WAT SANAM CHAI (วัดสนามไชย)
Wat Sanam Chai is located off the main island on the west side of the city. It can be
found in close proximity east of
Wat Chai Watthanaram. In fact, a small footpath
connects both temples, and boats can easily dock on either site along the Chao Phraya

Wat Sanam Chai is an active temple. Its ubosot was built from the remains of the
structure that preceded it. A number of ceramic plates from China decorate the front
entrance. According to monks at this temple, these plates originated from the Late
Ayutthaya period, but were incorporated into the temple’s design in modern times. Some
portions of the wall existed in ancient times as well, but these have also been rebuilt for
the new monastery.

The courtyard of Wat Sanam Chai includes several chedi from the Ayutthaya period.
One of these monuments, in particular, has great historic significance. Behind the central
ubosot is a Mon-like structure. This chedi is unlike any other in the city. It has multiple
layers that get smaller at each level (like a pyramid). The chedi is hollow inside, and there
is an altar within that showcases three old Buddha images in perfect condition. The bright
red-bricks of this structure have greatly eroded, but the general structure has remained

Monks at this temple have explained the historical background of this chedi. It was
originally build sometime during the White Elephant Wars. In 1549, the Burmese King
Tabinshwehti invaded Ayutthaya after King Chakkraphat refused to present him with the
gift of a white elephant. After a series of wars that followed, Siam was finally conquered
by the Burmese in 1569 and became a vassal state. King Maha Thammaracha, who had
a Mon background, was proclaimed the new king. The Mon-like chedi was built during
the military conflicts to commemorate the Burmese soldiers that had died in battle. It had
stood as a lone monument for years. Once Burmese finally claimed victory, a full
monastery was built at this location.

A French map drawn in 1691 by Simon de La Loubere points out that a Mon
community lived in the area around Wat Sanam Chai. This may provide some evidence
to collaborate the story. However, Royal Chronicles do not provide any additional
information about Wat Sanam Chai’s construction.
Text by Ken May - August 2009
Photographs & maps by Tricky Vandenberg - February 2014
View of Wat Sanam Chai
(View of Wat Sanam Chai)
The ordination hall seen from the east
(The ordination hall seen from the east)
View of Wat Sanam Chai
(View of Wat Sanam Chai)
The chedi of Wat Sanam Chai
(The chedi of Wat Sanam Chai)
Detail of a 19th century map
Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno 1926
Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy Sam Chao
Phraya Museum)
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)