Confession: We don’t recall ever spending more than 20 minutes in one of Thailand’s temples. Despite the sheer beauty and displays of amazing craftsmanship, temple-fatigue sets in quite quickly as, in our humble opinion, so many temples simply look… the same. That was until we discovered Wat Pariwat, a temple along Bangkok’s Chao Phraya river that had us mesmerized for two whole hours.
Located in one of Bangkok’s southern suburbs, an area rarely visited by tourists, Wat Pariwat is a temple unlike any temple we’ve seen before. The complex consists of several structures: A modern-looking main building that houses a large Buddha shrine, some typical nondescript temples where funerals are held, and a huge walled courtyard housing the main draw – an exorbitantly decorated set of shrines that will amaze even the most pessimistic visitor.
At first sight, the shrines look like they’ve been decorated under the motto of ‘more is more’. A wild mix of vibrant colors, materials (crystals, gold, pearls…) and figures make for a visual feast. Take a second look, however, and you’ll discover that the decorations aren’t quite like what you’d expect from a Thai place of worship: Is that Albert Einstein gazing from up there?
Gotta catch ‘em all: Wat Pariwat Bingo
The longer you walk around the shrines, the more kooky features you’ll discover. Hidden in a riot of Indian gods and goddesses, mythical Chinese creatures, Japanese warriors and Buddhist figures you’ll find everything from Disney characters to panda emojis – all painstakingly crafted from incredible Thai mosaic.
We don’t want to spoil the fun by posting pictures of everything we found, but challenge you to find all of the following:
- Obama taking a selfie
- Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter
- Falkor the Luck Dragon from NeverEnding Story
- A big-breasted bunny with a selfie stick
- An elephant-fish hybrid
- Captain America
- Winnie the Pooh climbing a tree
- A Japanese Doraemon figurine
- A portrait of Albert Einstein
- A mutant panda
- A sword-wielding rat warrior
And no, Pikachu, Jackie Chan and Micky Mouse are not being worshipped here. The contemporary elements blended into the building’s architecture are part of an effort to get the younger generation actively involved and enthusiastic about religion again. Judging from the Thai kids running around the premises, these efforts seemed to pay off – at least in some way.
The David Beckham Temple
Albeit being way off the tourist trail, Wat Pariwat is not totally unknown. The temple’s claim to fame is a tiny golden statue of David Beckham (hence dubbed the “David Beckham Temple”), located just below the Buddha’s altar in the sealed-off main building, just outside the walled square. We didn’t manage to get a glimpse of it (nor did we try to), but according to various reports the site keepers are more than happy to unlock the gate for you if you ask them.
During our visit, both buildings inside the walled square were still under construction, but despite the scaffolding and building materials scattered around, the place is already well worth a visit. We can only imagine how much more impressive (and more crowded) the place will be five years from now.
Do note that, despite its quirky appearance, Wat Pariwat is a temple like any other. Local families go here to worship, so make sure you take off your shoes and dress modestly when visiting.
How to get to Wat Pariwat
Depending on traffic, a taxi from downtown (Sukhumvit or Sathorn) will likely cost you between 80 THB and 150 THB. If you rather get around by public transport, Wat Pariwat is conveniently linked to the BRT (bus) system and even has its own namesake stop (B7).
You can get on the BRT at the Chong Nonsi BTS station. Simply walk across the bridge to the BRT terminal, buy a ticket (15 THB) and get on the bus downstairs. Stops are communicated clearly in both Thai and English, and the Wat Pariwat stop is about 15 minutes away.
Once you arrive at the stop, the temple’s richly decorated gate is visible right across the road from the platform.
Thanon Rama III, Soi Wat Pariwat
Bang Phong Phang, Bangkok
+66 2 294 7711
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