Wat Suthat is one of Bangkok’s oldest and most beautiful temples. Flanked on all sides by statue-filled cloisters, it boasts a magnificent central hall with a huge golden Buddha at its centre, surrounded by vividly painted frescos.
The Giant Swing, one of Bangkok’s iconic images, sits just outside its main gate.
Wat Suthat is graded as a Royal Temple and as such, has a special reverence within the country. First built over 200 years ago during the reign of Rama I, huge teak doors were added by Rama II , before finally finishing construction in 1847 when Rama III ascended the throne.
The Giant Swing was an integral part of the old annual rice harvest festivities when groups of men rode it to its full 80ft height, as they attempted to grab bags of silver coins. Unsurprisingly, a few too many fatalities put an end to the custom. The magnificent teak arch, however, is still standing and forms part of much safer thanksgiving ceremonies in the modern day.
The Temple and Grounds
Wat Suthat consists of the main temple or wihan, the cloisters and the monks quarters, all set within a rectangular 10 acre walled grounds.
The temple itself is dominated by a huge bronze Buddha, some 25ft in height, that sits at one end of the building. Around it, the wall paintings, restored 30 years ago, depict the 24 previous lives of Buddha according to the Jakarta Tales. The frescoes on the columns and ceilings depict early historical scenes of Bangkok life.
The exterior of the hall has what is called a circumambulatory on three levels with small chapels on each corner and various other collections of icons and statues spilling down the steps. Chinese pagodas, figures on horsebacks and iron Chinese soldiers are dotted through out the complex.
You can also wander around the cloisters, which contain more than 150 Buddha images in various states of restoration. Each statue is adopted by an individual to mourn the death of somebody close to them, with the ashes interred in the base or the wall behind.
Wat Suthat is one of Bangkok’s quieter temples, never overrun by tourists. Locals come in to pray throughout the day, whilst outside the walls, Bangkok is its usual bustling self. Step inside and you are instantly in an oasis of calm and quiet solitude.
Getting There, Nearby and Practicals – Wat Suthat
Wat Suthat is located on Thanon Bamrung Muang in the old city. It’s about 15 minutes walk from the back of the Grand Palace. Your best bet is to take a taxi directly to the temple, as there are no BTS Skytrain or MRT Metro stations nearby.
On leaving Wat Suthat, you can walk down Bamrung Muang Road to the river and the backs of the Royal Palace and Wat Po Complex. Near the temple itself, artisan shops sell buddha images and artifacts, the finished products casually lined up down alleys.
And a little further on, you step into a fascinating old area of Bangkok, complete with old tea-houses, original stores and shop house squares. You can grab a coffee at Heritage Craft and Cafe along the way.
The temple is open every day from 09.00am to 18.00, with admission fee of just 20bt.
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