Wat Pathum: a refuge in the Bangkok’s shopping district

Wat Pathum
Ubosot of Wat Pathum Wanaram. By Supanut Arunoprayote / CC BY

Wat Pathum Wanaram ( วัดปทุมวนาราม) is a spiritual oasis in the heart of Bangkok’s buzzing shopping district. A sanctuary among the commercial hustle. The temple is a third class royal temple of the Thammayut ( ธรรมยุต), an order of Theravada Buddhist.

The temple offers a staggering contrast of peace and serenity against the backdrop of high-rises that surround it.

Location

The temple sits elegantly in between two mega shopping malls Siam Paragon and CentralWorld in the Pathum Wan District ( เขตปทุมวัน). The temple site is opposite to the bustling Siam Square. The temple ground is visible from the sky train.

Wat Pathum
Wat Pathum Wanaram. View from Siam Paragon with CentralWord on the back. By Sry85 / CC BY-SA

History

The temple dates back to the era when the entire area was just rice fields. King Rama IV ( พระรามที่ 4) opened the temple to public in 1857 near his Sra Pathum Palace ( วังสระปทุม). The temple was then named Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratcha Wora Viharn ( วัดปทุมวนารามราชวรวิหาร.

Wat Pathum
Main Buddha image at Ubosot of Wat Pathum Wanaram. By Supanut Arunoprayote / CC BY

Sra Pathum Palace has been a residence of the Thai Royal Family, especially the House of Mahidol since the 19th century, and now is the official residence of Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, the second daughter of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

The current royal family of Thailand is descendant from Mahidol Adulyadej, Prince of Songkla (1891–1929) and Princess Srinagarindra (1900–1995), who later received the title of Princess Mother of Thailand as she was the mother of two Thai kings. The Prince was the 69th son of King Chulalongkorn, reigning as King Rama V and his wife Queen Savang Vadhana.

Architecture

As you enter the gates, an elegant white chedi welcomes you. The main Wiharn stands on tall columns on all sides. The walls are ornated with golden Buddha statues behind glass boxes. As you enter the Wiharn, the interior opens up its high roof and richly decorated colums on both sides. And straight ahead, the shimmering Buddha statue sits surrounded by dim lights.

Wat Pathum
Chedi of Wat Pathum Wanaram. By Supanut Arunoprayote / CC BY

You can’t escape the ambiance without spending a few moments on the floor. Be quiet, be seated, and fall back into the lap of silence.

A Sala Thai or a shaded pavilion was built partially over the crematorium of the late Princess Mother of Thailand, who is commonly referred by Thais as Mae Fa Luang, which could be roughly translated by mother of all of us. After World War II when returned to Thailand from Lausanne (Switzerland), she lived at Sra Pathum Palace, until her death in 1995.

Wat Pathum
House Of Mahidol Memorial at Wat Pathum Wanaram. By Xiengyod~commonswiki / CC BY-SA

The crematorium holds testimony of rare ancient craftsmanship featuring elaborate ornamented stencils and sculptures. It represents the heavenly abode of Gods. An open-sided prayer hall dedicated to the late Princess Mother is located in the middle. A small and elegant Ubosot sits on the eastern corner. And, a library finds its place behind the main array of buildings.

Although smaller in size than other Bangkok temples, Wat Pathum Wanaram holds an impressive architecture.

Getting around

A simple and beautiful green park surrounds the place. Colorful flags with interesting messages hang from tree branches. Monks live in quarters behind the main temple separated by a wall. A well-kept tropical garden ornates the area. A Buddha shrine sits beneath an old Bodhi tree. People burn incense in front of it and pray for health and prosperity.

Wat Pathum
Ho Ra Khang (bell tower) of Wat Pathum Wanaram. By Supanut Arunoprayote / CC BY

Everyday morning prayer begins at 8:30 am in the main hall. Evening prayer and meditation is held at the pavilion behind the temple. Wat Pathum Wanaram celebrates various events on special auspicious religious days. You can offer donations to the monks consisting of daily necessities.

Apart from this, the temple walls contain a big pond and a parking space.

Getting there

BTS Skytrain is the easiest way to get there. The temple falls in between Siam BTS station ( สถานีสยาม) and Chit Lom BTS station ( สถานีชิดลม). Admission is free here and photography is allowed within the temple premises.

Wat Pathum
Wat Pathum Wanaram. View from BTS. Photo by Discovering Bangkok

Spare yourself at least an hour to escape from the city noise. A perfect place for contemplation among the hustle and bustle.