Thailand is famous for its diverse range of Buddhist temples that scatter across the country. One way or another, holidaymakers can’t help but unintentionally stumble across a temple, whether that be the famous traditional Grand Palace complex in Bangkok or the modern White Temple in Chiang Mai, better known by locals as Wat Rong Khun. With thousands of people visiting the stunning temples of Thailand from Bangkok to Chiang Mai on a daily basis, is there anywhere left that is relatively undiscovered?
If you’re looking to discover an architectural wonder with a mysterious back-story that is far from the tourist track, read on to find out all about a temple that has a beastly dragon scaling a pink washed tower.
The mystery of Wat Samphran
What gives this temple an air of mystery is the little-known information about it. No one seems to know when the temple was built, whom it was built by and why it was built. Not even the locals know. The only information available is that the 17-story, whopping 80-meter-high building was officially registered in 1985.
Climbing the dragon
Once you reach the temple grounds, you may see a few locals pottering about their daily lives and a few monks going about their business. As custom in Thailand, before entering a temple you must take off your shoes. The bottom floor of the pink tower appears slightly abandoned, with dust scattering the floor and an ancient looking elevator that has signs of “out of order” plastered over it.
The only way to the top is to dive into the foot of the dragon and make the leg tugging incline to the top. Inside the dragon is a far-cry from the outside. Inside is a dome-shaped sweaty hot tunnel with cemented walls and floor. Make sure to bring socks for the walk up to protect your feet from the small bumps that spring up every now and then.
The views of endless greenery
Upon emerging out from the dragon’s mouth at the very top of the tower, you will be greeted with lush views of the town below. Greenery and palm trees as far as the eye can see. As you peer over the edge of the railings, filled with lucky red ribbons enscribed with wishes of love, good health and prosperity, you will also see a large golden Buddha statue and a birds-eye view of the overgrown grounds surrounding the temple.
Finding a good photo spot
It’s quite difficult to get a full-length photo of Wat Samphran due to the dense number of trees and swampland that surrounds it; unless you fancy battling your way through the fields full of snakes, critter and goodness knows what else. However, you will notice there is one field where the land is flat. If you continue to walk down the main road past the temple, you will see a sports and fitness center on your right. Turn in there and you will find an open field. It’s here you can snap away and get a full-length shot of the tower hugging green dragon.
Overgrown gardens and abandoned vehicles
Just before entering the grounds of the temple, you will pass by an old, torn up bus that is clearly no longer in use. The abandoned bus almost gave a sense that the temple was derelict too. At the bottom of the temple, you can take your time to walk around and ponder at the unusual statues of animals such as a white rabbit, dolphins, and tigers that stand looking eerily. If you continue along the path, you will also come across a giant stone turtle that from the top of Wat Samphran, looks almost abandoned and filled with mold.
Opening hours & entrance fee
Entrance to Wat Samphran is completely free. The only cost you will incur is the cost to get there and back. Once you’re in the grounds you have the option to donate to the running of the temple in exchange of one of the red ribbons or an orange flower garland. There is no obligation to donate anything nor is there a set amount; you can donate as much or as little as you like.
Opening hours: 6 am – 6 pm everyday
Location of Wat Samphran and how to get there
Wat Samphran is located in the Amphoe Sam Phran area of Nakhom Pathom province, 40 km west of Bangkok. Walking down the main road that leads to the entrance of the temple, there are a few shops and local eateries where you can grab a bite to eat before taking on the steep walk up the coiling dragon. There’s even a 7-Eleven, and if you have visited Thailand before, you will know that where there is a 7-Eleven there’s civilization, so you won’t go hungry.
Take a taxi
Getting to Wat Samphran can be a little difficult, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t make the effort to see it. With little information online about how to get there, other than take a taxi there and back at a cost of 400 Bhat ($13) each way, it can seem a little daunting to try to make the journey by yourself. However, Thailand is well connected with bus services that run up and down the country and with a booming tourism industry, it’s easy to get by and ask locals for help as most of them speak English.
Use public transport
To get to Wat Samhpran using local transport, you will need to take bus number 556, 511 or 79 from Ratchadamnoen Klang Road, just a few minutes’ walk from Khao San Road. The bus will take you to Bangkok Southern Bus Terminal for a fare of 10 Bhat ($0.32). From here you will need to transfer to one of the white minibuses. Number 88 will take you to the top of Phetkasen road, opposite Samphran hospital for a fare of 30 Bhat ($1). You will then need to walk 1 km to the looming dragon tower that is easily spotted the moment you step off the bus.
Overall, a trip to Wat Samphran is a must for any architecture lover or someone who simply wants to stray away from the popular temples in Bangkok. Taking only 40 minutes to get there, this temple makes for a great day out and is totally worth travelling for.