Wat Ratchanatdaram (Loha Prasat)
The Loha Prasat is a Buddhist complex situated within the grounds of Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan. Its distinctive design, historical significance, and rarity amongst global architectural structures make it a must-visit destination for anyone interested in Thai culture and history.
Name (Thai): วัดราชนัดดาราม
Address: 2 Maha Chai Rd, Wat Bowon Niwet, Phra Nakhon
Opening Hours: 9.00 to 17.00 daily
Entrance Fee: 20 baht for foreigners & 10 baht for Thais
Length of Trip: ~1 hour.
Trip Type: cultural / historical.
Age Restrictions: none.
Dress Code: modest and conservative.
Loha Prasat’s most distinctive feature is its striking, multi-tiered roof, which consists of 37 iron spires. These spires symbolize the 37 virtues toward enlightenment in Buddhism. The temple is comprised of three main concentric square levels, each diminishing in size as they ascend. The innermost level houses a central hall, containing a bronze Buddha image, and is surrounded by eight small chapels. The number eight is auspicious in Thai culture, representing completeness and balance.
The entire structure is made of iron, which is a highly unusual choice for temple construction in Thailand. Loha Prasat’s iron construction is symbolic of the dharma (Buddhist teachings) as unbreakable and indestructible, reflecting the enduring nature of Buddhist principles.
Loha Prasat was commissioned by King Rama III of the Chakri Dynasty in the early 19th century. Its construction was part of the broader effort by King Rama III to promote Buddhism and elevate the status of Bangkok as a center of learning and culture. The inspiration for Loha Prasat came from the ancient Loha Prasada (Iron Monastery) at Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan version was a seven-story structure, but King Rama III aimed to create a unique and impressive representation of Buddhism.
Construction of Loha Prasat began in 1846 during the reign of King Rama III but was not completed until the reign of King Rama IV (King Mongkut), who took the throne in 1851. It was a complex engineering feat due to its innovative architectural design.
Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan is a fascinating temple with several noteworthy attractions in addition to the iconic Loha Prasat. Below are some of the highlights that are worth exploring within the temple grounds:
Sakayamuni Buddha Image: Inside the main ordination hall (Ubosot), you’ll find a beautiful and revered bronze Buddha image known as “Phra Si Sakyamuni” or “Sakayamuni Buddha.” This impressive image is an important religious and artistic centerpiece.
Library: Adjacent to the main hall, you’ll find a library building with a collection of Buddhist scriptures and texts. The library architecture is also worth admiring.
Chapels and Statues: As you explore the temple complex, you’ll come across various smaller chapels and shrines dedicated to different aspects of Buddhism, along with statues of revered Buddhist figures and deities.
Artisan Products: Near the entrance, local craftsmen set up stalls within the temple grounds, offering handmade crafts and traditional Thai products. These stalls are a great place to shop for unique souvenirs or Buddhist amulets.
Visiting Wat Saket after exploring the Loha Prasat is a convenient and enjoyable option, especially since they are located across the street from each other. Below are a few reasons why combining a visit to these two nearby temples can make for a great experience:
Proximity: Wat Saket is just a short walk away from Wat Ratchanatdaram, making it easy to access both temples in a single trip. The convenience of their proximity allows you to maximize your time and explore more of Bangkok’s cultural heritage.
Contrasting Architecture: The architectural styles of these two temples are quite different. Loha Prasat is known for its distinctive metal spires and intricate design, while Wat Saket features a stunning golden chedi (stupa) atop a man-made hill. The contrast in architectural styles provides a diverse visual experience.
Panoramic Views: One of the highlights of Wat Saket is the opportunity to climb the Golden Mount, which offers panoramic views of Bangkok from its summit. After admiring the interior of Loha Prasat, you can ascend the Golden Mount for a unique perspective of the city.
MRT (Subway): Take the metro to the closest station, which is the Sam Yot MRT Station. From there, you can either walk or take a motorbike taxi to the temple grounds.
By Walking: If you are staying in the nearby tourist areas like Khao San Road, you can walk to Wat Ratchanatdaram. It’s approximately a 15-20 minute walk from Khao San Road.
The entrance fee for Loha Prasat at Wat Ratchanatdaram in Bangkok is not a fixed fee, but rather a donation-based system. Visitors are encouraged to make a voluntary donation when entering the temple complex.
The suggested donation amount is 20 baht for foreigners and 10 baht and for Thai nationals.
The best time to visit the Loha Prasat depends on several factors, including the weather, crowd levels, and personal preferences. Below are some considerations to help you choose the ideal time for your visit:
Morning Hours: Many travelers find that visiting in the morning, shortly after the temple opens, is a great time to explore Loha Prasat. The weather is generally cooler in the morning, and the temple is likely to be less crowded, allowing for a more peaceful and contemplative experience.
Weekdays: If you have the flexibility to choose your visit day, weekdays (Monday through Friday) tend to be less crowded than weekends. This can make it easier to enjoy the temple without the hustle and bustle of larger crowds.
Weather Considerations: Bangkok has a tropical climate, and it can get quite hot and humid, especially during the midday hours. If you’re not comfortable with high temperatures, it’s advisable to visit in the cooler morning or late afternoon hours. Be sure to check the weather forecast before your visit and bring appropriate attire, such as lightweight clothing and sunscreen.
Avoiding Public Holidays: On Thai public holidays and special occasions, popular tourist sites like Loha Prasat can get crowded with both locals and tourists. If possible, plan your visit on non-holiday dates to enjoy a quieter experience.
Cultural Events: Keep an eye out for any special cultural or religious events that might be taking place at Loha Prasat or in the surrounding area. These events can provide unique insights into Thai culture and traditions, but they may also attract larger crowds.
When visiting the Loha Prasat (Wat Ratchanatdaram) in Bangkok, it’s important to dress respectfully and modestly to show reverence to the sacred site and adhere to cultural norms. You can easily adhere to the temple’s dress code by following these guidelines:
Covered Shoulders and Knees: Both men and women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders, arms, and knees. Sleeveless tops, short skirts, and shorts are generally not considered appropriate for temple visits.
Long Pants or Skirts: It’s advisable to wear long pants or a long skirt that covers the knees. This is particularly important for women.
Loose-Fitting Clothing: Choose clothing that is loose-fitting and not form-fitting. Tight or revealing clothing is considered disrespectful in temple settings.
Remove Shoes: Before entering the temple buildings, you are expected to remove your shoes. Be prepared to take off your footwear at designated areas.
Hats and Sunglasses: It’s customary to remove hats, caps, and sunglasses when entering temple buildings as a sign of respect.
It’s worth noting that these dress code guidelines apply not only to the Loha Prasat but also to most Buddhist temples in Thailand. Temples often provide sarongs or shawls for visitors who may not have adhered to the dress code, but it’s a good practice to dress appropriately in advance to avoid any inconvenience.
Derived from the Thai language, “Loha” translates to “metal,” and “Prasat” refers to a “palace” or “castle.” Therefore, “Loha Prasat” can be translated to “Metal Palace” or “Metal Castle” in English.
Loha Prasat, the “Metal Castle” in Bangkok, is unquestionably worth a visit. Its remarkable architecture, characterized by multiple metal spires, sets it apart as an iconic and unique landmark. Steeped in history, it serves as both a testament to Thailand’s rich cultural heritage and an active religious center, providing a spiritual and contemplative atmosphere amidst the bustling city.