Wat Kanika Phon

Wat Kanika Phon

Wat Kanika Phon was founded by a brothel owner named Mae Lao Feng in the late 19th century.  This is also the reason why this temple is also dubbed as Wat Mae Lao Feng.  The former brothel owner had finally atoned for her past sins by constructing this edifice.  It is a nice way to start a trip along Bangkok’s Chinatown.  The Chinese community in Bangkok was there even before the founding of Bangkok as Thailand’s capital.  The Grand Palace for example was once the location where a community of Chinese traders used to live.  The Chinese burn paper models of Mercedes Benz and similar items as an offering to the spirits for their dead love ones.  After the food offerings “spirit” goes out from the earthly remains of Peking duck it means Buddha was pleased with their offerings.

There is a Thai expression that goes this way “to travel with just a mat and a pot”.  This aptly describes the Chinese when they migrated into Thailand before the start of the Rattanakosin period.  This is why Chinatown, to which this Wat can be found, is a showcase of the old Bangkok and its fading glory.  The Chinese merchants were advised to vacate the area that will accommodate the Grand Palace to move to its present location.  Since the Chinese are hardworking and save a lot they eventually found success living in a foreign land.  Most of the earlier settlers started humbly as coolies or rickshaw drivers.  They were once treated as second class citizens but they have proved that patience, hard work and a good business sense can bring success.  Today, Chinatown is one of the oldest and established neighborhoods in Bangkok.  Through this temple, they have finally found their place of worship.

It has interesting ubosot features like its dark green tiles that decorate the window frames and its carved wooden grills that frame the porches.  Tied curtains are reminiscent of the brothel run by the temple founder.  Next to the ubosot stands a plain looking wiharn that houses a Westernized Buddha.  Behind the wiharn is a set of Buddha’s protected by a covered gallery.  Thai sculptors have focused their attention to creating countless images of Buddha.  This is the reason why Thailand is known for various Buddhist art.  By the beginning of the 20th century, Thai art was influenced somehow by Western fashion particularly architecture and sculpture making.

Some visitors who have been there say that it is worth a short stop after spending some time strolling through Chinatown.  Devotees often leave the paper replicas of what they wish to acquire like the Mercedes Benz paper replica mentioned earlier.  These devotees believe that they will have what they prayed for as long as they burn these offerings in this temple.

How to Get There

This smaller temple is just a short distance from Bangkok’s Chinatown and the templeMangkon Kamalawat.  It is at the end of a lane that begins from a busy Mahayana Buddhist temple known as Wat Hong Kong.  Its exact address is 416 Phlap Phla Chai Road, Tambon Pom Prap, Amphoe Pom Prap Sattru Phai.