Wat Worachet is an active temple located off the city island in the western area of Ayutthaya in the Ban Pom Sub-district. Wat Worachet was not long ago only a site of a restored ruin, but after 2000 CE, monks settled down behind the ruins.

A Bangkok Post article (27 January 2008) reported that state authorities were taking action to evict illegal settlers at this temple. The Fine Arts Department charged three groups with infringing on the premises of Wat Worachet. These settlers started coming to this deserted site in 2003 CE to hold superstitious rituals for financial benefit. This group included a group of monks led by Phra Maha Singthon, a group of nuns, and a third group of mediums claiming supernatural powers. These settlers believed that the temple was built to commemorate King Naresuan, a fact unconfirmed by the Fine Arts Department. Attendance at these ritualistic ceremonies numbered in the thousands.

The attendance shocked the director of the provincial office of archaeology, Anek Sihamart, who believed that this encroachment on an ancient site could cost Ayutthaya its World Heritage Site status. The same group of nuns also got in trouble for using the area around the temple to treat patients who had drug addictions. The patients were kept in chains during treatment. As a result, the Fine Arts Department decided with the National Office of Buddhism to construct an active temple on-site and invite monks from other places to reside there. The new Wat Worachet was established in 2008 CE and, based on the Temple Registration System of the National Office of Buddhism, received its Wisung Kham Sima in 2013 CE. The ruin, though, dates to the Ayutthaya period.

The temple was situated in the Prachet Fields (Thung Prachet) and reached via Khlong Wat Pom. Khlong Wat Pom originated in the Ayutthaya era at the main canal leading to the Chao Phraya River (via Khlong Maha Phram) opposite a canal leading to Wat Phukhao Thong (Khlong Wat Worachet on some maps). It had its mouth at the Lopburi River surrounding Ayutthaya, likely somewhere between Wat Kasattrathirat and Wat Ratcha Pli. The mouth was near the south end of the Rear Palace on the opposite side, today the location of the Fine Arts Department 3rd Region. (1)

Khlong Wat Pom and Wat Worachet can be seen on a sketch of Engelbert Kaempfer. Kaempfer (1651-1716 CE) was a medical doctor working for the Dutch VOC (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) who surveyed the city of Ayutthaya in June 1690 CE. He indicates 2000 paces, or approximately 1500 metres, between Wat Worachet and the main river, which is still the distance measured today.

(View of the prang of Wat Worachet - November 2008 CE)

The Tourism Authorithy of Thailand (TAT) stated in 'Ayutthaya, a World Heritage' that "Chronicular accounts mention the founding of Wat Worachet Thep Bamrung in the reign of King Ekatosaroth in 1605. The record refers to the construction of a Buddha statue, viharn, chedi containing a relic of the Buddha, and monk's residential quarters, as well as the creation of copies of the Tri Pitaka, noting in the end that it was a Forest Sect monastery. Though the name Wat Worachet Thep Bamrung is evidently a newly created name, circumstantial evidence seems to confirm that it was set up in King Ekatosaroth’s reign. Its location to the northwest of and outside, the island city gives credence to its being designated a forest-sect Buddhist monastery, which the King might have established and dedicated to his brother King Naresuan who had passed away." TAT wrote that the prang at Wat Worachet represents the development of the principal tower during the middle Ayutthaya period and that this development features a tower, slender in shape, than those of the earlier period. The authors concluded that Wat Worachet must be dating to King Ekathotsarot's reign. [1]

"And the Holy-Feet-of-the-Supreme-Paramount-Refuge-Paramount-Reverence-and-Holy-Buddhist-Lord-Omnipotent made holy royal merit and observed the highest Way of piety. That is, to begin with, having built a holy and excellent chief temple—with a great preaching hall adorned with an image of the Holy Buddha, with a great stupa filled with a holy relic [of the Buddha], and completed with dormitories and a wall appropriate to the Forest Dwelling sect—He produced a complete edition of the holy Tripitaka, including both the [original] holy Pali [text] and all of the Atthakatha and Dika explanatory treatises. Thereupon, having finished preparing a Holy Hall of the Law, and having invited holy monks of the Forest Dwelling Sect who were endowed with blamelessly superior piety and virtue to come to live in and control that holy and excellent chief temple, He appointed khun and mün crown officials just for the temple and endowed it with [some of] His holy royal wealth in order to have the alms of the four necessities prepared and] presented to the holy monks in perpetuity." [2]

What we know for sure from the Royal Chronicles is that the new temple was attributed to the Forest Dwelling Sect and, as such, should have been located outside the city island. Concluding though that Wat Worachet, because it was built outside the city walls, was a temple of King Ekatosaroth's era, I have my doubts. The prang we see today is an architecture of the late Ayutthaya period at a time, the construction of a prang instead of a chedi became popular again in the reign of King Prasat Thong (1629-1656 CE). The prang of Wat Worachet has a twenty-rabbeted-angled base, which could indicate that the prang was renovated in the second part of the late Ayutthaya period (fourth sub-period), likely in King Borommakot's reign (1733-1758 CE). [3]

(View of the ordination hall of Wat Worachet)

The Picnic Incident

The incident took place on 10 December 1636 CE. A group of Dutch from the Dutch Lodge received a day off, as they were very busy for several months. The group went to 'Boeretiet', one of the three principal temples in and around the city, as Van Vliet wrote. 'Boeretiet' was situated on the other side of the river, a short distance inland, right opposite the Prince's palace (i.e., the Rear Palace). The group had a meal there and had made merry with a little drink. All of them, except two assistants, stepped back into the boat to return to the lodge. As there was a good footpath, the two Dutch - Joost Laurentsz and Daniel Jacobsz - wanted to walk back to the main river. Unfortunately, both were very drunk, going for a stroll and started acting belligerently. The two got into several altercations along the way. They called people bad names, rudely invaded homes, stole food, and eventually picked a fight with the heavily tattooed slaves of the prince (bras pintados - painted arms). Apparently, the two Dutch swiped away sabres and paddles and refused to return them. Daniel Jacobsz was immediately seized and taken to the palace for punishment. Joost Laurentsz escaped by jumping into the river, where he was later found still swimming – exhausted and unable to speak – by the other Dutchmen. The group ended up in front of the rear palace, trying to come to rescue their drunk companion. They were overpowered, stripped naked, tied hand and foot and taken to the Phra Khlang. King Prasat Thong ordered that both Dutch men be sentenced to death by elephant trampling. They were lashed to a pole in the hot sun awaiting execution. As a consequence, the king placed restrictions on the trading activities of the Dutch East India Company. Jeremias Van Vliet, the company director, tried to save their lives by giving expensive presents to influence persons at the court. Van Vliet was ultimately forced to bow in humiliation to King Prasat Thong and beg for their release. The two men were let go, but Dutch authorities severely reprimanded Van Vliet for the act of bowing to a foreign king. [4]

The Dutch calling of 'Boeretiet' could be a Dutchification of 'Worachet" or maybe another old name for this temple. 'Boeretiet', which literally means a ‘farmers' boob’, could also be used jokingly to describe the form of the prang. An important detail is the 'good footpath' from Wat Worachet to the main river, a path over 1.5 Km based on Kaempfer's observation and sketch, probably made on 22 June 1690 CE when he visited the northwest area of Ayutthaya and Phukhao Thong.

King Prasat Thong usurped the throne in 1629 CE. The king was intrigued by the upcoming millennial year 1000 Chulasakkarat (1638 CE), which fell on the year of the tiger. According to superstition, the millennial could turn into an age of darkness and calamity. He went even that far to propagate a new calendar era. To ‘survive' the 1000th year and avert disastrous consequences, the king built and restored temples on a massive scale. Van Vliet, the director of the Dutch VOC company in Ayutthaya, wrote: "He has built, renewed, and repaired more temples, towers, and pyramids than any of his predecessors." It is possible that early during King Prasat Thong's reign, Wat Worachet was either renewed or built. Jeremias Van Vliet wrote that 'Boeretiet' was one of the three principal temples in and around the city. He cites the Phra Klang, stating: "...Boeretiet is one of the holiest temples in Siam, a temple frequented by the King himself, who often goes there to pray and to make offerings both to the temple itself and to the Religious." It is thus evident that during Van Vliet's stay in Ayutthaya (1633-1641 CE), this temple situated west of Ayutthaya was of great importance. [5]

(View of the northern chedi of Wat Worachet)

Chris Baker assumes that King Prasat Thong may have initially built or patronised Wat Worachet and later Wat Chai Watthanaram, which was still in construction at the time of the picnic incident. Wat Chai Watthanaram was only finalised in 1649 CE, based on the inscription on a gold tablet buried behind a Buddha image in one of the spired roof halls. Some scholars believe that Wat Worachet was built as a prototype before undertaking the massive endeavour of constructing Wat Chai Watthanaram.

Wat Worachet is an impressive complex with a large ubosot, a vihara, two chedis, and a prang. The style, especially of the central prang, is strikingly similar to the central prang of the nearby Wat Chai Wattanaram, which, according to the chronicles, Prasat Thong built shortly after his accession on the site of his mother's house and hence in her honour.

The monastic structures stand on an elevated base, providing space for walking counterclockwise around the prang as an act of religious respect. The elaborate balustrades show traces of enlargement dating to the late Ayutthaya period. West of the prang was the large ordination hall. In the hall, there are many parts of Buddha images, including a large head in good condition. The vihara stood south of the prang with a chedi on the west. North of the prang stood two more chedis: a large twenty-rabbeted-angled chedi and a smaller one.

Wat Worachet is in geographical coordinates: 14° 21' 8.90" N, 100° 31' 55.54" E.

The Fine Arts Department has placed a plaque at this western site that claims King Ekathotsarot (1605-1610/11 CE) established it in 1605 CE and dedicated it to his brother King Naresuan, who had died earlier that year. The problem is that the same information is also attributed to a temple called Wat Worachettharam, located on the main island, west of the Grand Palace and opposite Wat Worapho.


(1) The palace could have been the Front Palace at the time of the Picnic Incident.


[1] Tourism Authority of Thailand (2000). Ayutthaya: A world heritage. Bangkok: Darnsutha Co. Ltd.
[2] Cushman, Richard D. & Wyatt, David K. (2006). The Royal Chronicles of Ayutthaya. Bangkok: The Siam Society. pp. 199-200.
[3] Intralib, Sontiwan (1991). An outline of the History of Religious Architecture in Thailand. Third Edition December 1991. Faculty of Archaeology, Silpakorn University.
[4] Baker, Chris Pombejra, Dhiravat na Van Der Kraan Alfons & Wyatt, David K. (2005). Van Vliet's Siam. Silkworm Books. [5] Ibid. p.60.