A Handful of Wats

We’re back in Bangkok and everyone is fine, the city is hotter than ever. Maybe it will rain soon? By going to India, we missed Songkran, the holiday where everyone dumps buckets of water over each other for a week in the hope that this will bring the rain. It has not thus far.

I’ve resumed my attempt to visit everything there is to see in the city, in particular the enormous number of wats. There doesn’t seem to be a particularly good guide to these; there’s plenty of information online, but it’s often of questionable validity especially when you start getting to the more minor wats.

Today, three wats which I visited while going to the electronics supply district where I was going for parts to improve the water pump. The first two are on different sides of the canal marking the border of Rattanakosin, the royal island – the pig shrine, seen previously, separates them.

Wat Ratchabophit was Rama V’s first wat, made in 1869. It has funny European door guards, suggesting the new openness of the country under the reigns of Rama IV and Rama V:


Also it has faux-Gothic memorials to the royal family:


And immediately adjacent more Khmer-looking ones:


Somewhere in here are the remains of the father, mother, and older sister of the current king (and the previous king, his older brother), but I couldn’t find them.

The wat proper is beautifully detailed and enormous:


Also it has some royal elephants with blankets made of flowers:


Across the canal is the similarly named Wat Ratchapradit. What’s most notable about Wat Ratchapradit, built by Rama IV, is the chedi, which is covered in tiled gray marble:


The guardians here are more traditional and Chinese:


It’s a pleasant enough wat, but Rama V clearly outdid his father with Wat Ratchabophit.

I don’t know how we managed to miss the fact that there’s a crocodile wat near the river in Chinatown until now, but there you go. It’s called Wat Chakrawat. It’s a big complex, but one of the smaller buildings has a pair of ponds in the back with two fairly large crocodiles in them. This is not explained anywhere; the wat just has some crocodiles. Actually, it seemed to have four crocodiles, but one was stuffed and one was just a skull. These are displayed above the two crocodile enclosures, perhaps to remind them of their own mortality. In this picture, you can see the skull in the middle, the stuffed crocodile on the right, and the smaller live crocodile in the background, in the process of slowly going out the door:


And here is the larger crocodile, kept behind some chicken wire:


The internet suggests that the original crocodile who lived here (maybe the stuffed one?) had been menacing bathers in the Chao Praya so the monks moved him to the wat. Maybe the monks were bored and wanted a pet. A crocodile is not a good pet.

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