The 32-meter (100-foot) tall standing Buddha of Wat Indrawiharn used to be visible from just about any high vantage point around the old city. Now it's hidden behind the new buildings from Thailand's boom years of the 1980s and 90s.
Not that it's any great loss. The giant Buddha statue is a rare example of Thai religious art failing to live up the the graceful lines it's known for. The statue is flattened and thus very unrealistic. It's still an impressive work, and popular as a place of homage for some Thais.
Although the statue may fail to completely impress, the ubosot is beautifully decorated. Of particular interest are the intricately carved pink sema stones. Also of note is the wall enclosing the ubosot on three sides. The inside of the wall is lined with glass-fronted shelves holding benjarong funerary urns.
The interior of the ubosot has some beautiful Buddha images as well as some interesting, if a bit cartoonish, murals. Note also the gilded shutters on the windows.
A temple was first founded on this site in the early eighteenth century, when Ayutthaya was still the capital of Siam. After the fall of Ayutthaya and the rise of Bangkok, King Rama I resettled some of the Lao royal family - who had rebelled after the fall of Ayutthaya - in the area, which was then known for many years as 'Lao Village'. One of the princes was a devout Buddhist, and more or less adopted the temple, giving it what became its current name.
The giant statue was begun in 1867, but not completed until 60 years later in 1927. In 1978 some Buddha relics that had been gifted from Sri Lanka were placed inside the statue, and in 1982 the statue got its current covering of gold mosaics, imported from Italy, for the royal city's bicentennial celebrations. The stairway up the side of the supporting structure is rarely open, but when it is you can ascend to the Buddha's shoulders to get an interesting view of this somewhat sleepy part of Bangkok.
Wat Indrawiharn is the site of an annual temple fair which is usually held during the first 10 days of March every year.
The easiest way to reach Wat Indrawiharn is by boat to the Rama VII Bridge or Tewet Piers. From the Rama VIII Bridge Pier, walk up the small street away from the river until you reach the main street (Samsen Road). Turn left and walk towards the ramp to the bridge which crosses over Samsen Road. Cross Samsen and under the ramp, then turn right to walk up the road parallel to the ramp (Wisut Kasat Road). The temple entrance will be on your left.
From the Tewet Pier, walk away from the river along Krung Kasem Road. You'll be walking past the Tewet Garden Market, which is definitely interesting. Once you reach the main street (also Samsen Road), turn right. You will need to cross to the east side of the road when traffic permits. There is a small Thai arch marking the entrance to Wat Indrawiharn from Samsen Road. This entrance is via a very narrow alley which can give you an interesting insight into how people used to live in Bangkok.
No matter which way you get to the temple, we recommend that you exit to Wisut Kaset Road and walk along it all the way down to the river. Here you'll see the Bang Khun Phrom Palace, now the offices of the Bank of Thailand. See our interactive map of what's nearby for additional ideas.