All our guidebooks recommended Wat Chayamangkalaram - and it wasn’t too far from where we were staying, so we decided to take a walk and check it out. Wat Chayamangkalaram is a Thai Buddhist temple which is home to one of the largest reclining Buddhas in the world. It was built on a piece of land especially donated by the British Crown in 1845, by the then Governor of Penang, Butterworth.
The temple, a traditional Thai shrine, is typical of Thai architecture - elegantly soaring, curved roofs, lots of gold paint, and plenty of ornamentation. It’s all pretty flamboyant - gold paint covers much of the building - and the inside is in the form of a long, high hall, in which the statue of the Buddha lies on its side. The Reclining Buddha is big, but that’s about it. Personally, I found it rather unattractive - the white paint on it looks like fresh emulsion. Beneath and behind the Reclining Buddha are hundreds of small recesses in the wall, each containing a ceramic urn filled with the ashes of a devotee - whose photo is pasted in front of the urn. More than a wee bit spooky.
All around, on the walls of the temple, are paintings depicting scenes from mythology; above them, the entire wall is covered with a three-dimensional pattern with tiny golden Buddhas seated in the centre of each pattern.
All in all, I didn’t like Wat Chayamangkalaram that much - it’s not as beautiful as what lies opposite, at any rate. Across the road is a temple which definitely beats this one as far as beauty’s concerned - it’s the Burmese Buddhist Temple of Dhammikarma - truly stunning. A golden spire soars up on one side; and prettily curving, ornately carved golden roofs top the temple. Inside, a tall golden Buddha towers benevolently over the quiet hall, the inside of which is richly decorated with heavily carved and polished teak and gold - quite spectacular. The combined effect, of gold and teak, is rich, yet not gaudy. This is one place I’d recommend seeing, even though it isn’t as famous as Wat Chayamangkalaram.