Wat Traimit is the home to the world’s largest solid gold statute. This statue is well worth the trip to this temple which is near the main train station in Chinatown, Bangkok. The temple is walking distance from the metro station which serves the Hua Lamphong Train station. In addition to the statue itself the temple has an interesting exhibition about the Chinese community in Thailand on the second floor and an exhibition about the statute on the third floor.
This Buddha statue has an interesting history. It has been in Bangkok for about 200 years and was originally housed in a very small temple on the banks of the Chao Phraya river. At this stage the monks didn’t know it was made of gold because it was covered in a layer of plaster. In 1955 the temple where it was housed was demolished to make way for development and the statute was moved by crane to its current site. During the move there was an accident and the statue was dropped in the temple grounds and left overnight during a rain storm. In the morning the Abbot inspected the statue and peeled away the cracked plaster to reveal the gold underneath. What he found was some 5.5 tonnes of gold in this 3 meter tall statue.
The origins of the statue are not known. The best guess, because of the style of the statue, is that it was cast in the thirteenth century. It is believed to have come from the ancient capital of Ayutthaya which was regularly besieged by various invading foreign forces such as the Burmese. The layer of plaster was probably added to the statue to disguise it from the foreign invaders.
The unfortunate side to this story is that this discovery led to a craze of smashing clay Buddha images in Thailand by people hoping to make similar finds. Many ancient artifacts have been destroyed for this reason.
The temple is open from 8am to 5pm, except Mondays when it is shut all day. Admission is currently 40 baht (approximately 1.4 USD). Like all Thai temples, admission will be refused if you are wearing shorts, mini-skirts or vest tops.