Wat Samphran: how to get to the "dragon temple” + what to know before you visit

Wat Samphran in Bangkok, commonly referred to as “the Dragon Temple”, stands out amongst the many other temples in the Thai capital. So much so that, despite my ten million previous trips to Bangkok, I paused when scrolling through my phone because I had never even heard of this towering pink temple with a green dragon wrapped around its outside. How on earth had I missed this place?!

Luckily, I saw an Instagram story about Wat Samphran on of my favourite Instagram accounts, Once Upon a Journey.

Immediately, I added it to my never-ending list of things to do “the next time I’m in Bangkok.” Which is inevitable, given it’s a major flight hub in Asia.

The problem is, Wat Samphran is a real pain in the ass to get to. Especially, if you are visiting during Songkran…when motorbike rental shops are closed. But determined travelers, like me, find a way— and I did!


READ ON FOR ALL INFO ON THIS HIDDEN TEMPLE


WIRES HANGING AROUND THE TEMPLE MAKE IT HARD TO DO IT JUSTICE IN A PHOTO

WIRES HANGING AROUND THE TEMPLE MAKE IT HARD TO DO IT JUSTICE IN A PHOTO

A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN IN BANGKOK, THAILAND
A PHOTO FROM RIGHT UNDERNEATH WAT SAMPHRAN NEAR BANGKOK, THAILAND

A PHOTO FROM RIGHT UNDERNEATH WAT SAMPHRAN NEAR BANGKOK, THAILAND


a little about wat samphran

This 17-storey temple once required stairs to get up to the top, but now there’s a walkable tunnel that leads you up to the very top. The temple grounds are home to multiple animal-shaped buildings and statues, including an elephant, a turtle, and a rabbit. All of these have significance in Buddhist culture and folklore.

In 2004, the Buddhist clergy at Wat Samphran were involved in a sexual misconduct scandal. The former abbott, who has since been serving a prison sentence of 160 years, was found guilty of rape. Because of this, the temple was closed to the public for some time. I didn’t know the details of the scandal before arriving at Wat Samphran, just that there was one. I felt horrified after reading more about what occurred, but I don’t believe in boycotting the place now that the abbott has been removed and those involved have been arrested. I know a prison sentence does not fix anything for the victims, but I think it speaks volumes that something at all was done, considering the number of priests who get moved from parish to parish without so much as a slap on the wrist.

THIS TURTLE CONTAINS A WALKWAY THAT LEADS TO A POND

THIS TURTLE CONTAINS A WALKWAY THAT LEADS TO A POND


how to get to wat samphran

The temple isn’t actually in Bangkok. It’s located 40 kilometers to the west, which makes it about an hour away in the Bangkok traffic.

EASIEST ROUTE- Getting a Grab taxi is the easiest way to get to Wat Samphran. The ride will cost you about USD $20 roundtrip, which is fine if you’re splitting the bill, like I was. If you’re a solo traveler or on a tighter budget, I’d highly recommend an alternative {below}.

CHEAPEST ROUTE- Those who are experienced on navigating two wheels in traffic, consider renting a motorbike. For approximately USD $8 for the entire day, you can rent a motorbike and drive yourself out to Samphran. Aren’t any good on a motorbike? Take the BTS to Bang Wa Station and get a Grab taxi from there. This will cut your costs significantly.

NEED HELP NAVIGATING? I’VE PINNED THE TEMPLE + THE NEAREST BTS STATION BELOW!


A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN IN BANGKOK, THAILAND

making your way around the temple

The complex is actually quite big and, if you decide to make the trip, you should definitely give yourself a minimum of an hour {I stayed for nearly 3}. At one end of the temple complex, you have Wat Samphran and its guardian dragon. At the other, you have a turtle cove that leads to a pond down a concrete tunnel. In between the two, there’s a beautiful statue of a white elephant. Near the elephant statue is a staircase that leads up a level to a golden Buddha, which is also the best place to grab a photo from. The day I visited, there were hundreds of locals celebrating Songkran. There was even a walking meditation procession with monks and novices from all over Thailand and visiting from Myanmar. All of the clergy ate in an outdoor dining hall near a giant rabbit figure. It truly would take multiple hour to see the grounds in completion.


temple etiquette

It goes without saying that when you visit any holy site, you should act accordingly. Dressing modestly is required {knees, shoulders, cleavage covered}. You should not climb the dragon or the outside of the temple. It’s also not appropriate to shout or play music. Taking off your shoes where signage indicates to do so is a sign of respect.

A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN, BANGKOK, THAILAND

photo facade

I hate to be the bringer of bad news, fam, but Wat Samphran is terribly hard to get a good photo at. Perhaps it shows all the ways I need to grow with photography and my editing style, which has started to change drastically from bright and exposed to darker and moodier since visiting the temple.

Mostly though, I think others who have snapped up pics here will tell you that it takes a heap of photoshop know-how to eliminate all the bits and bobs that detract from the temple itself. Low-hanging wires, tarps set up to provide shade that are not at all aesthetically-pleasing,

My advice? Come here to take in a really funky temple and all the animal-shaped buildings in the complex, but arrive knowing that this is not a “photo stop" that will live up to its hype on your Bangkok itinerary.

A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN IN BANGKOK, THAILAND

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A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN, BANGKOK, THAILAND
A GUIDE TO WAT SAMPHRAN IN BANGKOK, THAILAND