Bangkok is a city of temples, with upwards of 500 Buddhist temples scattered throughout the city. Among those tucked away in older communities are some deserted temples that hold historic, national treasures.
Abandoned temples are almost always overlooked by visitors to Bangkok, who are naturally drawn by the many large and colourful, inhabited temples found on every major thoroughfare. So, does Bangkok also have deserted temples like those in the old capitals of Sukhothai and Ayutthaya? The answer is great news for visitors who love history.
Yes! Bangkok has many uninhabited, and sometimes derelict, Buddhist temples; their status as temples was revoked, either because of a surplus of temples in one area or due to a shortage of monks brought about by changing societal trends, meaning that fewer people today choose to remain monks for all their lives. Some of the deserted temples are nonetheless maintained by members of the local community, often with the patronage of nearby, active temples.
With the cooperation of Tourism Authority of Thailand, Sawasdee Magazine helps you to explore these forgotten places of worship and get satisfying insights into their history and connections with affiliated, active temples.
Wat Kuhasawan Worawihan (Wat Sala Si Nah), Phet Kasem 28 Rd, Phasi Charoen District
Wat Kuhasawan Worawiharn is an important temple with which visitors who have been to Klong Bangluang Community, home of the renowned Thai puppets, should be familiar. The temple is an old, third-class, royal temple from the Ayutthaya Period.
Deserted temple : Wat Luangphor Suwankhiri
Not far from Klong Bangluang Community and Wat Kuhasawan, a small lane parallel to the canal leads to a small community school, Sutham Suksa. A small chapel can be seen standing in the school grounds. With its Chinese style, the chapel appears more like a Chinese shrine.
It is presumed that the structure, which houses a Buddha image known among the locals as Luangphor Suwankhiri in the attitude of meditation, was built during the late Ayutthaya or early Rattanakosin Period. The temple has been uninhabited since the reign of King Rama VI, due to the unavailability of resident monks, and was later incorporated into Wat Kuhasawan Worawiharn. To this day people still come to ask for blessings for their wellbeing from Luangphor Suwankhiri.
Wat Dusidaram Worawihan, near Pinklao Bridge, Bangkok Noi District
This temple from the Ayutthaya Period is near Bangkok Noi Canal, not far from Pinklao Bridge on the Thonburi side. The temple has unmistakeable Ayutthaya architectural motifs, such as the principle Buddha image in the attitude of subduing Mara and the oldest mural, depicting Thai traditions, on a red surface. The mural is a national treasure.
Deserted Temple: Wat Phumarin Rajapaksi
Wat Phumarin Rajapaksi is opposite Wat Dusidaram Worawihan. The building is eye-catching due to its tall chapel in which Luangphor Dum, the principle Buddha statue, is enshrined. Figures of the disciples appear in bas relief on the wall to allow more space inside the shrineroom. Nearby is another chapel with a curved base in the shape of a junk.
During the reign of King Rama VI, there was only one monk residing at the temple, so His Majesty ordered Wat Phumarin Rajapaksi to be combined with Wat Dusidaram Worawihan. The depiction of Narai riding on the back of a garuda with a peacock displaying its tail can be seen on the gable of Wat Phumarin Rajapaksi. The figure is studded with pieces of coloured glass.
Deserted Temple: Wat Noi Thongyoo
Wat Noi Thongyoo is another temple incorporated into Wat Dusidaram Worawihan. The temple is so dilapidated that there is hardly any of the original temple to be seen; a pagoda is the only remaining trace of Wat Noi Thongyoo left today. Severe damage by bombing at the end of the Second World War led to the authorities issuing a decree incorporating Wat Noi Thongyoo into Wat Dusidaram Worawihan.
Wat Karuhabodi, Charun Sanitwong 44 Rd, Bang Phlat District
Wat Karuhabodi was formerly the residence of the royal treasurer of King Rama III. It was built according to the style favoured in that period, with massive supporting columns and gables adorned with cotton rose hibiscus pattern. Wat Karuhabodi lacks the ornamental finial of other temples. King Rama III also bestowed Phra Buddha Sagkham in Lanna Style to be the principle Buddha statue enshrined in the chapel.
Deserted Temple: Wat Suan Sawan
Wat Suan Sawan is in Soi Charun Sanitwong 44 and is now under the care of Wat Karuhabodi. Of the original temple, only one chapel and pagodas are left. The sema or stone boundary markers, have a special design: some are in a right-angled shape and some with an arch of howdah shape that matches the corner of the building.
It is presumed that the temple must have been renovated in the reign of King Rama I. There is hardly any trace or evidence of the temple left but the name of the temple was given after the stucco pattern of the god Indra on the gable, so it is interpreted as the garden of Indra or “the Garden in Heaven”. Enshrined inside is Luangphor Dum, with figures of disciples outside. The other remaining structures are two tall pagodas in Rattanakosin style.