I’ve visited some unusual temples during my time in Thailand, but I don’t think I’ve seen any that rivals the uniqueness of Wat Samphran Dragon Temple. The Dragon Temple, as it’s more commonly called derives its name for obvious reasons – the colossal dragon wrapped around the 17-story building.
My First Encounter With A Dragon
I first saw a photograph of Wat Samphran Dragon Temple about six months previous to writing this and instantly wanted to see it for myself. The temple sits roughly 40 kilometres west of Bangkok in Nakhon Pathom, far away enough to feel like you’re getting out of the city but not too far that it feels you’ve spent half your life travelling there.
The Drive To Wat Samphran Dragon Temple
I’m not a ‘car person’ but being driven in Thailand is, for me, an incredibly enjoyable experience. The cars and motorbikes weave in and out of each other, all searching for that extra inch of space like a horde of ants scurrying on a tree. A country in which the traffic lights are more of a suggestion to stop than an order.
We drove along Sathorn Road before crossing the snaking Chao Phraya River via the Taksin Bridge, a huge six-lane bridge that also has space for the BTS Skytrain. The tall, shiny skyscrapers of Bangkok soon gave way to the low-roofed houses of its suburbs, each one zipping by in a flash as the car careered this way and that.
As we drove further away from Bangkok, the roadside began to fill with small restaurants and motorbike showrooms. The main feature of the roadside though were billboards advertising newly built condo’s. If you can tell the strength of an economy by deciphering the number of new houses, then Thailand is positively booming.
The First Sighting Of Dragon Tower
After a drive that seemed to consist of one straight road for fifty minutes, we turned left and could see the dragons head peering over the tall pink building that it had wrapped itself around. I was ready to be blown away by it’s oddness but seeing it, high above the trees stunned me into my jaw-dropping like a sack of potatoes that have drunk too much.
Such a unique building should have more appreciation around the world, and yet there was hardly a soul here. The lack of other people and the almost silent surroundings made it feel all the more magical, so I won’t complain too long about having the place mainly to ourselves.
The History of Wat Samphran Dragon Temple
It would be best if you didn’t think I haven’t tried to find out some of the history of this strange place because I have. I really have. For some reason, though little bits of information such as when it was built is not to be seen, Well, not in English anyway. I made an effort, though – I went up to page 4 on Google!! Looking through my untrained eye, it was hard to say if the temple was a hundred years old or 20, but I did find out that it was ‘officially registered’ in 1985. I’m not sure what ‘officially registered’ means but maybe that’s a fancy way of saying ‘completed’.
The design has an almost psychedelic feel to it, and as you make your way closer to it, the enormity of the project hits you like a billiard ball in a sock.
Enter The Dragon
Finally, I could wait no more and made my way into the temple to begin the 300-meter ascent. The inside of the temple was sadly in a state of mild disrepair with thick dust covering many of the surfaces. It seemed so neglected that I almost began to wonder if this is how the monks here want it. It is such a stark contrast to many other temples I’ve been to while in Thailand. Then again I’ve never been in a temple that has a dragon wrapped around it!
The inside of the dragon looks like something from an underground lair in a James Bond movie and what little air there was, was thick and humid.
The tunnel spiralled around, and with each footstep, more sweat began to form on my forehead. The walk strangely began to feel like it was never going to stop with the lights on the ceiling, giving the impression that daylight was just around the corner. But the sweat and burning thigh muscles were all worth it…
We were standing on top of the highest building for miles.
Once we had tied a ribbon to the dragon’s beard for good luck and the breeze had cooled us down, it was time to begin the walk back down the dragon.
If you wish to see more must-see temples follow the link for my top 5 Bangkok temples https://pauldancewriter.com/2019/06/28/the-top-5-must-see-temples-in-bangkok/
If you’re in Bangkok and fancy a visit yourself follow the link for an explanation from a website way better at explaining such things! http://thebangkokfaq.com/index.php/2017/07/19/go-wat-sampran-dragon-temple/
The Wat Samphran Dragon Temple is a wonderful experience despite the fact it seems to be falling into disrepair. It’s a unique experience and a chance to spend time in a Thai temple rarely found in a guide book.