On the banks of the Chao Phraya river in Sathorn district is the Wat Yannawa, a temple little known to foreign visitors.
The Wat Yannawa that is also known as “the boat temple” is a 3rd class Royal Temple. Most distinctive feature of the large complex is the viharn built in the shape of a Chinese junk vessel, a 19th century sailing ship.
The Wat Yannawa is one of the older temples in Bangkok; it was built during the time of the Ayutthaya Kingdom, before the founding of the Rattanakosin Kingdom and the city of Bangkok. At that time the temple was called Wat Kok Khwai.
The viharn in the shape of a Chinese sailing ship
During the reign of King Nangklao (Rama III, 1824 – 1851) aviharn was built in the shape of a Chinese junk ship and the temple renamed to Wat Yannawa, which translates to “the boat temple”. The King had the boat like structure built to serve as a memorial to the Chinese junk vessels that were used intensively for trade with China and that had brought prosperity to the Kingdom. During the reign of King Nangklao the Chinese sailing vessels were being replaced by steam ships.
The replica of a Chinese junk vessel is over 40 meters long and made from concrete. At the place where the masts should be are two white chedis or pagodas. In the back where the wheel house should be is a room containing a number of Buddha images where visitors can pay respect to the Buddha. The viharn is open to visitors; At the top of the stairs leading to the boat is a statue of King Nangklao.
Other structures at the Wat Yannawa
A large elaborately decorated gate house gives access to the temple grounds. Behind the boat shaped viharn is the ubosot, the building where monks get ordained. The structure has a multi tiered roof with chofahs in the shape of stylized Nagaserpents decorating its roof edges. Other buildings on the temple grounds include a large meeting hall, several offices and libraries and the kuti, the monks living quarters.