Wat Hua Lamphong: the coffin temple from the Rattanakosin Kingdom

Wat Hua Lamphong. The Coffin Temple
Entrance to Wat Hua Lamphong at Rama IV Road. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Wat Hua Lamphong ( วัดหัวลำโพง), popularly known as is the coffin temple ( วัดโลงศพ), it’s an authentic Buddhist temple where various aspects of Thai cultures, traditions, and beliefs are observed regularly. Lamphong Buddhists are known to believe in Karma; hence, visitors go there to make a merit of good karma. The temple is part of the third class royal temples in Thailand, affiliated with Theravada Buddhism.

Wat Hua Lamphong is located at Rama IV Road ( ถนนพระรามที่ 4), which was constructed by King Rama IV who ordered dugging the canal that was in this place. The name of this road at that time was Hua Lamphong Road ( ถนนหัวลำโพง) and changed its name in 1919 to the current Rama IV Road during the reign of King Rama VI in memory of King Rama IV who ordered its construction. It’s also 1 kilometer away from Hua Lampong railway station, the main railway station in Bangkok, connecting the capital with the rest of the country.

The reason why the temple is also known as the coffin temple relies on the fact that an organization called Ruamkatanyu Foundation works hand in hand with the temple to provide burial services for poor, homeless people and those who have passed away and remained unclaimed by relatives. Visitors make donations to the foundation to support the worthy course.

Wat Hua Lamphong. Ruamkatanyu Foundation
Entrance to Ruamkatanyu Foundation at Rama IV Road, beside Wat Hua Lamphong. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Coffins bought are used in giving the deceased decent burials, hence the name “The Coffin Temple”. People who donate to this course are bound to have good luck and prosperity since they are making offerings to their ancestors. Buddhists make merit by donating for the coffins, and even for non-Buddhists, it is seen as an act of compassion. To be clear, The Buddhists do not only believe in Karma but also believe the day someone was born will have an influence on their life.

Buddhism, which is the fourth-largest religion harboring over 7 percent of the world’s population, was founded by Siddhartha Gautama also known as Gautama Buddha, a philosopher, teacher, and religious leader. According to Wikipedia, Buddhism consists of diverse traditions, beliefs, and spiritual practices largely based on Buddha’s teachings and interpreted philosophies. There are many Buddhist countries in the world, but it has more popularity around Asia, being Thailand the country with the highest percentage of practicing Buddhists (95%).

Wat Hua Lamphong was founded during the Rattanakosin Kingdom ( อาณาจักรรัตนโกสินทร์). The Rattanakosin Kingdom is the fourth and current established center of government in the history of Thailand (or Siam). It was officially founded on 21 April 1782 with the establishment of Rattanakosin Island ( เกาะรัตนโกสินทร์), the historic center of Bangkok, as the capital city by King Rama I ( พระรามที่ 1). The name Krung Thep ( กรุงเทพเทพ) and Krung Thep Maha Nakhon ( กรุงเทพมหานคร), both abbreviated forms of the full ceremonial name, started to be used near the end of the 19th century. Foreigners, nevertheless, continued to refer to the city by the name Bangkok, which has been used continuously until now.

The temple was later renovated in 1996 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ascension to the throne of King Bhumipol Adulyadej ( กษัตริย์ภูมิพลอดุลยเดช), who became King on 9th June 1946 under the name of King Rama IX ( พระรามที่ 9). The royal seal of what became known as the Kanchanapisek or Golden Jubilee ( กาญจนาภิเษก), showing two elephants flanking a multi-tiered umbrella features extensively in the temple’s remodeling.

Wat Hua Lamphong. Golden Jubilee
One of the two elephants flanking the temple entrance as a symbol of the Golden Jubilee. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

The temple goes beyond coffins, outside the temple, one can see floating candles which is very popular among other temples in Thailand, the colored candles are associated with birthdays and are believed to represent walking around the ordination hall of a temple. There are caged pigeons, visitors pay to let them free, and they are guaranteed prosperity. One can also make merit by feeding buffalos and cows in the temple.

Hua Lamphong has a good number of Buddhist figures, Thai ones, to be precise. There are also shrines with the figure of Hindu god, Ganesha. The temple is a working temple since monks live and work there, and it’s opened 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Hua Lamphong encompasses funeral grounds, crematorium, and living quarters for monks. The temple has an aesthetic architecture with vibrant decorations that are easily accessible by steps to the front. the environment is very calm and friendly to local indigenes and visitors outside Thailand. Just like any other regular tourist site, the temple procures revenue for the country and serves tourists with rich culture and traditions.

Wat Hua Lamphong
A shrine inside Wat Hua Lamphong. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

After visiting the temple if you want to know where you can get some spicy Thai and continental delicacies to fill your stomach, take a look at this shortlist: The Coffee Club, Latest Recipes at Le Méridien Bangkok, and Water Library Chamchuriet are a few of the many restaurants near the temple you can visit anytime. Also at Chanchuri Square and the recently opened mall, Sam Yan Mitrtown, you can find a wide range of places to eat.

There are many ways to get to the temple, but the simplest way is going to the Sam Yan MRT Station ( สถานีสามย่าน), take Exit 1 and you are just at the entrance of the temple. There also many buses which stop at the temple, but moving around Bangkok by bus is quite difficult for foreigners. Also, some of the Hop On Hop Off Sightseeing Tours operating in Bangkok have a stop just in front of the temple.

To visit this temple there is an appropriate dressing code: men and women must cover their knees, shoulders, and ankles. They must wear long shorts, skirts that are knee-length and shirts must cover your shoulders. The dress code is less strict compared to other temples in and out of Thailand.

Wat Hua Lamphong is not the only temple in Thailand. In fact, there are more than 33,000, big and small ones, in current use. In Bangkok, one can visit other prominent temples like Wat Phra Kaew (inside the Grand Palace), Wat Pho, Wat Arun, Wat Suthat, Wat Ratchbophit, and Wat Yannawa among others.