The Best Thai Temples in Singapore to bring you a step closer to enlightenment.
Let me begin with some thoughts.
A few days ago, the mainstream media shared a report on how fewer Singaporeans today have a religious association.
I read the report with interest because religiosity was one of my research topics in university. What I subsequently read in a related feature then deeply resonated with me.
As in, how one of the interviewees revealed she always declares herself as a Buddhist on official papers, but does not consider herself a practising believer.
Likewise, I’ve been doing the same since young, although because of my interest in mythology, I still take great joy in visiting places of worship. Anything from temples to shrines, to churches, to whichever mosque I’m allowed into.
The latter is probably very salah in the eyes of some faithful, as Singaporeans would say. This, not untrue if you consider that I, ahem, partake in whatever veneration practices I’m permitted to join …
But, well, I view spirituality and religiosity as different things. Respect and appreciation are crucial for harmonious living too, in my opinion.
Anyway, long story short, the following are the Singaporean Thai Buddhist Temples that I visited in March and April this year, right before the (sigh) heightened alert. These visits were actually part of the research I was doing for a mythological glossary, but I ended up ditching my project and enjoying the visits.
All temples were also compacted, nothing the likes of those in Bangkok or Chiang Mai. But if you’re looking for a slice of Thai spirituality in Singapore, I dare say all will offer you a good hint of what enlightenment and peace mean to the Thai Buddhists.
1. Wat Ananda Metyarama
I previously featured Singapore’s oldest Thai Buddhist Temple in another Home Tourist post. A Bukit Merah landmark, this gorgeous “hilltop” sanctuary really deserves to be featured on more Singaporean travel attractions listicles.
Oh wait, I shouldn’t say that. I loathe to see hordes of noisy tourists besieging this venerable institution.
That aside, this beloved Thai temple in Singapore is truly a feast for the senses, whether you’re of the faith, or not. Like I wrote before, the main hall is the Singaporean version of Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel. The calm, surrounding aisles are also perfect for meditative strolling.
2. Palelai Buddhist Temple
In 2018, I wrote a long article on beautiful Singaporean temples for Wanderwisdom.com. I didn’t feature Palelai Buddhist Temple as one of the entries. However, I did mention this famous Bedok temple as a slice of Bangkok suburban life in Singapore.
Or what I believe would be Bangkok suburban life today. (I haven’t been to Thailand since 2008)
It’s a great place to spend half an hour or so at. The breezy grounds are well-maintained. The Siamese-style Buddha and Arahants Halls are also solemn and elegant. Great for some contemplative moments if you’re alone when visiting.
For visitors seeking a more immersive experience, Palelai Buddhist Temple also hosts a variety of Dhamma activities and talks on Theravada Buddhism. Alternatively, you could also offer alms (food) to the monks of the temple. Details for the latter here.
3. Ubin Thai Buddhist Temple
I have something embarrassing to share. I visited the original Pulau Ubin Thai Temple with my family in 1990, and never since gone back. I also had NO IDEA the temple shifted to a shared location in Jalan Kayu in recent years. I only found out, like, in January this year.
Yeah … I’m a perfect example of what that teenage girl meant, in that article the link of which I shared above.
Anyway, this new location is very compact. Other than the air-conditioned main hall and the Four-Face Buddha outside, there’s not much to see.
On the other hand, the Taoist temples sharing the complex will make your visit more than worthwhile. For the moment, let me just say I intend to do a post about these. Believe it or not, there’s also an equivalent of Haw Par Villa’s Hell Museum here. (One that’s already air-conditioned, I add)
4. Lord Buddha Temple
I visited Lord Buddha Temple at Arumugam Road quite frequently in the mid-2000s. I had two majors clients nearby. My most important suppliers were also just across the road. As in, located at Kampong Ubi Industrial Estate.
In other words, I always “went in” to pay my respect after business meetings. I doubly MADE SURE I pay my respects after getting new jobs. <Blink>
New business deals, or not, I have many fond memories of those visits too. What I love most about this Thai temple, the large courtyard at the rear. If you’ve never been here, you’d never know there’s such a large space behind. The courtyard is barely visible from the front entrance.
For first-time visitors, I dare say stepping into the courtyard is akin to briefly entering another world. It’s still tropical Singapore. But everything around you suggests another time and another land.
5. Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple
My guess is that most Singaporeans wouldn’t think of Sakya Muni Buddha Gaya Temple when asked about famous or the best Thai temples in Singapore. I previously wouldn’t either.
But make no mistake, this is a Thai temple. While local touches are prominent, most decorative elements of the temple are Thai in inspiration or origin. The temple was also founded by a Thai monk named Vutthisara in 1927.
As for what to look out for when here, well, you can’t miss it, can you? The moment you enter, the temple’s famous 15m seated Buddha will be the only thing you’d notice. Especially when he’s dressed in new robes or when the altar lights are switched on.
Tear your eyes away from the huge guru and there are other sights to enjoy too; for example, the many dioramas depicting the Buddha’s life. Lastly, and this is long well-known, there’s a concealed alcove at the base of the altar. It’s not for the claustrophobic. But if you don’t mind the cramped space, the spiritual will appreciate the proximity with the reclining Buddha within.