Situated on the banks of the Chao Phraya river away from the tourist center of Ayutthaya, Wat Tha Ka Rong, aka The Temple of the Blackbird or the Monastery of the Landing of the Crying Crow, is an unexpected novelty away from the main city center.
Formerly a campsite for Burmese troops in the White Elephant War, it is made up of a temple, Wat Tha, and a monastery, Wat Ka Rong. The site dates back to around the mid-16th century. Although still a working religious site, Wat Tha Ka Rong is an assault on the senses, it’s a unique blend of color, kitsch, and sometimes downright crazy, meaning that it really should be a must-see on anyone’s list when visiting Thailand’s former capital.
Imagine a temple, crossed with a British seaside amusement arcade, add thousands of animal and superhero statues and you have some idea of what this place looks like—and that’s before you get to the floating market. The floating market at the temple offers some of Thailand’s best-loved dishes at super cheap prices— think plates of Pad Thai, Moo Satay (pork with peanut sauce), and Som Tam (papaya salad).
After gorging yourself on food, head down to the side of the river and buy bags of fish food that look like colorful polystyrene pieces. Here you can throw them to the catfish who climb all over each other just to get a scrap. And not to worry if you need to use the bathroom here, thanks to its innovative design, Wat Tha Ka Rong also proudly boasts the Thailand “Best Toilet Award.”
At the time of writing, Wat Tha Ka Rong is mostly frequented by locals and there aren’t that many visitors from outside of Thailand, meaning that this temple offers a much more authentic experience than Ayutthaya’s main tourist-orientated floating market. Another plus point of Tha Ka Rong is that it does not offer the dubious animal attractions of its larger competitor, which can be challenging viewing for the average western traveler.
Know Before You Go
Wat Tha Ka Rong is open all week, but to see all of it’s attractions it is best to go on a weekend, as this is when the floating market is open. Before Bangkok, Ayutthaya was the capital city of Thailand and is still a popular tourist destination. Therefore, it is very easy to get to. A bus from Mo Chit or Victory Monument will set you back around 80 – 100 Thai Baht and takes less than two hours. If you’re looking for a scenic journey, the train from Hualamphong station takes 2.5 hours and is even cheaper – only 22 baht. Ayutthaya is also very easy to reach from other cities in Central Thailand.Once you arrive in Ayutthaya, the most popular way to see the attractions is by bike. Wat Tha Ka Rong isn’t on all of the tourist maps, but locals will be happy to add it for you. If cycling isn’t your bag, tuk-tuks are all around the centre of Ayutthaya, and you should be able to get to the Temple for around 200 baht.