If you go to Thailand, you’re going to see lots of Buddha statues, but if there’s one that takes the cake it’s definitely the massive solid gold Buddha in Bangkok’s Wat Traimit. Note: it is not simply covered in gold—like the massive reclining Buddha at Wat Pho—the whole statue IS gold! And best of all, it has an equally outrageous story to go along with it.
Golden Buddha at Wat TraimitWhere: Traimit Road at the edge of Chinatown
Hours: 9:00am–5:00pm, seven days a week
Entrance fee: 40 baht
Time: less than 1 hour
When Bangkok was established as the Thai capital in the early 1800s, King Rama I ordered Buddha statues from ruins across to country to come to his new capital to be displayed in temples there. A few decades later, a large stucco-covered Buddha statue was brought from the ruins of Ayutthaya and housed in an unassuming wat for a century. When that wat fell into disrepair, it was moved to Wat Traimit in 1935.
Later, in the 1950s, the statue had to be moved to another building at Wat Traimit, and it was during this move that a startling discovery was made. The ropes supporting the statue broke and it fell to the ground, causing some of the plaster to chip away and reveal a surprising golden secret underneath. The rest of the plaster was removed and the workers discovered that the statue was no mere stucco sculpture—it was actually solid gold!
Needless to say, the discovery caused quite a bit of excitement. Since then it has been proudly displayed at Wat Traimit with another new building opening in 2010 to showcase the statue. At 10 feet (3 meters) high, and weighing 5.5 tons, it’s estimated the gold in the statue is worth more than $250 million dollars. The body has the lowest level of purity, with the head at a higher purity level and the topknot almost 100% pure gold.
What a secret to discover! Scholars believe that it was probably covered in plaster to prevent its theft when Burmese invaders destroyed Ayutthaya. Great foresight by those keepers helped preserved the statue to keep it in Thailand where it belongs.
There’s not much else to see at Wat Traimit besides the golden Buddha, so if you’re looking to fill the rest of your afternoon, walk over to nearby Chinatown. Spend some time getting lost in the alleys connecting the main streets and peruse a number of exotic goods for sale, and for the intrepid, street vendors will be cooking up authentic dishes. It’s also a good spot to do some souvenir shopping, with medicinal teas, incense and soaps aplenty.
Initially not high on our list, we’re glad we made time to see the gold Buddha at Wat Traimit. Combining it with a visit to Chinatown made for a good way to spend an afternoon in Bangkok.