A trip to the heart of Bangkok will take you some of the highest-end malls and to some wonderful parks, and as you walk down Rama I road, you won’t be able to not notice the beautiful white walls and shining gold of Wat Pathumwanaram Ratcha Wora Vihan – or Wat Pathum for short. We stumbled across this Buddhist temple on accident while we were visiting the Siam Paragon Mall, and we saw the tell-tale roofs of a Buddhist temple.
The temple is medium size, though it seems dwarfed by the massive malls and skyrail station beside it. The grounds of the temple stand as a quiet respite to the bustling cosmopolitan surroundings.
The temple was founded in 1857 by King Rama IV as a place to worship near the Sa Pathum Palace. At the time, the area was only simple rice fields, but today it stands in one of the busiest parts of the city.
The ashes of Thai Royal Family members from the line of Prince Mahidol Adulyadej lie at the temple. The temple also served as a safe zone during the 2010 crackdown on Red Shirts anti-government protesters.
The temple is simple, yet elegant and you can quietly slip away from the city here. If you’re passing by, it’s well worth a visit. There is no entrance fee, but of course, you are always welcome to place a donation at a til box.
A great thing about Malaysia is the multicultural aspect of the country. We had done research on places to go and found a Buddhist temple in the Thai style – Wat Chetawan, so we decided to make our way there. As was our ritual for Kuala Lumpur, we got an Uber and then proceeded on our way.
It’s located at 9-7, Jalan Gasing, 46000 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.
Getting to Wat Chetawan
The temple itself was about fifteen minutes from our AirBNB, it would have been a bit shorter, but traffic was pretty bad. We arrived to the compound, and our driver dropped us off down in what appeared to be a little alley way.
First a Few Shrines
The compound was not quite as grand as some of the temples we’d gone to in Korea, but I wouldn’t call it small. It was constructed in 1962 and received a large donation from the King of Thailand. We initially came upon a building to the right.
There was a shrine room with some carvings and wax molds of monks that we took a look inside. There were also some fortune telling devices but we did not try them out.
Off to the left was a compound for the monks to live in, it looked quite nice, but was closed off to visitors so we didn’t get to see inside.
The Primary Wat
Straight ahead, though, was the central building which was what attracted us to see the temple in the first place. It consisted of a large marble staircase, leading to a grand open air room. The outside of this building was intricately decorated, and the inside was lined with dozens of gilded buddhas, burning incense, and offering altars.
A single monk sat within, to whom devotees would go up to pray and give offerings to. The temple itself was quiet and calm, with a light breeze occasionally causing a small bell to ring up above.
There’s Even a Gift Shop
We proceeded out of the temple and noticed a gift shop. We went into it, but found it to be very crowded. The objects were really quite interesting, but were out of reach for our budget, so we made our way back out to explore the rest of the compound.
Pay Your Respects at the Altar
On the other side of the central building was a open altar, to which many devotees were praying to. They would take incense sticks, and bring them to their forehead. They’d then mutter their prayers while bowing repeatedly before placing the sticks in an ash pot and then ringing a gong.
The ritual was very interesting to see. At first we weren’t sure how appropriate it was for us to be in the area with cameras – but once we saw a monk taking selfies with his (better than ours) smart phone, we decided we were probably fine.
Proceeding even further, we walked between two giant dragons that lined a wall and entered another part of the compound to which there were two more buildings.
Many, Many Buddhas
The first was a large and wide, open-aired building containing many statues of various bodhisattvas. They were various stages of being gilded with gold leaf. While not clear, I think people come and donate gold leaf. Slowly, devotees add to the statues until they are covered in solid gold.
The second building in the area, was a solid marble building that contained a large statues of buddha. Within the building were dozens of insets which contained smaller statues of the same buddha. Each of the statues was donated by someone and was deemed to bring good fortune to the family that donated it.
There was some construction taking place on a new shrine. But it wasn’t that close to being finished. All we could really tell is that it was going to be tall.
Having finished the compound, we slowly made our way back towards the entrance. While it was small, we still managed to get a good hour’s worth of exploring. We highly recommend checking out the temple and seeing for yourself.