When you are travelling around Thailand and you use guidebooks such as Lonely Planet, you should never make the mistake of using it as a bible. Just because the guidebook lists five temples for a city, it doesn’t mean that other temples are not worth visiting. Sometimes you can find hidden gems that turn out to be the highlight. This temple called Wat Samphran that I discovered by accident is a classic example. You won’t find it in any guidebooks but the sight of this massive dragon wrapped around a building that is something like 17 storeys high is really mind blowing.
The other week I was driving along a familiar route to Nakhon Pathom. At Samphran, not long after the entrance to the Rose Garden, there is a statue for the Thai Police Force. A sign on the left said that this road leads down to the Police Academy close to the Nakhon Chaisi River. So, I thought I would go and do something different. I didn’t notice this dragon temple on the way down. I ended up at the Samphran District Office alongside the river. I made a note of the floating restaurants here. There weren’t many people there when I visited, but I thought it would be a nice place to eat towards the end of the day. Other than that, not much going on. So, I drove back up towards Highway 4. That was when I spotted this large building with a giant dragon wrapped around the outside.
I was compelled to go and take a look. However, if you want to take a picture like the first one, then you need to do so from afar. When I arrived I was greeted by some friendly nuns who excitedly gestured for me to go and take a closer look at the building. Inside there was a lift which was closed but I decided it would be worth climbing the stairs to the top. About a few floors up there was an entrance way which took us into the actual body of the dragon. I was tempted to climb to the top this way but it was dark and there were no signs of any lights. So, I continued climbing up the stairs. I think I got as far as the tenth floor when my way was blocked by a padlocked door. The place was pretty dirty on the inside and so I am not sure if many people actually use the inside of this building. On a couple of floors though it looked like some monks were living there. But there was an odour of something that smelled like bat droppings.
If you go to visit this temple then make sure that you also explore the grounds. There are also many other giant sculptures of various animals like an elephant, rabbit, dolphins and another large building in the shape of a tortoise! There are many hidden treasure here so explore the place thoroughly both upstairs and downstairs! To find the temple, take Highway 4 from Bangkok. Go past the Samphran Elephant Ground and the Rose Garden. You will soon go over a large bridge that crosses the river. A short while later you need to turn left where you will see a sign that says Police Academy. There is a statue here too. The small entrance to Wat Samphran is less than halfway down this road on the right. I have marked it for you on google maps. The next time you are exploring in Thailand, throw away the guidebook and get off the beaten track!