Visiting Wat Samphran. The visitor to Bangkok will be introduced, whether it is via Tripadvisor or companies offering day trips, to the typical circuit of temples. The tourist will witness the glorious colors of the Wat Phra Kaew, the reclining Buddha at Wat Pho, and the sun set behind Wat Arun. These are all amazing temples and must be included to any visit to Thailand. But in Thailand, there are over 40,000 temples, meaning there are so many undiscovered gems, including Wat Samphran.
I had spent over two months in my apartment in Bangkok, self-sheltering. Thailand has weathered Covid exceptionally well with approximately 3,000 infections and less than 60 deaths at the time of this writing in early June. For over two months, my only outings were to the market, but at the end of May, I decided to stretch my legs with an outing. I decided on Wat Samphran, a unique temple on the outskirts of Bangkok.
Over the years I noticed the occasional photo on the web and mentally filed that I should plan a visit.
The best way to reach Wat Samphran also known as the Dragon Temple is via car, which will take approximately an hour. If you take Grab it will set you back approximately 600 Baht ($20). There is no simple way with public transportation. Wat Samphran is set off the main road but it abruptly transitions into a thick wooded area. As I approached the temple, I spied 200 plus people lined up with a monk speaking over a PA. Thailand has been devastated economically and these people were waiting for free food provided by the temple.
While you can sight the temple from the road and even occasionally by airplane depending on the approach route to Suvarnabhumi Airport, I was now face to face with Wat Samphran. The temple is unique, it is a 17-floor pink hued cylinder. But more memorable is that a dragon wraps its scaly body around the cylinder with its head resting on top of the temple.
I entered the first floor of the temple and encountered a nun clad in white. I expressed my desire to explore the other 16 floors. I was informed that they were closed off. I also noted two elevators which were also out of service. I then learned that the dragon’s body that wrapped around the exterior served as a passageway to the rood. Unfortunately, this also was closed apparently due to Covid and the passageway being a tight, enclosed space. While disappointed I continued to explore the expansive grounds.
I started my wanderings and noted the temple was not well visited. After the people received their food, there were only a few adherents on the grounds, and no foreigners. Through the woods I spied a giant domed shape. Approaching closer I realized that this was a giant tortoise that you could enter through its mouth.
In between the dragon tower and the turtle lay another complex with a giant Buddha. It was a raised platform … and after several attempts I found the open staircase that led to the top of the raised platform. A giant golden Buddha rested on top, surrounded by some temples.
Here I found the best view of Wat Samphran. For those photo aficionados you will be frustrated taking photos of the towering temple. It is difficult to get an unimpeded view for a good photo. The best vista is from this nearby platform.
While it might be a challenging place for traditional photography is it a great place to bring your drone. I set up in the parking lot and took photos and videos of the temple with my Mavic Air. I came a respectful distance from the temple and flew for two batteries worth. I have the proper license and insurance to fly in Thailand.
Wat Samphran, which translates to “three hunters” has a controversial past. The former head monk was sentenced to 160 years in prison for raping underage girls living at the temple. Six nuns joined him in prison for procuring the girls.
Wat Samphran is well worth an afternoon trip to explore this unique and odd temple.
Visiting Wat Samphran.