This is the final chapter in our day trips using the Skytrain and MRT network and I picked the Gold Line to the Klong San neighbourhood as the ultimate destination. Instead of cruising, travellers now have another option for crossing the Chao Phraya River and observe the unique lifestyle of riverside communities on a walking tour of Bangkok’s western side.

Once a thriving trading port, it is lined with historic Buddhist temples, Chinese shrines, mosques and culinary venues, making it a distinctive melting pot of cultures. As the Year of the Ox draws to a conclusion, people seeking a spot to pray for good fortune, health and prosperity in the upcoming new year will find Klong San worth visiting.

My sightseeing tour began late in the morning with a 350m walk from the BTS Klong San station to Wat Thong Nopphakhun, which is located on Somdet Chao Phraya 17. Spread over 20 rai, this ancient monastery is said to have been constructed in the mid-Ayutthaya era and underwent two extensive restorations during the reigns of King Rama III and IV.

In 1977, the Fine Arts Department added it into the list of national ancient monuments and a team unearthed a collection of 1,900 venerable scriptures in its Tripitaka Hall, whose content reflects the flourishing days of the Ayutthaya period, the way of life and traditions as the temple became a school for monks and villagers to learn about arts and craftsmanship in various fields.

Wat Thong Nopphakhun’s ubosot is adorned with windows, inspired by the fans of monk ranks. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Looking around the ubosot, I was taken aback by its windows that are crafted to resemble the fans of monk ranks rather than the usual square shape, as one of the doors is inspired by Phra Maha Phichai Mongkut (the Great Crown of Victory).

Inside, it is enshrined with a statue of Luang Poh Thong, which is presumed to have been created during the reign of King Rama III. Behind Luang Poh Thong, the wall is painted to mimic a curtain as a group of Indra and angels gather to listen to Lord Buddha’s teachings.

On the other side, the murals depict a towering mountain of sacred scriptures, a monk’s daily routine, the story of Vessantara Jataka to mirror how people lived in the past, and the richness of culture. All of these murals are masterpieces by the temple’s second abbot Phra Kru Kasinsangvon, who studied art with Krua In Khong, the royal painter during the reign of King Rama IV.

Next door, a vihara is home to a sacred gold statue of Luang Poh Saeng Phetch in a posture of subduing the mara, sitting on a gilded gold teak base portraying Narai riding a garuda capturing a naga. According to legend, a statue of Luang Poh Phra Saeng Phetch was formerly installed in a monk’s wooden dwelling, which was later burned down, leaving just the statue standing.

Just 500m away, I turned right and proceeded through the community to Chiang Mai Road, where Wat Thong Thammachat Worawihan is located. It was erected during the Ayutthaya period and restored during the reign of King Rama III, before the Fine Arts Department declared it a national ancient monument in 1977.

Behind the principle Buddha statue, a beautiful painting shows a curtain opening as Indra and angels gather to listen to Buddha’s sermon. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Its ubosot houses a gilded statue of Phra Phutthachinchat Masthammakhun and the walls are covered in murals recounting the Buddha’s life before and after he attained nirvana. The old-fashioned wood preaching hall sports a succession of historic pulpits, which was utilised for Crown Prince Wachiroonnahit’s tonsure ceremony and King Rama V’s burial.

Then I walked through a 1km maze of narrow pathways to the Kuan Wu Shrine (Klong San), which is tucked away down Somdet Chao Phraya 3 Alley. In 1736, Teowchew migrants established this small sanctuary on the riverfront and rebuilt it in 1901 to house three Kuan Wu sculptures from China as well as statues of other Chinese deities.

Apart from asking for protection, wealth and success, local pilgrims, who want to sell their land and property, will leave a bunch of copied deeds with their contacts on the Kuan Wu statue’s arms in the hope that he may help host a business match.

This sacred shrine also has beautiful murals depicting the Buddhist monk Xuanzang’s journey from China to India with his disciples. Its design is based on feng shui principles and it boasts crab-like sculptures that represent the monk’s disciples and two Western men holding a shoulder pole.

A little further along Somdet Chao Phraya Road, I visited Wat Anong Kharam Worawihan, which was constructed by Than Phu Ying Noi Bunnag during the reign of King Rama III. This temple is embraced with stone boundary markers brought from China, while its ubosot is home to the holy Phra Chulanak statue from Sukhothai province. The Bunnag family also crafted a bronze copper-plated statue of Phra Phuttamongkol that is housed in a moveable gold pavilion.

Luang Poh Saeng Phetch is placed on a carved gilded teak base depicting Narai capturing a naga while riding a garuda. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

A stone throw’s from Wat Anong Kharam Worawihan, I continued to Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan that merges classic Thai- and Chinese-style architecture using coloured tiles, Chinese stones, ballast and cement to add a unique touch.

During his reign, King Rama III had a mission to renovate numerous temples around the town and the regent serving Somdet Chao Phraya Borom Maha Pichaiyat, also known as Thad Bunnag, was in charge of Krung Thonburi and Phra Nakhon neighbourhoods because most of the properties in Klong San district belonged to the Bunnag family.

He included this temple in his plans and all other temples were restored with plain walls and roofs to save money. There were no longer any gables or tooth-like ridges on the edge of gables because they were made from wood and were therefore not durable.

Initially, it was built during the Ayutthaya era and left abandoned until it was renovated in 1829. Focusing on simple but elegant designs, a pair of lion-like stone sculptures serve as a guardian at the entrance and an auspicious arch is decorated with Thai-style ornaments.

Wat Thong Thammachat Worawihan is home to a gilded statue of Phra Phutthachinchat Masthammakhun and murals recounting the Buddha’s life before and after he attained nirvana. Photos: Ekkarat Sukpetch

Surrounded with granite boundary markers that are engraved with a breast chain motif, its ubosot enshrines an ancient Sukhothai-style Buddha statue from Phitsanulok province with an oval, smiling face, spiral-like hair and a bulging chest.

Many murals illustrate auspicious symbols. For example, a butterfly represents long life and a pomegranate brings numerous descendants. In the past, artisans had used natural materials to create powder colours such as shells for white, sealing lac for red and bark for brown.

On its roof, pink Chinese-style pediments are adorned with handcrafted coloured tiles and ceramicware depicting dragons soaring in the sky. Keep strolling, and visitors will find a towering stupa compound built to imitate Mount Meru. Its design is a mixture of Khmer and Indian styles to house a statue of Maitreya, Lord Buddha’s four footprints and statues of Konagamana Buddha, Kakusandha Buddha and Kassapa Buddha.

My legs were tired in the late afternoon, so I grabbed a motorbike taxi to the Klong San market. It’s a favourite dining spot among local folks, and I couldn’t resist ordering the best-selling bua loy kai khem (rainbow rice balls with salted eggs served in coconut milk) to boost my energy.

Murals depict scenes from the Vessantara Jataka. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Just 100m away, I continued to relax in Candide Books and Cafe, which is located in the Jam Factory, about 100m away. With its vast reading and working areas both indoor and outside, this shop has become a favourite hangout place among local bookworms, young artists and freelancers.

Visitors can feel free to browse the selection of translated nonfiction books and novels from local publishers such as Salmon, Matichon and Saengdao, or sip on coffee blends, fine teas, and fresh juice flavoured with flowers.

Those looking for a place to enjoy festive vibes tomorrow night can end their trip with the Amazing Thailand Countdown 2022, which will take place at Iconsiam in collaboration with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Marine Department, Thai Boats Association, Thai Chamber of Commerce, Chao Phraya River Tourism Association and Kudi Chin-Klong San Community.

The sky will be illuminated with 30,000 eco-friendly fireworks that will synchronise with audio and visual presentations, while the banks of the Chao Phraya will come back to life with musical performances from leading artists such as Apiwat “Stamp” Eurthavornsuk, Popetorn “Two” Soonthornyanakij, Koh Mr Saxman, The Toy, Burin Boonvisut, Joey Boy and Slot Machine.

A mural illustrates a mountain of scriptures. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

According to strict disease control measures, the event is exclusively open to people who have registered via Onesiam SuperApp, while onlookers can see the colourful multimedia fireworks show from a distance of more than 5km.

Made from Thai sticky rice, which encompasses a seamless combination of Thainess and Japanese eco-friendly firework innovation, the performance is divided into seven themes. For instance, the “Love Lights Up the World: The World Powered By Love” fireworks reflect love and good wishes as well as the beginning of positive moves ahead.

The “Embracing Diversity” fireworks signify diversity, creativity and better achievement, while the “Win The World For Thailand: Winning The Heart Of The World Through Thainess” fireworks come in red, blue and white to represent the Thai flag, Thai people and unique Thai culture.

Wat Thong Nopphakhun is located on Somdet Chao Phraya 17, 350m from BTS Klong San station. It’s open from 8am to 6pm. Admission is free.

Kuan Wu Shrine was rebuilt in 1901 to house three Kuan Wu sculptures from China. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Wat Thong Thammachat Worawihan is located on Chiang Mai Road, 800m from BTS Klong San station. It’s open daily from 8am to 6pm.

Kuan Wu Shrine (Klong San) is situated on Somdet Chao Phraya 3 Alley. It’s open daily from 9am to 5pm. Find out more details on the Sanchao Kuan Wu Somdet Chao Phraya Market Klong San (in Thai) page on Facebook.

Wat Anong Kharam Worawihan is on Somdet Chao Phraya Road. It’s open daily from 8am to 5pm.

Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan is located on Somdet Chao Phraya Road. It’s open daily from 8am to 5pm. Find out more details on the Phichaiyat Facebook page.

Candide Books and Cafe is in the Jam Factory, 350m from BTS Klong San. It’s open daily from 9am to 6pm. Call 02-861-0967. Find out more details at candidebooks.com.

Those looking to sell land or property lay a stack of copies of their deeds on the Kuan Wu statue’s arms, requesting a business match. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

A mural depicts the Buddhist monk Xuanzang travelling from China to India. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Kuan Wu Shrine was rebuilt in 1901 to house three Kuan Wu sculptures from China. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Wat Anong Kharam Worawihan houses the holy Phra Chulanak statue from Sukhothai province Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Wat Anong Kharam Worawihan was erected during the reign of King Rama III. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan boasts a mixture of classic Thai- and Chinese-style architecture. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

A towering stupa compound at Wat Phichaya Yatikaram took inspiration from Mount Meru. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Wat Phichaya Yatikaram Worawihan boasts a mixture of classic Thai- and Chinese-style architecture. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

The ubosot houses an ancient Sukhothai-style Buddha statue from Phitsanulok province. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

A towering stupa compound took inspiration from Mount Meru. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Candide Books and Cafe is a popular hangout spot. Pattarawadee Saengmanee

Iconsiam will host the Amazing Thailand Countdown 2022 tomorrow night. Photo courtesy of Iconsiam


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