On the west bank of the river lies Wat Kalayanamitr, the “true friend” temple. Located right on the riverfront of the Thonburi district, this temple is unmissable when going up the river. Its distinct elaborate roof tinted with gold, orange, red and green is a stark contrast to its white-washed walls. The main hall, with its surrounding smaller but equally ornate structures, forms a temple compound worth visiting.
Upon closer inspection inside, one will find a poem is inscribed and reads “True friend temple was built by a close friend of the King / As glorious, beautiful, and prominent as the city of heaven / It is respected and worshipped by all people / Because it is cherished by the Chakri Dynasty King”. This clue points to its history: in the late 1820s, Chao Phraya Nikon Bodin, a nobleman with ties to King Rama III, donated his land to establish the temple. Overtime, he bought neighboring lands around the original temple to expand it. In honor of his memory, a large chedi containing his relics was erected on the south side of the temple grounds.
Visitors to this temple will find it more focused on the rituals taking place rather than receiving tourists and playing host. One can witness Buddhists focusing on puja – devotional acts that include bowing, chanting, and making offerings. Monkhood remains an important process here. The temple has an expansive monks’ residence and one of Bangkok’s largest Buddhist libraries, making it a very active center for the local Buddhist community.