WAT KAI TIA (วัดไก่เตี้ย)
Wat Kai Tia is located off the city island in the south part of Ayutthaya. It is situated
even further south than
Khlong Takhian in the Ban Run District. The closest landmark is a
new bridge crossing the
Chao Phraya River from Highway 3469 to Highway 3447,
which is the easiest way to find it. Wat Kaitia is on the western bank of the Chao Phraya
River. A small island named Ko Rian is situated opposite of it. Wat Kai Tia marks the
southernmost perimeter of this website’s research.  

Wat Kai Tia is an active countryside monastery with all the usual structures required to
deliver religious services to the lay community. Most of its buildings are recent
construction. The oldest structure on site is a staircase leading to nowhere. The sermon
hall that it was formerly attached is long gone. The current ordination hall also looks like it
was built in the Bangkok period; however, an old Buddha image sits at its entrance.

Visitors will note that there is building in situ that houses a large quantity of ceramic
pottery, terracotta kitchenware, and a variety of forged knives and blades. They will also
see several large anchors made of wood near the river. These artifacts are connected to a
story that has spawned a great deal of urban folklore. A few decades ago, Ayutthaya
authorities were shocked by the amount of old artifacts turning up at the Hua Ro market.
Their investigations eventually revealed that this merchandise was being hauled out of a
ship that had wrecked in front of Wat Kai Tia. In order to preserve these precious
goods, a small museum was built on the premises of the monastery so that it could be
properly showcased. The ceramics, metalwork, and wooden anchors supposedly
originated from this sunken ship.

From this basic information, there have been many ideas promoted about the ship and its
treasure. One version is that Wat Kai Tia was used as a place for loading elephants onto
boats for transportation abroad, and that the ship capsized due to the weight of its cargo.
A second spin-off is that this ship was the remains of an ancient Chinese junk. A
disillusioned Chinese princess jumped into the river and drowned in front of
Wat Phanan
Choeng. The crew could not save her because it was forbidden for commoners to touch
Royal family members. As punishment, holes were drilled into the ship and the crew was
killed as it sunk. It allegedly floated downstream over the centuries until settled at the
banks of Wat Kai Tia. A third version is that a monk at this temple had a reoccurring
dream in which it was revealed that the ship was buried deeply in the mud along with a
Buddha image that needed rescue. These urban myths have grown strong and tend to
ignite superstitions. As a result, it is common to see Thais rubbing dust onto the wooden
anchors to predict winning numbers on lottery tickets.

Nevertheless, some locals have a more cynical take on this story. It is sometimes
suggested that the entire ship was a fabrication, and that its discovery was just an excuse
to quickly sell plundered or inauthentic merchandise. The truth about the sunken ship and
its merchandise has yet to be revealed, but there is a community of treasure hunters in the
city that continue to dive into its rivers. This community used to be based at the harbor
Pom Phet, but they have relocated to Khlong Mueang, where they are
headquartered. Given that Ayutthaya was a center of maritime trade, it is quite believable
that many ships have yet to be uncovered.  A major underwater archeology project could
prove very useful.

There is not much known about the history of Wat Kai Tia. The Dutch East Indian
Company (VOC) planted orchards near this temple on the opposite side of the Chao
Phraya River. In addition, many boats docked nearby at a small canal running beside Ko
Rian. It was a good place to stop before moving to the city’s main harbor.

The Ayutthaya Historical Studies Center points out that there were five toll houses
(Khanon) located within the boundaries of the ancient city. One of the most important toll
houses was situated south of this monastery. This toll house is where all the foreign
merchants were required to stop to have cargo inventoried. During the reign of King
Songtham (1610-1628), three clauses were added to Royal Criminal Law (36, 37, &
38) that prohibited the smuggling of contraband as well as the evasion of trade tax.
Vessels traveling along this canal were required to stop and pay tax. Harsh penalties
faced those who violated this law including expensive fines and the confiscation of
merchandise (Chatthip 44).

Royal Chronicles mention a temple by this name in relation to the digging of a canal. A
short cut was dug beside the Monastery of Kai Tia at the rear of the Village of the Three
Knolls (Cushman 394). There is a small irrigation canal named "Khlong Wat Kaitia" that
provides river water to inland rice fields; however, it should be clarified that the Royal
Chronicles are referring to a totally different temple - one that is closer to Bang Pa-in and
Bang Sai. This shared name has led to much confusion.
Text by Ken May - September 2009
Photographs by Tricky Vandenberg and Ken May
Addendum by Tricky Vandenberg - September 2009
Updated November 2016
(More wooden ship anchors at the premises)
View of the ordination hall
Old Meru or open crematorium on the premises
More wooden ship anchors at the premises
Old wooden ship anchor
Small museum at the monastery
Old staircase
(View of the ordination hall)
(Old "meru" or open crematorium on the premises)
(Small museum at the monastery)
(Old wooden ship anchor)
(Old elephant staircase)

The name of the monastery is related to its location being Ban Kai Tia or the Village of the Short Chicken. The latter can be found on the map of the
French missionary Lombard.

The premises of this temple harbours a few old and huge Siamese anchors. Some unfortunately start to decay. De La Loubère wrote the following in
is his "A New Historical relation of the Kingdom of Siam" about the anchors the Siamese use for their ships:

"They have iron mines which they know how to melt, and some have inform’d me that they have but little thereof; besides they are bad
forge-men. For their Gallies they have only wooden anchors, and to the end that these anchors may sink to the bottom, they fasten stones
unto them."

Ken May in his last paragraph refers to a canal dug beside the Monastery of Kaitia at the rear of the Village of the Three Knolls (Cushman 394).

"Coming closer in time [CF: ,] [D: to] 970 of the Royal Era, a year of the monkey, [C: ____] [DF: tenth] of the decade, during the reign
of that Supreme Holy Lord and Upholder of the Law, one place, the Canal of the Shortcut, beside the Monastery of the Kaitia at the rear of
that Village of the Three Knolls, was accordingly ordered to be dug."

This paragraph of the Royal Chronicles refers to the digging of Khlong Lat Kret Yai. In 1608, King Ekathotsarot (reign 1605-1610/11) ordered
Khlong Lat Kret Yai dug in a loop of the Chao Phraya River from Wat Kaitia below Sam Khok until Wat Makham in Ban Klang, Pathumthani. The
loop was transformed into two canals being Khlong Bang Phrao and Khlong Bang Luang Chiang Rak. The journey was reduced from 18 to 7
kilometers. This was the third shortcut in the Chao Phraya River. [2]

Wat Kai Tia is situated in geographical coordinates: 14° 18' 40.19" N, 100° 33' 54.12" E.


[1] A New Historical relation of the Kingdom of Siam - Simon de La Loubere (1713) - page 15.
[2] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 394 / Source: British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat & Royal
Autograph - History of Canal Digging.
[3] The Chao Phya, River in Transition - Steve Van Beek - Oxford University Press (1995) - page 39.