If you find yourself in Thailand’s central province of Singburi, why not do something a little bit different and visit Wat Sawang Arom? It is close to the town centre and can easily be reached by scooter taxi, private vehicle, or by chartering a songtaew from the main bus station. It would be possible to walk there from the bus station, but in the heat of the day you probably wouldn’t want to!
The temple itself is pretty similar to many other temples that you will see around Thailand. It isn’t a touristy place and it is likely that you will encounter very few other visitors on your trip. Indeed, don’t be surprised if there are no other people there and you are the only interested visitors!
There are statues, pictures, pagodas, trees, and flowers, and you will probably spot a few monks roaming around the grounds, as well as sweeping and keeping the place looking neat and tidy. Some of the Buddha images are very old.
The main reason to call into this temple is to visit the museum. Climb the steps to one of the buildings and enter the large room to see a large collection of beautifully carved traditional shadow puppets. The striking and attractive items hang on the walls and you can see a range of characters and creatures depicted in the flat intricately carved large sections of buffalo leather.
Shadow puppetry in Thailand is called Nang Yai. It is performed in front of a large white screen that has a light behind it. The light shines through the screen allowing viewers to fully appreciate the magnificence of the large “puppets”. Shows are accompanied by traditional musical instruments and tell traditional tales from the country’s past.
This form of artistic entertainment was developed during the Ayutthaya historic period and was, back then, a very popular way for people to have fun in their leisure time. Today, shadow plays are still performed in some parts of the country.
This museum contains over 300 gorgeous puppets. There is also a small random collection of large seashells tucked away at the back. It is free to go inside, although donations to the temple are highly appreciated.
If you are interested in actually seeing a show you can contact the temple and advance to find out if they have any scheduled performances for during the time you will be in town.
Unless you have a particular interest in the different Thai art forms, or specifically in shadow puppetry, it probably isn’t really worth making the journey to this town just for the museum. If you are already planning to be in town though, or are passing through or close by, this museum makes a great stop for an hour or so.
Singburi is easy to get to by bus and minivan from Bangkok, and regular services also connect the town to other nearby destinations, such as Lopburi, Ayutthaya, Suphanburi, Wat Singh, and Chainat.
/// Written by Sarah-Jane Williams, Thailand