At Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai in Amphoe Bang Phli in Samut Prakan Province, you can join boat tours at the weekend along the Samrong Canal. The name “Bang Phli” dates back to the Ayutthaya period. In 1498, King Ramathibodi II commanded for Klong Samrong and Klong Thao Nang to be built. At the point where the two canals intersected, two images of deities were discovered. The king organized a ceremony to make offerings to these images. In Thai, “phli” means “offering” and so Bang Phli can translate as The Village of Offerings. Also during this period, legend says that a famous Buddha image, Luang Pho To, was seen floating down Samrong Canal. The legend says it was one of three brothers who were escaping the wars during the Ayutthaya period. Many villagers along the canal tried to entice the Buddha image to come ashore. None of them were successful until the image reached Bang Phli. Every year now, two days before the end of the Buddhist Retreat, the locals pay homage to this famous image.
My boat tour started at Wat Bang Phli Yai Nai. There are two trips you can take. Either “3 Temples” or “9 Temples”. The most common trip is the first one which lasts for two hours and costs only 40 baht per adult and 20 baht per child. They told me that they have 3-4 trips per day though on busier days they will put on more trips. The first boat leaves at 10 a.m. The tours only go at the weekend and during public holidays. However, you can rent a boat yourself for 1,200 baht. My tour guides were two junior high students. They only speak Thai so you will just have to make do with the scenary and fresh air. We passed quite a few lotus fields on the water. Literally thousands of these are needed for the pilgrims who come for the “rub bua” festival in October. We also saw a lot of waterside activity such as fishing and boating.
Strictly speaking, we only visited two temples as the first one was our starting point. The first stop was supposed to be Wat Bang Chalong Nok. However, as they were rebuilding the waterfront they took us up another canal to the nearby Wat Bang Chalong Nai. Nothing too impressive as temples go, but a good opportunity for me to stretch my legs. The Thai tour boats are not designed for the long legs of foreign tourists. I asked my tour guides if they have many foreigners on their tours and they said hardly at all. Usually they came with Thai girlfriends. We stayed at this temple for twenty minutes and then came back the same way. We stopped briefly by Wat Bang Chalong Nok where we were allowed to buy loaves of bread for 20 baht to feed some really massive fish.
We then came all the way back to our starting point then continued further up the canal the other way. Here we passed the Old Bang Phli Market which dates back more than 150 years to 1857. After your boat trip, you can eat your lunch here at the many restaurants along the canal. Our final destination was Wat Bang Phli Yai Klang. This is the home for the fabulous Reclining Buddha which is the longest in the country at 53 metres. Not only is it bigger than the one all the tourists go to in Bangkok, this one you can go inside. The highlight is the shrine for the heart of the Buddha. This is something unique which I have never seen before.
Bang Phli is very close to Suvarnabhumi Airport. In fact, they are both in the same district. If you are at the airport with some time to kill, why don’t you take a trip to Bang Phli. But be warned, it is unlikely that you will meet any other foreigner despite being so close to the entry point to millions of foreigners each year.