Wat Prayoon is also known as Wat Rua Lek. This temple sits on the western side of the Chao Praya River. It was build during the reign of King Rama III. It’s most outstanding features are its large inverted bell shaped chedi (pagoda). The place has Turtle Mountain housing spirit houses and a pond where visitors can feed the turtles. In Buddhism, turtles are sacred animals. Common Buddhism beliefs dictate that restraint should be made against killing this animal. It has led to the ceremony of releasing the turtles. Buddha in fact used sea turtles in particular to illustrate the precious rarity of being afforded a human birth. In Buddhism, turtles represent creation, endurance, strength and longevity.
The Turtle Mountain was patterned after a mound of melted candle wax. The low rise mount has several “spirit houses” dedicated to those who are already dead. The miniature houses that comprise this “mountain” show intricate details that are commonly seen in a mixture of Eastern and Western architectural designs. A tiny manmade lake surrounds the “mountain”. Guests would find it a nice respite just to take a rest after spending time feeding the turtles. By the way there are fruits for sale like papaya at the stall near the corner of the courtyard for the feeding of the turtles. Behind this mound is the crematorium. Children will love feeding the turtles and some small fishes that swim in the tiny lake.
This temple is indeed a Buddhist temple with the typical structure found in such Thai temples. There is something that each temple has that sets it apart from the rest of its kind. This temple has a bright red tall iron fence. This fence is not something ordinary because it is fashioned from ancient weapons which include lances, swords and similar armaments. It is home for Buddha relics with an impressive site of great magnitude in terms of size and other architectural features. Next to the Great Chedi is a well kept museum that houses images of Buddha, amulets and other important artifacts. These were excavated from the chedi when it was restored in 2006. The items found are now displayed in the museum next to the chedi.
Some say that visiting this temple is an off the beaten path experience. Most tourists will head towards the most popular temples but jostling through huge crowds is not a pleasant experience. This is especially true when the reason for visiting is to immerse in Thai culture and taste a piece of solitude away from the maddening crowd. This white temple with its spires is a sight to behold. Lush trees surround the temple. The ceiling of the temple is decorated with Bunnag flower design which is actually rose chestnut.
Halfway around the base of Wat Prayoon, visitors can find a staircase that will allow guests to climb up the temple. After reaching the top, an amazing view of its grounds and the contemporary Bangkok of today can be seen. Surprisingly, one can go inside the spires. They were not made just as decorative pieces or for aesthetic value. The fences surrounding the temple are made of cast iron. These were fences imported from England and presented to King Rama III to use in the Grand Palace. However, the fences did not impress King Rama III that he decided to use them in this temple instead. The King was then presented with a quantity of sugar that is equal to the iron in weight to take the place of the cast iron gift that did not impress the king. The temple is actually a family temple of the powerful Persian descendant Bunnag clan. What makes the temple special is that it is Bangkok’s first Sri Lankan style chedi. Across from the temple stands Khao Mor cemetery (featuring Bunnag gravestones) near where the turtles are.
The temple is decorated with colorful mirrors showing expert craftsmanship of the people who made the temple as it stands today. The small gardens have a circular stream flowing around them. The water might be a bit murky but there is no cause for worry since its inhabitants are quite tame (turtle and small fishes). Those who have been there say that the easiest way to get there is by riding a taxi. Make sure though that the driver fully understands the instruction where he is needed to go. Most visitors say that this is a nice respite from visiting other very crowded temples in Bangkok.
Another interesting piece near this temple is the cannon that commemorate the untoward accident in 1837. The accident referred to here was that of the monk who decided to use this cracked cannon to create a fireworks display. This idea was bad since it caused the death of the monk in question killing another seven more people with him. It is advisable to visit this temple in the morning when the weather is cooler. It can be difficult to locate the place so for those who find it hard to find directions they can take with them a native Thai to translate the street and signs for them. For those who are taking babies with them it is easy to navigate a pram but there are limited toilet facilities. Better bring along baby wipes and extra diapers instead.
Wat Prayoon is located on the Thonburi side at the foot of Memorial Bridge (Saphan Phut). Thonburi is an area on the southern edge of the Old Portuguese community designated to merchants and government officials during the Early Rattanakosin Period after Ayutthaya’s destruction. It is suggested to plan a visit to this temple along with plans to visit the Old Portuguese community. Guests will know that they are near Wat Prayoon when they pass by Bangkok’s First Catholic Church (Santa Cruz). There are also two turtle statues sitting outside the temple garden. To get in, Wat Prayoon visitors can take the river taxi to Saphan Phut pier then walk across the bridge until the red iron fence is seen at the foot of the bridge.