Wat Yannawa: A quirky temple on the Chao Phraya River

Sitting on the riverbank of the Chao Phraya river, Bangkok, Wat Yannawa is a Buddhist temple where our Mekhala pier is located. Coincidentally, it is probably a perfect place for guests to start or finish their overnight cruise on this historic river.

At first, the temple may look like one of many riverside temples along the Chao Phraya. Indeed, it has a quirky characteristic that can’t be found at any temple in Thailand.

Built in the 1700’s during the Ayutthaya era, this temple has been renamed three times and went through several renovations. A significant and unusual addition to the temple grounds occurred about 169 years ago when King Rama III (1824 – 1851) commissioned the construction of a Buddhist monument resembling a Chinese junk, a vessel responsible for the successful trade between China and Thailand during that period. It was said that the King saw steam ships replacing the old junks, and wanted people to remember the ships that had brought so much prosperity to the kingdom.

The ‘junk ship’ shrine has two spired chedis (religious shrines) on deck to represent the masts and the altar in the wheel house above the stern. It was during this renovation that the temple was renamed Wat Yannawa. “Yan” in Thai means craft or conveyance. “Nawa” means vessel or boat. Hence the temple is sometimes referred to as the boat temple.

The temple is one of the royal temples in Bangkok and under the king’s patronage. Besides the junk ship shrine, other buildings in the temple are well maintained with elaborate decoration.

Mekhala’s pier is located at the back of the temple, facing the Chao Phraya River. The pier is a no-killing zone, thus a sanctuary for a large number of fish. It is a good place to observe local people feeding these fish as a way of making merit.

For a Buddhist temple, this is an interesting religious monument that is worth a visit before getting on board the Mekhala, especially for guests traveling on our upstream cruise. And if you happen to arrive at the pier early and finish a walk around the Yannawa temple, a small, nice and quite Thai restaurant in front of the temple, on Charoenkrung Rd, is an ideal place where you can relax and enjoy delicious authentic Thai dishes and drinks. Otherwise, you can have a Thai massage at the massage parlor next to the restaurant.

“Junk Ship” shrine, Wat Yannawa

Multi-tier roofs of the building in Wat Yannawa

Entrance to the Mekhala pier, located at the back of the temple

A Thai massage place in front of the temple

Getting to Yannawa Temple

Perhaps the best way to go to Wat Yannawa is by BTS sky train. You simply get off the train at Saphan Taksin Station. Take exit 4 and walk toward the main road (Charoen Road). Turn right and walk for about 50 meters. You will see the entrance of the temple on your right.