Wat Ratchaburana

Another view of the central sanctuary. Note the carved panel in the false door View of the central sanctuary. Note the carved panel in the false door

Wat Ratchaburana sits right next to Wat Mahathat, in the symbolic center of the old city. Established in 1424 by King Boromaraja II, the temple was built to hold the ashes of his elder brothers, who killed each other in battle - on elephant back - fighting over the throne.

The temple's tall prang is better preserved that Wat Phra Ram, with many nagas, garudas and other statues beautifully rendered in stucco.

Some of the murals from the tiny treasure chamber Some of the murals from the tiny treasure chamber

The temple was the center of a modern-day crime caper worthy of Hollywood. In 1956, the authorities decided to excavate the ruins of Wat Mahathat's central tower, which had collapsed many years before, after reports of precious items being found were heard. What they found was an absolute treasure of artifacts buried deep in a shaft at the center of the old prang.

Inspired by this, some clever thieves reasoned that the tower of Wat Ratchaburana might hold such a treasure as well. Some time in 1957, they managed to penetrate the vault hidden below the public chamber and made off with a small fortune in gold and gems found there. Fortunately the burglars were arrested before they could dispose of most of the loot, and the stolen items, along with more grave items recovered from the pit, can now be seen in the Chao Sam Phraya Museum near Wat Phra Ram.

Perhaps because of this notoriety, the tower at Wat Ratchaburana is one of the few that remains open to the public. You can climb up to the chamber about half-way up the prang, where the public in ancient times would come to pray. Perhaps unbeknown to them, immediately beneath the chapel was a sealed chamber decorated with painted murals. There was yet another tiny chamber below this, decorated with more elaborate murals and holding a stone casket containing many small amulets and other items, mostly made of gold. These items surrounded a small reliquary holding a Buddha relic. A steep narrow stairway was built from the main chamber to access the two lower chambers when the tower was excavated.

Admission Fees

There is a fee of 50 Baht (1.30 USD) to enter the grounds of Wat Ratchaburana. The temple is open from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm every day.