A short walk from Wat Prayoon or the Princess Mother Memorial Park is the large temple of Wat Pichai Yathikaram. You can see the towering prang of the temple from the river, but in fact the temple itself is a somewhat forgotten corner of old Bangkok and is worth a visit if you're checking out some of the other sights in this part of the city.
There's no record of when the temple was originally built. It was almost certainly during the time when Ayutthaya was the capital of Siam and the area around the temple was the main port for goods destined for the capital. What is known is that the temple was deserted by the time Bangkok became the capital in the late 18th century.
Around 1830, early in the Bangkok period, a high ranking official (Lord Bunnag) in the court of Rama III came across the temple and decided to rebuild it and present the restored temple to the king. The restored temple is what you see today.
Like most Thai temples, the temple buildings lie within a large rectangular enclosure. Here the plan is easier to see since the courtyard is relatively uncluttered by too many later additions.
You enter the temple through a gate in the middle of one short side. Along the outer wall on either side of the gate are lines of Buddha figures. A central walkway leads from the gate to the ubosot. On either side of this walkway, about halfway between the gate and the ordination hall, are two large chedi.
The outside of the ubosot is very Chinese in flavor. This was the fashion of the time, when Siam became friendly with China to help counter western influences. There's a sort of large foyer on the front of the ordination hall. It must be an addition to the original, since it encloses the front sema marker of the ubosot. There is in fact sort of an altar in front of, and sort of incorporating, the sema stone's small shrine.
Inside the ubosot's main hall is a huge well lighted Buddha image on an elaborate altar. While the Buddha and its altar are very bright and shiny, the wall paintings were once extremely deteriorated. The entire ordination hall was restored a few years ago and now everywhere you look is rich with detail.
Behind the ubosot a couple of stairs lead up to a large open space. The temple's wiharn originally stood. The wiharn apparently suffered badly and by early in the 20th century had become so deteriorated that the original builder's descendant gave permission for it to be torn down and removed. There's now a mostly open-air building on the site.
On the other side of the open space is the high platform topped with three towering prangs. These were built by Lord Bunnag to contain his family's ashes. A central stairway leads up to the platform, and then on up to the sanctuary of the center and largest prang. Inside the sanctuary, four Buddha images look out in each of the four directions. Stairs on either side of the sanctuary lead up to the chapels within the smaller prangs, one of which has a Buddha footprint sculpture, while the other has a seated Bodhisattva image.
You can reach Wat Pichai Yathikaram by taking the Chaophraya River Express Boat to the Memorial Bridge pier. Cross the bridge and take the stairs down to the river-front road and turn right. This road leads under the new bridge and curves around to parallel the bridge ramp. Follow it all the way to the end, and Wat Pichai Yathikaram is on the other side of the main road. See our area map for more information.