About fifty miles north of Bangkok is the city of Ayutthaya, the old capital of Thailand. In the south-east of the city is the Wat Yai Chai Mongkon Temple, or Wat Chao Phraya Thai, as it is sometimes called, but to the locals it is just Wat Yai. This temple is set in beautiful grounds with perfect lawns and fully grown trees.
It has a bell-shaped tower or chedi – these are designed to contain the remains of monks or kings, or artifacts relating to Buddha. This style of building temples is now often called the “Thai style.” Photographs of this temple frequently appear in the tourist websites and brochures of Thailand.
When compared with the Temple of the Emerald Buddha or the Temple of the Golden Buddha, this temple is nowhere near as visually opulent. It stands tall against the sky but might be mistaken for some other kind of building.
So why Visit Wat Yai Chai Mongkon?
Although the temple itself was built in 1357, as a place of meditation for monks, the chedi was built in 1592 by King Nareusan the Great, to commemorate the victory over the Burmese in the same year. The temple is now a museum, devoted to King Nareusan.
The Burmese attacked Ayutthaya again in 1767 and although some of the outer chedi was destroyed, the main one remained relatively undamaged. It is now situated in a courtyard that is lined with images of Buddha.
The large chedi is open to the public and you can climb right to the top. On a clear day, you can see some of the other temples in the city including Wat Phra Ram and Wat Ratburana. Saffron robes are often tied around the bases of the chedi, as part of the commemoration to Buddha and there is a central pagoda, which is also tall, like the large chedi.
Inside the main temple, stairs lead up to a prayer room, past two sitting Buddhas. Inside this room, there is a small circle of Buddhas sitting, and a small altar that is covered in gold. It is quite an amazing sight. (By the way, bats also live inside the temple!)
Statues of Buddha
Of course, all Buddhist temples are intended as devotions to Buddha himself, and this is no exception. Around the outside of the grounds, there are simply dozens of statues of Buddha, resplendent in saffron colored robes, row upon row of them. A giant statue of Buddha sits at the bottom of the steps that lead up to the temple.
There are other large statues of Buddha, one with him lying on his side. Visitors to the temple pay a fee to cover the statues with robes, which are removed at night.
The Wat Yai Chai Mongkon temple is open daily from 08:00 to 18:00. It costs 20 baht to enter (less than one dollar). Remember though that as with all temples you should dress appropriately and remove your shoes before entry.