty to see.
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