WAT SAPHAN KLUEA (วัดสะพานเกลือ)
This temple ruin is located on Ko Loi - an island situated in the north-eastern corner of
the city. Wat Saphan Kluea can be found in a residential area near the technical school.
It can only be accessed by boat while the water level is high, but a floating footbridge is
available during most other parts of the year. It is easier to find this monastery by starting
at the technical school. Warning: There are many territorial dogs on Ko Loi that are quite
willing to attack. Use caution when visiting.

Wat Saphan Kluea is split into two parts by a small walking path that runs through it. On
the side closest to the water is a large bell tower. This is in the Late-Ayutthaya period
style. It has two tiers with arched windows on each side. A miniature Khmer-style prang
serves as the bell tower’s spire. The brick and mortar structure is still in good shape, but
it is usually covered in heavy vegetation for most of the year. There is a surprising amount
of roof tile around the site. On the opposite side of the walking path, there is a small
shrine where a preaching hall used to be. This shrine has a five Buddha images inside –
all in the Taming Mara pose. There are some remains of old Buddha images beside the
shrine as well.

Salt was mined near Wat Saphan Kluea during the Ayutthaya period, which is partially
how it received this name. One French visitor, Simon de La Loubère, even complained
about the poor quality of the salt (de La Loubère 35). Many locals on Ko Loi insist that
the Burmese had encamped and constructed a causeway at this site - also contributing to
its name. This is still a subject of debate, but there may be some evidence within the
Royal Chronicles.

As King Chakkraphat was near his deathbed, Burma sensed its enemy’s weakness and
renewed efforts to siege Ayutthaya. In preparation, the King of Hongsawadi recruited a
Mon prince from Phitsanulok, Maha Thammaracha, to join the Burmese in battle against
the capital city. After King Chakkraphat died in 1569, King Mahin inherited the crown
and was quickly forced to deal with Burmese invaders. The King of Hongsawadi’s
armies began to encircle the city -- building stockades, constructing causeways, and
digging tunnels underneath the city’s moats and rivers. Prince Maha Thammaracha
attempted to attack Ayutthaya from the east as Burmese set up a stockade at Kaeo

Meanwhile, the son-in-law of the King of Ava tried to encamp and/or set up a stockade
"in the Vicinage of the Salt Bridge Monastery" (Cushman 65). Fortunately, Siamese
armies were able to kill many Burmese troops before the causeway could be completed.
As a consequence King Hongsawadi had his military officers severely punished.
Text & photographs by Ken May - August 2009
The bell tower of Wat Saphan Kluea
View from inside
Close-up from the bell tower

Phraya Boran Rachathanin wrote in the late twenties of last century that Wat Saphan
Kluea was a monastery with royal sponsoring (วัดหลวง) and stood empty at the time of
his writing.

There was a boat ferry between the monastery and a landing called Tha Phaet Tamruat
(ท่าแปดตำรวจ); a landing probably situated close to a guard or police post south of the
Front Palace. (1) [1]

The monastery is indicated on a
mid-19th century map in front of Wat Khwang Fortress
on the opposite side on the city island and near the confluence of the Front city canal and
the former
Khlong Sai. Wat Saphan Kluea is also mentioned on Phraya Boran
Rachathanin's map drafted in 1926.

Wat Saphan Kluea was one of the seven monasteries on Ko Loi (2). The other temples
Wat Monthop, Wat Khae, Wat Sri Jampa, Wat Ngu, Wat Khao San Dam and
Wat Inthawat.

Remark: In order to set history right on what is written in the article above, the ruler of
Phitsanulok Maha Thammaracha was certainly not of Mon descent. Maha Thammaracha
was born of a father descending of the Sukhothai kings and a mother belonging to the
Suphanburi dynasty. He allied with the Burmese to take Ayutthaya in 1569 and becoming
a Burmese vassal king for 15 years. He was the founding father of the Sukhothai Dynasty
reigning from 1569 until 1629. [2]

The paragraph of the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya regarding the first fall of
Ayutthaya in 1569 in which Wat Saphan Kluea is mentioned goes as follows:

"Now the King of Hongsawadi sent troops in to attack the stockade at the edge
of the river on the side of the Rattanachai [BCDF: Fort] Gate [E: Fort]. Phraya
Ram, Phraya Kalahom, Phra Insa, Phra Maha Thep, Phra Maha Montri, and all
the phra [B: luang, khun and mün] from the provinces [DEF: and all the] [DF:
khun and] [DEF: mün] helped each other and put their hearts into their official
work of fighting to defend the city and of not allowing the men of Hongsawadi to
hack their way inside. Phra Maha Thep sent volunteers [BCEF: out] to cut their
way through the men of Hongsawadi and routed them repeatedly. And the
conduct of the war fell behind schedule. The King of Hongsawadi was furious and
had the military officers taken and punished. Then, taking over direction of the
operation, he sent the Uparat to establish a stockade at Kæo Island in the
Vicinage of Din Mountain Monastery, the King of Ava, his son-in-law, [BDF: to
establish a stockade] [C: to encamp] [BCDF: in the Vicinage of
Salt Bridge
, the King of Prae, his nephew,] to establish a stockade at Ian Village
in the Vicinage of Can Monastery, and ordered them to expedite the construction
of dirt causeways across the river from each vicinage until they reached the other
side. The Uparat [BCDF: , the King of Ava] and the King of Prae came to
expedite the work in accordance with their orders. When the men of the Capital
and the officials saw what was happening, they brought up their cannon and
smaller guns to fire in salvos and killed the enemy in great numbers."

The remaining brickwork of Wat Saphan Kluea is located in geographical coordinates:
14° 21' 57.72", N 100° 34' 41.28" E.


(1) In Ayutthayan times there were twenty-two ferry routes. In the eastern area, the four
other crossings were: Tha Chang Wang Na to Tha Wilanda; south of
Wat Khwang to
Wat Nang Chi; south of Wat Pa Thon to Wat Phichai and north of Rachakrue Fortress
Wat Ko Kaeo. See "The Boat & Ferry Landings of Ayutthaya".
(2) Ko Loi or "Floating Island" is surrounded in the north by
Khlong Chong Lom, in the
east by the
Pa Sak River and in the west by the (new) Lopburi River. Khlong Chong
Lom has been dug in the early 20th century to reduce the whirlpools near
Wat Tong Pu
and the Chantra Kasem Palace, separating Wat Chong Lom from the eastern mainland.
As the Lopburi River and the Pa Sak River were joining near Wat Tong Pu and the
erosive force of the two rivers were destroying the embankment in front of the Chantra
Kasem Palace, the idea rose to deviate the Pa Sak River. This was done shortly after the
digging of Khlong Chong Lom. Khlong Sai, a  small canal cutting through the eastern
main land, from Wat Chong Lom to the present Ayutthaya Ship Building Industrial and
Technology College, was widened and deepened. The Pa Sak River instead of running in
front of Wat Tong Pu, changed its course and ran straight from
Wat Pa Kho to Wat
Phanan Choeng. [3]


[1] Athibai Phaenthi Phra Nakhon Sri Ayutthaya kap khamwinitjai khong Phraya Boran
Racha Thanin - Explanation of the map of the Capital of Ayutthaya with a ruling of
Phraya Boran Rachathanin - Revised 2nd edition and Geography of the Ayutthaya
Kingdom - Ton Chabab print office - Nonthaburi (2007) - page 91.[2] Discovering
Ayutthaya - Charnvit Kasetsiri & Michael Wright (2007) - page 190.
[3] The Quest for the Holy Water:
Ayutthaya's Ever-changing Waterways - Sequel I.
[4] The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya - Richard D. Cushman (2006) - page 64-5 /
Source: Phan Canthanumat, British Museum, Reverend Phonnarat, Phra
Cakkraphatdiphong & Royal Autograph - Hongsawadi Presses Its Attack.
Addendum & maps by Tricky Vandenberg - April 2011
Updated May 2011, May 2015
(The bell tower of Wat Saphan Kluea)
(Commemoration pavilion in situ)
(Close-up from the bell tower)
(View from inside)
Brick mound and vihara in situ
(Brick mound and vihara in situ)
Commemoration pavilion in situ
View of the bell tower from the Front City Canal
(View of the bell tower from the Front City Canal)
Detail of a 19th century map
(Detail of a 19th century map - Courtesy of the Sam
Chao Phraya Museum - map is orientated S-N)
Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno 1926
(Detail of Phraya Boran Rachathanin's map - Anno
Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map
(Detail of a 2007 Fine Arts Department GIS map -
Courtesy of the Fine Arts Department - 3th Region)