Wat Yannawa: Boat-Shaped Temple in Bangkok
This unique temple is shaped like a Chinese Junk sailboat
Despite being in the bustling heart of Bangkok, close to the Chao Phraya River and major shopping and nightlife areas, Wat Yannawa remains something of a local hidden secret.
I’ve visited the temple twice, and each time, I encountered no more than a handful of other people (excluding the people who work there and monks).
On my quest to visit more of Bangkok’s more unusual attractions, I discovered the curious Wat Yannawa. What makes Wat Yannawa different from other temples is the fact that the main assembly hall (viharn) is built to resemble a Chinese junk (a traditional sailing boat). It’s certainly not something you come across regularly in Thailand’s temples!
Stepping through the ornamental gateway, I could see the cream and yellow junk at the end of a wide, plant-lined pathway. A large bell and a statue of King Rama III stand in front of the boat-like structure, surrounded by colorful flowers.
The entrance is on the right-hand side of the longboat, through a low archway that you may need to stoop to pass under. There is often somebody next to the archway selling incense and flowers to place as offerings at the main shrine.
From ground level, there’s nothing particularly remarkable to see, as you pass between plain high walls to reach the steps. The best views come when you climb higher and can see the white chedis draped in yellow cloth in all their glory, standing proudly where the masts should be.
The views also take in the more traditional-style temple buildings, complete with colorful roof tiles and sparkling golden details, juxtaposed against the modern skyscrapers (including the world-famous State Tower, home to the Grand Lebua Hotel and Sky Bar) behind.
Outside of the shrine, I lit my small yellow candle from a much larger candle to light my incense sticks with, the pungent and sweet aroma immediately filling the air. I left the incense in the designated pot in front of several golden Buddha statues before taking off my shoes to step inside the small shrine.
There was nobody else in the shrine on my visits, leaving me free to place my vibrant purple orchid arrangement in the gold-leaf covered replica of the Buddha’s footprint and enjoy a few moments of reflection. The shrine isn’t notably different to the norm, but it has a sense of peace and quiet that can be difficult to find at more popular temples.
Behind the junk, there is an old, wooden-roofed hall, now protected by a shelter. This is one of the oldest parts of the complex and contains a number of Buddha images in various postures.
As a quick history lesson, the temple itself dates back to Thailand’s Ayutthaya era, though the junk was only added in the 19th century. Constructed on the orders of King Rama III, the reason for the unusual design was because the former king wished to preserve the legacy of Chinese junks that were rapidly being replaced by more modern sailing vessels. The temple was declared a third-class Royal Temple in the 1780s.
SEE – Photos & Videos
GO – Getting There
It is straightforward to reach Wat Yannawa by public transport. Catch the Silom Line of the BTS to Saphan Taksin station; it is then a five-minute walk to reach the temple. Take Exit 4 out of the station, turn right at the corner (or pass through the park) to walk along Charoen Krung Road for around five minutes, passing a small park and a Taoist temple; the large gates to Wat Yannawa will be on your right.
You can also catch the Chao Phraya Express boat along the river to Sathorn Pier. It is less than a ten-minute walk to the temple from the pier. Simply walk straight along N Sathorn Road, passing the BTS station, then turn right onto Charoen Krung Road and follow the road until you reach the temple.
Taxis and tuk-tuks can also take you to Wat Yannawa directly from various parts of the city.
Do – Activities & Attractions
The main activity at Wat Yannawa is to explore the unusual temple complex and soak up the spiritual vibe.
Don’t miss peeking inside the air-conditioned room (set to the side of the boat structure) that contains religious relics and scared items. It’s easy to miss because it looks very much like a shop from the outside and the entrance.
For more spiritual diversity, pay a visit to the neighboring Taoist Chao Mae Prommet Shrine, where you’ll find a colorful dragon-topped shrine adorned with typical Chinese images, gods, and mythical creatures. Remove your shoes and step inside to see snaking dragons coiled around columns and an altar to the Lord Buddha.
Sathorn Church and Assumption Cathedral are also close at hand.
Stay – Accommodation
Glur Bangkok – A cheap and cheerful hostel just a few steps from Wat Yannawa, Glur Bangkok has mixed and female dorm rooms (with bunk beds), and private rooms with various sleeping capacities. Most private rooms share bathrooms, though the deluxe double room, four-person City Room, River View Suite Room, and Rooftop Duplex Room all have their own private bathroom. Breakfast is available for an additional fee. The hostel has self-service laundry facilities, free Wi-Fi throughout, luggage storage, a prayer room, and 24-hour reception. The lobby and common room are nice places to hang out and meet other travelers.
ZEN Rooms Bangkok Hub – Also a few steps from Wat Yannawa, ZEN Rooms Bangkok Hub is a clean and friendly mid-range hotel in the heart of the action. The basic rooms sleep two people and have air-conditioning. There’s no window, but you can entertain yourself with cable TV and free Wi-Fi. Some rooms have a private bathroom while others share facilities. Other options include the deluxe double room (with a private bathroom and balcony), single ensuite rooms, and mixed and female-only dorms.
The Grand Sathorn – The Grand Sathorn is an elegant, high-class luxury hotel with an intimate vibe. Blending Asian and European styles, the hotel has a beautiful rooftop swimming pool where you can relax and enjoy the city vistas. There’s also a fitness center, a restaurant that serves Thai and international dishes, meeting rooms, and an internet corner. Free Wi-Fi is available throughout the hotel too. There are various types of rooms to choose between, all with a private bathroom, air-conditioning, a seating area, a TV, a microwave, a kettle, and a fridge.
Eat – Restaurants
Within the grounds of Wat Yannawa, you’ll find a small café that sells drinks, ice creams, and snacks. Just outside the gates, there are myriad food options, ranging from street-food stalls to sit-down restaurants. One of the closest restaurants to the temple is Kingu Cha, with a predominantly Thai menu and no alcohol. The bustling Charoen Krung Road is, however, noted as one of Bangkok’s foodie hotspots, so you definitely won’t go hungry!
Time – Seasonality & Schedules
Wat Yannawa is open every day from 6 am until 6 pm. It is likely to be busier than usual on religious holidays.
Safety – Possible risks
Please Note: Travel inherently comes with an element of risk (just like crossing the road does). You are putting yourself in elements that are unfamiliar and foreign to your usual lifestyle and with that, become more susceptible to fall victim those who try to play off those unfamiliar to their local scams. There are also potential dangers in the environments to which you may not be accustomed to.
Please take extra care in travelling, ensure that you have adequate medical insurance (accidents seem to happen when you least expect them), and have let a trusted colleague, family member or friend know your whereabouts and activities.
Where Sidewalks End travel advises you to travel at your own risk, and to be extra aware of your surroundings (without letting it spoiling your time).
Pay – How much does it cost?
There is no entrance fee to visit Yat Yannawa, although small donations are always appreciated; you’ll find donation boxes throughout the site. Take some cash in case you wish to buy a flower offering or sacred amulet from the small shop.
Responsible Travel – Best Practices
Wat Yannawa is a working temple where locals go to pray, make merit, and meditate. Avoid loud noises and doing anything that could disturb people’s spiritual time. You should dress conservatively too, as with most temples in Thailand. For men, this means no singlets (and you definitely shouldn’t visit topless!), and for women, it means garments that cover the shoulder and skim the knees. Don’t wear anything that is torn.
Reality Check – Be Aware
You won’t need to spend more than an hour at Wat Yannawa, and it’s unlikely to be the most mind-blowing of temples that you see in Bangkok. But for fans of the quirky and unusual, the historic temple is ideal.
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Have you ever been to a city that had a really unique historical or cultural feature? Where was it and what made it so unique?
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