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A Visit to Three Royal Temples in Bangkok

After the devastation of Ayutthaya, the Thai attempted to recreate their loss. The first palace and temples (bots and wihans) built in the new capital, Bangkok, were similar to the Ayutthaya structure. The most notable examples can be seen at Wat Phra Kaeo and Wat Mahathat. Wat Suthat, Wat Rachapradit and Wat Ratchabopit are temple buildings that were built later in a grander and more elaborate style while also incorporating some Chinese and Western elements. These temples are fine examples of temples built during the Rattanakosin period.

Wat Suthat Thepwanaram (วัดสุทัศนเทพวราราม), is one of the temples located in the Old City which is the historical heart of Bangkok. The construction of the temple was begun by Rama I in 1807 and was completed by Rama III. Its wihan is the largest in Bangkok. The art and architecture of this temple beautifully exemplify the Rattanakosin style. Its 8-metre-high main Buddha image is one of the largest surviving Sukhothai bronze. This image was moved from Wat Mahathat in Sukhothai to Bangkok by Rama I. The murals in the immense wihan are some of the most celebrated in Thailand. Amazingly intricate, they depict the Triphum (Buddhist cosmology) and were restored in the 1980s. Coved the five delicate layers, the 5.5-metre teak doors to the wihan are also noteworthy. One of the doors made by Rama II is now being kept at the National Museum. The cloister of the wihan is lined with 156 golden Buddha images. The ubosot, which was completed in 1843, is the longest in Thailand. The roof is supported by a colonnade of square pillars. The carved wooden pediment on the east side shows the sun god Surya seated on a carriage drawn by a lion, and the west pediment shows the moon god Chandra on a horse-drawn carriage. The great teak doors are 5.5-metre high, 1.5-metre wide and 15-centimetre thick, dating from the reign of Rama II. There are no columns inside the wihan. In the spaces between windows are paintings of scenes from the last 24 Jataka dating to the reign of Rama III. The main building of Wat Suthat is not the chedi, but the Sattamahasathan. An important gilded bronze image of the seated Buddha in the wihan, named Phra Sri Sakyamuni.

Wat Rachapradit (วัดราชประดิษฐ์)

This charming and peaceful temple is located in the northeast corner of the former Saranrom Palace garden and has rarely been visited by tourists. It was built in the mid-19th century by King Mongkut (Rama IV) and his East-meets-West taste in architecture is apparent in the choice of building materials. The buildings and the chedi are covered with grey marble. The interior murals were painted in the late-19th century and depict the festivals of the Thai lunar calendar. Among other scenes are some extravagant preparations for the Giant Swing ceremony, people celebrating the annual Loy Krathong water festival, and an image of King Mongkut observing an eclipse of the moon. Striking carvings adorn the doors, eaves and gables of the temple, etc. Buddha images in the main building are also very interesting and belong to the same period as the temple.

Wat Ratchabopit (วัดราชบพิตร)

This temple was built for King Chulalongkorn (Rama V) between 1869 and 1872. The whole complex is splendidly decorated with made-to-order porcelain tiles from China. The focal point is the central, Sri Lankan-style, gilded chedi. Its full height from the terrace is 43 metres. Inside the temple are four Buddha images, each facing one of the cardinal points. Leading off from the circular gallery are the ubosot to the north, the wihan to the south and two lesser wihans to the east and west. The layout of this temple is rather unusual for a normal Thai temple. The temple’s remarkable blend of Thai and Western architectural elements makes it stand out. The 10 door panels and 28 window panels of the ubosot are decorated with typically Thai mother-of-pearl inlay, which illustrates the insignia of five royal ordines. The carved painted guards on the doors are distinctively European, and the interior is decorated in an incongruous Italian Renaissance style. Accessible through the temple is a fascinating royal cemetery, rarely explored by visitors.

Under the leadership of Professor Emeritus Dr Momrajawongse Suriyavudh Sukhasvasti, The Siam Society will organise a one-day study trip to visit three Royal Temples. Temple complexes are a collection of buildings serving various purposes. There are over 30,000 temples in Thailand, and each period of Thai history has seen modifications of temple architecture. However, the basic layout of most temples follows set principles, as do the functions of different buildings.


Saturday, 8 June 2024


Professor Emeritus Dr Momrajawongse Suriyavudh Sukhasvasti


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Saturday, 8 June 2024
Meet at The Siam Society, 131 Asoke Montri Road, Sukhumvit 21, Bangkok.
08:30 Depart The Siam Society for Wat Suthat Thepwanaram by bus
Morning: Visit wihan, ubosot and temple complex of Wat Suthat
Noon: Lunch at a local restaurant
Afternoon: Visit the temple complex of Wat Ratchapradit
Visit the temple complex of Wat Rachabopit
17:00 Arrive at the Siam Society
The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.


Important notes:

– The Siam Society may utilise photos taken from study trips, lectures, performances, and other activities as part of its public relations and marketing communication campaign. These photos, which may sometimes contain image(s) of activity participants, can also be featured on the Society’s website and other online social media channels.


The contribution of THB 3,000 (THB 3,500 for non-members), will cover transportation, meals as mentioned in the programme, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the payment has been made. In addition, basic travel insurance is included. There is a 3% surcharge for credit/debit card payments to cover bank charges. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), savings account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code below. Once payment has been made, please e-mail the transfer docket to us.


For further information and bookings please contact Khun Thun at 02-661-6470-3 ext. 205 or studytrips@thesiamsociety.org. The Society office is open from 09:00 to 17:00, Tuesday to Saturday.

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