Bangkok has a new must see tourist spot – and it’s BIG. Here’s what you need to know about the new Great Buddha statue at Wat Paknam Pharsi Chareon in Bangkok.
How Big are We Talking?
Making humans look like teeny tiny ants kind of big.
The Great Buddha is 69 metres tall – the height of a 20-storey building and can be seen peeping its head over streetscapes and waterways around the city.
It’s a seated Buddha and measures 40 metres across the base.
To put that in perspective, check out the guy with his umbrella standing underneath it in the picture below.
Although even that doesn’t really show it – it’s only once you catch a glimpse of it from the river, or a nearby street that it’s scale is truly evident.
It’s not the biggest Buddha in Thailand, but it is the biggest in Bangkok and between it, and the psychedelic ceiling of the stupa in the temple complex, it definitely needs to be added to your list of cool things to see in Bangkok (you’ll find some more of those in our list of unusual things to do in Bangkok).
Erm, The Psychedelic Ceiling…?
Yes, I know. I just slipped that in there didn’t I.
You see if the fact that this place has a skyscraper-tall gold statue in it wasn’t already enough to get it on the Differentville list of ‘unique things to see in Bangkok’, there some other very cool elements to the temple that jumped it up a few notches.
Most notably the incredible ceiling in the stupa of the temple.
A stupa is part of a Buddhist temple complex that contains religious artifacts or remains of monks or, even the ashes of Buddha. They can also include a place to worship.
The 80-metre high Maharatchamongkhon stupa at Wat Paknam Pharsi Chareon, also known as the Great Pagoda, includes both.
You start at the lower levels… where you’ll find a intriguing museum. I use the word intriguing as I wandered round it going ‘why do they have that in the middle of a temple?’ – you’ll obviously find lots of religious artifacts, but also random old cars and things like wheelchairs, none of which I could find any rhyme or reason for.
However, the amazing part is to be found right at the top on the fifth floor. Here you’ll not only find an outdoor walkway that reveals just how big the Buddha statue actually is, but the most beautifully painted ceiling surrounding an emerald green chedi which contains some of the remains of Buddha.
Other Things to Look For
When I arrived at the temple around 10am, one of the buildings was full of monks chanting. It was incredibly calming and beautiful to watch and hear.
You’ll also see two gold statues – one of a monk and one of an elephant.
Unlike most statues the surface of the monk is not smooth – and the reason is that worshippers stick pieces of gold leaf on the statues. This is part of the teachings of Buddhism and a way of transferring merit onto the applier.
Don’t let all these fun touches distract from the significance of the site though. Wat Paknam Pharsi Chareon has actually been a temple since 1610 and was the site of the foundation of the Dhammakaya Buddhist movement so it’s very important in Buddhist culture.
So, if you’ve now decided to add Wat Paknam Pharsi Charoen – and the giant Buddha – to your Bangkok itinerary, you’re probably wondering where it actually is…
Where, in Bangkok, is the Giant Buddha?
Wat Paknam Pharsi Charoen is located in west Bangkok on the other side of the river from most of the city’s main sites.
A few years ago, this would have been super tricky to get to, but, with new train lines coming into this area, it’s now super easy to make a stand alone visit or combine a trip to the big Buddha with a day when you’re seeing other sites like Chinatown, Little India, or Wat Arun.
How Do You Get To Wat Paknam?
There’s two stations relatively near by and which you pick depends on where you are coming from.
One option is Watthukat which is on the Silom BTS line that runs from National Stadium (or any of the other stops).
This would be good if you’re leaving from anywhere near Silom, Patpong or, around MBK/Siam.
The temple complex is about a 17 minute walk from the station.
The second option is to jump on the Metro to Bang Phai.
It’s then just an 11 minute walk to the temple complex from there
This is possibly the better option if you’re staying around Asok/Sukhumvit as you can get on the Metro at Sukhumvit station and avoid changing lines on the BTS.
Coming direct from Khao San Road is a bit trickier. You can get a bus – if you have google maps, Bangkok buses aren’t actually too bad.
Or walk to Sam Yot MRT and jump on the metro to Bang Phai.
If you do decide it’s a bit too far, there’s actually another pretty big Buddha very close to Khao San Road – see more details in our post on some of the hidden sights around Khao San you shouldn’t miss.
Travelling via Sam Yot is also probably the best option if you’re combining a trip to Wat Parsi Chareon with big sites like the Grand Palace.
The day I went to Wat Paknam, it was raining and so, once I realised I was going to get soaked walking from the BTS, I decided to get a taxi to the Temple complex.
It wasn’t quite as easy as I planned.
Because the Great Buddha is so new and I was visiting Bangkok fairly soon after it had reopened to tourism, I’m not sure the drivers quite had it on their list of places tourists might want to visit yet.
No matter what version of Big Buddha, Wat Paknam, Wat Phasi I tried, they poor guy just looked at me blankly.
Eventually I showed him a picture on my phone and we worked it out.
So, either get a picture handy just in case – or, order a Grab as then your destination is clearly marked in the map and easy for the driver to follow.
What Else is Nearby?
To be honest, there’s not a lot else in the surrounding area to see. Nearby Wat Khun Chan also has some very impressive statues, but despite looking very close from the walkway on the stupa, it’s actually across the river/ Find the right bridge though (google maps is your friend here) and it’s only about a 10 minute walk away.
However, it doesn’t matter that there’s not a lot near the Buddha, because the transport links make it easy to combine Wat Paknam Pharsi Charoen with a lot of other sites that might already be on your itinerary… like these…
Wat Arun and the Big Buddha make a good half day outing. You can walk from Wat Arun to Itsaraphp MRT and then travel down to Bang Phai.
If you’re off to this giant shopping mall, you can jump on the new BTS Gold Line from Charoem Nakon and then change on the Silom BTS line at Krong Thonburi to take you to the Giant Buddha.
This was where I went after my trip. You get on the Metro and get off at Sam Yot. From there you can walk down the new On Ang walking street full of street art to Little India.
Get off the Metro at Wat Mangkon and you’ll be a steps away from Bangkok’s vibrant Chinatown (where you’ll find some of Bangkok’s Best Cheap Eats).
If you’re arriving or departing on any of the ferries that travel the Chao Praya River (for example, if you’re going to the Grand Palace), then you can add a trip to the big Buddha before or after your trip.
Just get on the BTS from Saphin Taksin.
Taking a Boat Past the Big Buddha
While visiting the temple is one way to see the Great Buddha, it’s only when you see it towering over the buildings that surround it that you really get a feel for the scale of its size – and, one of the best ways to do this is to see it from the Chao Praya River.
Unfortunately, the part of the river it’s best viewed from is not visible from the public ferries that most tourists get and so the best option is a private boat trip.
Pick a tour that actually stops at the Great Buddha if you want to see it both up close and get the best view of Wat Paknam from the river.
This one fits the bill and is available seven days a week.
Does Wat Paknam Have a Dress Code?
No – and yes!
It’s not like the Grand Palace where you will be checked on entry and need to hire a sarong if you’re not dressed appropriately.
But, this is still a deeply religious site and so, you should dress respectfully.
In Thai culture that means not showing shoulders and covering knees – for both men and women.
Don’t wear anything strappy or sleeveless and if you are, then bring a scarf to put over your shoulders when you’re in the temple. That’s not allowed in some Thai temples, but should be fine here.
Ideally you shouldn’t also wear anything too tight, which means if you’re wearing your active wear, you should really have a long, loose top that covers your bottom over the top.
Don’t wear crop tops or anything too plunging.
You will have to take your shoes off a lot so ideally wear something that’s easy to remove. I have to wear a lace up shoe right now and it was driving me mad.
Also, if it’s raining when you go make sure your soles are non-slip. A lot of the flooring is marble-type tiles and it was a bit like a skating rink in places – top tip; the rough tiles along the edge are a little less likely to see you rapidly shooting forward or sideways.
Does Wat Paknam Have an Entrance Fee?
No. It’s free to enter.
When is The Big Buddha Open?
It opens from 8am to 6pm, seven days a week.
So there you have it – our guide to Bangkok’s newest, and very impressive gold Buddha. If you do have any further questions, then drop me a line in the comments and I will do my best to answer them.
Who Writes Differentville?
My name is Helen Foster and I’m a journalist and author living in Sydney.
My travel articles have been published in titles include The Australian, Body & Soul at the Sunday Telegraph, RAC Horizons, Jetstar magazine and more.
I like the weird, the wonderful and anything that makes me jump and down with glee like I’m about three. That’s what you’ll find here.