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The David Beckham Temple @ Wat Pariwat, Bangkok

Thai Tour: Day 12

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Wat Pariwat, Bangkok. The David Beckham statue can be found behind the upper door of the building in the picture.

For how to get to the temple and how to find the David Beckham statue, see the info at the bottom of the post.

An Unlikely Likeness

I’d heard about Bangkok’s David Beckham temple a while back. I’d read stories about a forgotten corner of a forgotten temple outside of town where a golden statue of his likeness had been built into the altar. It was a likeness that, by all accounts, bore only a passing resemblance to the man himself. And though no one was exactly sure where it was or how to get there, it certainly existed. Of that, the internet was sure.

Located at Wat Pariwat, some way off the usual tourist track, the temple has recently been made much easier to get to thanks to the latest of Bangkok’s myriad acronymed public transport options, the BRT bus service. From the Sathorn bus stop at Chong Nonsi station, it is now only seven stops and not much more than fifteen minutes to the temple’s entrance, where I swiftly set about my task.

Being Sunday, there was plenty going on when I arrived. People were offering food and flowers to their respective gods. Others were busy sticking their tiny pieces of gold paper onto the three already-covered-in-gold-paper statues standing in a covered area beside the main temple building. There were kiosks selling drinks and ice cream. Kids were running round as if it was a playground. While a couple of grandmas busied themselves putting the finishing touches to a floral display. It was all far more lively than my research had led me to believe.

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A young boy sticks gold paper onto a giant Ferrero Rocher

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Hippy gods in sunglasses – not the strangest thing I saw all day

Not the most templey of temples

Admittedly, that research hadn’t been as extensive as it could have been. I’d figured out how to get to the temple and thought not too further beyond that. How difficult could one statue be to find? But as I made my way between the different temple buildings, taking photos of the various goings on as I went, I started to wonder not so much where the hell this statue was, but whether I was even at the right temple at all.

It didn’t look the most temple-like temple I’d ever seen. Many of the buildings were in the process of being refurbished and those that weren’t didn’t look especially ancient. There was a half-built courtyard in the middle, all cement and wet paint, while the largest building in the complex looked more like a warehouse with a temple roof than a genuine place of worship. Add to this the makeshift car park that seemed to have formed around the site, and it wasn’t long before I was searching for some sign that this was indeed the place.

I decided to check-out the courtyard, for what it was worth. At least if this wasn’t the place, I would have had a decent look around while I was there. Two small temples surrounded by scaffolding stood in the middle of a large walled quadrangle. There were loose bricks and paint pots; a half-finished doorway. It was, by all appearances, a building site. I’m not sure the area was open to visitors, but as there was nobody around to raise any objections, I walked over to the largest of the two buildings and had a look inside. What I found was extraordinary.

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Introducing possibly the greatest temple in the world

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“Like a Buddhist Sistine Chapel”

The Sistine Chapel of Thai temples

Half-finished, there was no floor other than a dusty concrete base, but the walls and ceiling were unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Figures and frescoes decorated with tiny pieces of coloured ceramic lined the walls. There were strange scenes and chandeliers, all surrounded a golden Buddha statue seated on the altar at the far end. It was as an ornate display of temple artistry as I’d seen in Bangkok, Chiang Mai or anywhere else in the previous two weeks – like a Sistine Chapel of Thai temples.

Impressive as the building was, however, it was the sheer oddness of what had been chosen to be displayed that was most mystifying. Who, for instance, would have made the decision that “what this temple needs, is a ceramic likeness of Jackie Chan in the guise of a sea god”? Or who would have thought that a grinning lobster, Albert Einstein, Che Guevara, a pirate, a gun-slinging cowboy and Donald Duck were entirely appropriate images for a place of worship? I’d come in search of David Beckham, but found perhaps the most bizarre temple ever constructed.

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Albert Einstein … in a temple!?!?

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They come alive at night

So where was David?

I spent a good ninety minutes at Wat Pariwat. But I never did find David. I checked in every building I could find, but the only conclusion I could reach was that David was no more, replaced instead with the pirate adventure temple that had so confused me only minutes before.

It wasn’t an entirely wasted journey. In fact, far from it. When you find a temple containing a Buddha at who’s feet a mermaid Jackie Chan and a cartoon snail sit, when you uncover a child’s dream constructed in temple form, who cares that you didn’t find a statue that looks nothing like an ex-footballing underwear model?

But unbeknown to me, David was there, hiding behind the one locked door that I didn’t get beyond. Remember that warehouse with the temple roof? The one with the steps that led up to the padlocked door? I left convinced he’d been replaced, knocked off his pedestal by a shampoo selling Communist sympathiser, yet he was there all along. I’d found something far more wondrous instead. But it’ll take another trip to Bangkok before I can finally call Wat Pariwat done.

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Jackie Chan … anyone?

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Che Guevara, just one of the curious characters that decorated the exterior of the other temple in the courtyard

How to get to Wat Pariwat

Wat Pariwat is located at stop B7 of Bangkok’s BRT bus service.

The easiest way to get to the temple is to take the bus from the Sathorn stop at Chong Nonsi BTS station (B1) and it will drop you right outside the temple at the Wat Pariwat stop (B7). You will be able to see the temple on your left as you approach.

How to find the David Beckham statue

The Wat Pariwat David Beckham statue can be found in the largest building on the site (see the image at the top of the page).

By all accounts, the door at the top of the steps is generally locked and the hall closed to visitors except during certain festivals, though if you can find someone to open it, being used to curious tourists, they will be more than happy to do so.

The image itself is part of the decoration on the altar at the far end of the hall. It can be found on the right-hand side of the base next to the rear wall. If I’d known all this before I went, I’d have the photographs to show it. But I guess it’s a good excuse to get back to Bangkok as soon as I can.

Get Involved: Have you been to the David Beckham temple? Did you find him? Is the crazy Jackie Chan temple finished yet? Let us know in the comment below.

Related Posts: For more posts from my recent Thai Tour, click tag: Thai Tour.

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Not quite a scene from the Nativity

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And finally, a cartoon lobster

One comment

  1. We just visited this afternoon! It was easy to find, thanks to your clear instructions. The ‘David Beckham Temple’ was still closed, and we didn’t bother to ask for it to open. The ‘Jackie Chan’ temple is still under construction, but already in use. What a visual feast!

    Our report (August 2017): Wat Pariwat — A cure for temple fatigue http://ricepotato.co/unique-temple-bangkok/

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