Wat Pa Fai, or the Monastery of the Cotton Grove (1), was a monastery located north of Ayutthaya at the extremity of the Pho Sam Ton fields in the Pho Sam Ton Sub-district of Bang Pahan in Ayutthaya Province.

The monastery was situated on the left bank of the old Lopburi River (aka Pho Sam Ton River) in Ban Khai. On the opposite river bank stood Wat Wara Nayok Rangsan, called Wat Khao Din in earlier times.

Wat Pa Fai was the most northern temple on the eastern bank in the Pho Sam Ton fields. It was near this temple that the old Lopburi river bed silted up, and the waterway found a new track into Khlong Ko Loeng (a stretch called the new Lopburi River at present) via the Phra Prasop waterway stretch.

In the area stands an open commemoration pavilion (sala) with a heavily restored Buddha image called Luang Pho Khok (หลวงพ่อโคก) and next to it some broken image fragments. The Buddha image is said to be reconstructed from the remnants of an old statue found at Wat Pa Fai.

On the opposite side of the road, south of the pavilion, there is another location with broken remnants of Buddha images, including a more or less intact Buddha head.

(View of the Sala of Wat Pa Fai - August 2011 CE)

Wat Pa Fai is mentioned in the epic poem "Khun Chang Khun Phaen": Phlai Kaeo received an order from the king to retake Chiang Thong from the Lao (Chiang Mai).

"They marched to the mouth of the Bang Lang Canal and crossed over to the side with houses. Porters dropped the loads which had bounced up and down until the frames loosened. They untied the shoulder poles to take a rest. As soon as they had eaten some winged beans, Phlai Kaeo ordered the troops to march on to the start of the route they would travel. ‘Unharness the elephant and horses and wait for me at the sala of Wat Pa Fai.’ The troops saluted their chief and moved off immediately." [1]

From the text, we can deduce that the northern route toward Kamphaeng Phet started at Wat Pa Fai. Wat Pa Fai must have been a temple of some importance. Locals said that the size of the temple grounds was between 30 and 35 Rai. (2)

The temple was situated on a bend of the Lopburi River at a confluence of waters. Not forget the Lopburi River was in the 17th century the main river surrounding the island of Ayutthaya, called Maenam. (see Bellin's map).

I did not found out yet where the story was born, but locals in the vicinity of Wat Pa Fai stated that on a day King Naresuan (reign 1590-1605 CE) went into war, a monk called "Bamrung" recited for him "Phahung" (the Phuttha Chaya Mongkhon kata) at Wat Pa Fai. Naresuan obtained, after that, victory over his enemies. This story could also be linked to Wat Pa Fai being positioned at the starting point of the northern (war) route. (3) [2]

Wat Pa Fai is also mentioned in the Chronicles of Ayutthaya when the northern Burmese army came down from Kamphaeng Phet in 1766 CE to attack the City of Ayutthaya. General Nemiao advanced with his land and boat forces to set up a main stockade near Wat Pa Fai in the present Ban Khai (village of the camp) on the western (right) bank of the Lopburi River.

"Meanwhile, Nemiao, the grand chief marshal, accordingly led his land army and his boat army on down from the Municipality of Kamphaeng Phet to join up with the army of Noekuancòbo and of the front brigades which had established a stockade at the Municipality of Nakhòn Sawan. Then he accordingly led them on down to the Holy Grand Metropolis and advanced to establish his main stockade in the vicinity of the Monastery of the Cotton Groves at the Mouth of the Merging Rivers." (4) [3]

The Siamese set up stockades in the Pho Sam Ton fields to attack the Burmese defences near Wat Pa Fai. The chronicles stated that "On that day, the groups of troops were so numerous they covered the entire surface of the plain.".

The Burmese drove back their horses across the river and sought refuge in their enclosure. The Siamese turned towards the Burmese stockade, but were received with a cannonade. Five or six Siamese were killed, and the Siamese army retreated to their own enclosures. In the evening, the Siamese ended the campaign and returned to the city. It was an abysmal performance, which would cost Ayutthaya dearly after.

"When chief marshals, important persons and unimportant persons, advanced forth to attack the Burmese stockades which had been established at the Monastery of the Cotton Groves at the Mouth of the Merging Rivers and had their men plait strips of sisuk bamboo [together into lattices] and carry [the lattices] away with them on their backs. “Regardless of where you build your stockades each person will take his sisuk bamboo [lattices], set them up in a line so they are close together, and then will dig up piles of dirt to take to hide [the lattices] to form stockades.” Now so many people advanced that day they filled the plain. On the edges of whatever place the chief marshals had their litters halted, they accordingly all halted together and waited to go on. When [the marshals] saw Burmese [from the stockade] of the Monastery of the Cotton Groves riding many horses across the river and heading towards their main stockade on the western banks, they thereupon drove their people forward to attack the Burmese. The Burmese within the stockade thereupon fired their guns forth, hitting and felling five or six people. All those people [belonging to the marshals] accordingly retreated [to their stockades] without exception. When it was evening they accordingly ended the campaign and came back." [4]

Prince Damrong Rajanubhab mentions Wat Pa Fai in the recount of the 1766-67 CE Burmese incursion in one of his documents. "As regards the forces under Nemiao Sihabodi which came down from the north, of those that came down from Muang Nakhon Sawan, some proceeded by way of Muang Chainat and some by way of Muang Uthai Thani and Muang San. They entered the boundaries of the circle of the capital in the third Siamese month (February) in the year of the cock, about the same time as the forces under Mang Maha Noratha. They established their camp at Wat Pa Fai at the mouth of the Phra Prasop river on the north side of the city." (5)[5]

The ruins of Wat Pa Fai were dismantled by the locals in the early 50s as there was a demand for bricks in expanding Bangkok. Boats and trucks came to the area to pick up all suitable construction materials. Not only bricks were broken out, but also large blocks of laterite, which were used for the foundation of the monastic buildings.

The former monastery was in geographical coordinates: 14° 26' 1.15" N, 100° 33 '9.71" E.

(Remnants of Buddha images of Wat Pa Fai - January 2013 CE)


(1) The historian and writer Chris Baker doubt that the real meaning of "Pa Fai" is "Cotton Grove", as cotton fields seem always to be called "Rai Fai". Pa is also used to indicate a location where something is made or sold (as we have many examples in the City of Ayutthaya: Wat Pa Fuk, Wat Pa Thon, ...). [6] Another possible translation would be "Monastery of the Cotton Quarter", indicating there was in this area cotton related manufacturing or maybe a cotton market. It could even have been a floating market, as often we find these markets at river or canal confluences. I followed here Cushman's translation in the Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya: Monastery of the Cotton Groves.

(2) I calculated the total surface of the former monastery on the directions given by the same locals on a map as approximately 10 Rai.

(3) On the Pho Sam Ton/Lopburi River stood the northern tax station. We will see further in the text that the Burmese army in 1766-67 CE, at the fall of Ayutthaya, encamped along this river, which means the river was strategically important for the movement of troops and logistics coming from (or going to) the north. A river was not only important for water transport, but also war elephants and horses as well troops needed water during their march.

(4) Wat Pa Fai stood at the "Mouth of the Merging Rivers". Near the monastery and in front of Wat Khao Din (Wat Wara Nayok Rangsan), the Lopburi River bent and turned towards Hua Ro. In this bend, a part of the waters of the Lopburi flowed into a canal coming from the direction of Maha Rat called Khloeng Ko Loeng in that area. This canal had its mouth at the Khu Khue Na (Front Moat) in front of the Chantra Kasem Palace (Front Palace). See Kaempfer's map.

(5) The Phra Prasop River is, in my opinion, the old name from the canal splitting off from the Lopburi River north of Wat Pa Fai and running towards Wat Sop Sawan, where it joined the canal mentioned in note (4). Wat Sop Sawan was the place where the body was found of a princess, who drowned after capsizing upstream. She was cremated on the spot, and the Sop Sawan Monastery was established as her memorial on the cremation site hence, this stretch of water is called the Phra Prasop River. "Phra Prasop" can be translated as the "Noble which suffered bad luck/misfortune". (Read more on the page of Wat Sop Sawan).


[1] Baker, Chris & Phongpaichit, Pasuk (2012). The Tale of Khun Chang Khun Phaen: Siam’s Great Folk Epic of Love and War.

[2] Interview with locals near Wat Pa Fai in Pho Sam Ton Sub-district - January 2013.

[3] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. p. 501.

[4] Ibid. pp. 504-6.

[5] Rajanubhap, Damrong (Prince) (1917). Our Wars with the Burmese. White Lotus, Bangkok (2000). p. 329.

[6] Mail exchange - 19 January 2013.