It’s not every day you board a cable car to visit a temple, but then again Wat Niwet Thamprawat is no ordinary temple. Located on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Ayutthaya, Wat Niwet Thamprawat is the only Buddhist temple in Thailand which is designed to look like a Western cathedral.
The temple can be reached by taking an antiquated cable car — operated by monks — across the Chao Phraya River. If you’re planning a visit to nearby Bang Pa-In Palace, be sure to make time too for this unusual and historic temple.
Design of Wat Niwet Thamprawat
Construction of Wat Niwet Thamprawat was completed in 1878 during the reign of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V). With his penchant for European architecture, the Siamese monarch employed the services of an Italian architect, Joachim Grassi, to design the building which served as the royal temple for Bang Pa-In Palace on the opposite side of the river.
Built in the Gothic Revival style, Wat Niwet Thamprawat includes a number of details you would expect to see in a Christian church rather than a Buddhist temple with the spires and stained glass windows providing a striking contrast to the standard design features seen at other Thai temples.
The main Buddha image rests on a plaster base which is designed in the shape of a cross. A separate shrine houses an ancient seated stone Buddha image that is believed to date back around a thousand years.
Wat Niwet Thamprawat was one of many European influenced structures that were built during the reign of King Chulalongkorn. Known as the modernising monarch, King Chulalongkorn was a man ahead of his time and remains a revered figure in Thailand to this day. Visitors to Wat Niwet Thamprawat pay homage at statues of the king with his image also featuring on one of the stained glass windows.
The spacious temple grounds feature a large Bodhi tree with branches spreading out over a seated Buddha image. The grounds also contain a stone garden with relics of Prince Damrong Rajanubhab. The prince was a half-brother of King Chulalongkorn and became one of the king’s most trusted advisors who played a key role in reforms that helped modernise Siam. A renowned scholar and skilled administrator, the prince is credited with many achievements. He promoted Thai history, literature, arts and culture and is remembered as the founder of the modern Thai educational system.
How to get to Wat Niwet Thamprawat
Wat Niwet Thamprawat is located opposite Bang Pa-In Palace in Ayutthaya. With the temple located over the river, the most convenient way to access it is to take the cable car. The old-fashioned looking system of pulleys works well with the system operated by monks from the temple which all adds to the charm of a visit here. To reach the cable car, head to the main car park area adjacent to the front entrance of Bang Pa-In Palace. Wat Niwet Thamprawat is open daily from 8am-6pm. There is no charge to enter the temple or to use the cable car, but donations are encouraged to enable the maintenance of the cable car.