Bangkok’s “David Beckham Temple”: one of the world’s weirdest religious buildings
Bangkok’s temples are truly a wonder to visit, but after a few days of battling the crowds, the appeal of gilded Buddha statues may start to lose interest. Thus, when you’ve visited the major attractions, why don’t go to Wat Pariwat, a one-of-a-kind temple down the Chao Phraya River?
Wat Pariwat gets its famous nickname, “David Beckham Temple”, from a gold-plated statue of the English former football player holding up a statue of Buddha. But that’s just one of the unexpected characters you’re bound to notice visiting this unusual holy place.
David Beckham’s statue was installed here in 1999, when the sculptor, a die-hard Manchester United fan, was allowed to include it as a permanent temple decoration as a symbol of his love for the club. The temple has since become famous all over the world and has even given the temple its nickname.
But this statue isn’t all that’s unusual about this Buddhist temple: among Buddhist-themed artworks and representations of mythical creatures, you’ll notice some characters that don’t quite belong to any religion, like Albert Einstein, Winnie the Pooh, Mickey Mouse, and others hidden among the more traditional figures.
As you walk around Pariwat Temple, you may be forgiven for failing to notice the statue of a rabbit-like creature holding a smartphone on a selfie stick, or that of Dragon Ball Z’s Mater Roshi, which may be confused with a legendary Buddhist figure. You might even ignore the yellow statue of Pikachu…but it is literally impossible that any of the mosaic depictions of modern superheroes like Spider-Man, Batman or Captain America won’t catch your eye!
Once you start noticing one of the unusual characters that lie here, it’s like they are everywhere: there is Popeye the Sailor in a corner flanked by two completely unrelated mythical creatures, while Batman is hiding behind a green column, Spider-Man is ready to shoot webs out of his wrists, and there is also Monkey D. Luffy, from hit manga and anime series One Piece.
At this point, you might start believing that Pariwat Temple is dedicated to various cartoon characters and superheroes..until you see a bust of Albert Einstein and a statue of Ernesto Che Guevara, and that theory instantaneously goes out the window. And, above all, let’s not forget that golden statue of David Beckham!
Actually, the temple just an eclectic mix of modern pop art, Buddhism and traditional Thai art, something other than anything else in the world.
Some stated that all these statues of superheroes and personalities were included because they are considered symbols of good and they could protect Buddhism and, according to others, these unusual cast of characters was included as a simply draw for tourists.
The official version is that local monks created this temple to spark the imagination of a younger generation. It’s easy for travelers of all ages to spend several hours scouring for all the clever details.
Author’s notes: don’t forget that, despite its eccentric appearance, Wat Pariwat is still a sacred space that caters to more locals than foreigners. Photos are ok, but dress appropriately and show some respect for those who have come to pray.