Wats in Tumpat

26 February 2018

We take a look at the Buddhist temples that dot the town of Tumpat, Kelantan on the Thailand-Malaysia border.

Situated on the northernmost part of Kelantan on the Thailand-Malaysia border, Tumpat is a province with many cross-cultural influences dating back hundreds of years. Most notable of which are its Thai Buddhist temples, better known as wats. The existence of these temple complexes with their imposing Buddhist structures is a nod to the area’s small but significant Thai population, who still maintain their culture and identity.

Wat Maisuwankhiri

Wat Maisuwankhiri, located in Kampung Bukit Tanah, is one of the biggest temple complexes, and consists of buildings and structures of impressive scale. It’s most famous for its Dragon Boat Temple (Wat Dua Naga) flanked by magnificent golden dragon statues. It is believed that Thai craftsmen built the original temple 400 years ago.

The Golden Dragons that flank the Dragon Boat Temple

The Dragon Boat Temple

The light illuminates the intricate details on the window panels.

The golden Buddha statue inside the shrine.

One popular element of Thai architecture is the chofa, a decorative ornament that adorns the roofs of most wats and palaces. It’s believed to represent the mythical bird-like creature Garuda.

Situated 15 minutes away from Wat Maisuwankhiri is Wat Photivihan. This temple is famous for its reclining Buddha statue, which measures at 40m long, 11m high and 9m wide – the biggest Buddha statue in Malaysia. Completed in 1979, the statue sits on a platform adorned with a series of paintings depicting the story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

The Reclining Buddha at Wat Photivihan is the largest Buddha statue in Malaysia.

A series of paintings depicting the story of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha.

The Wheel of the Dharma that represents Gautama Buddha’s teaching.

It’s common for the temple’s monks to live within the vicinity. Here, we see a glimpse of their saffron-coloured robes hanging out to dry.

Over at Wat Phikulthong, the main attractions are the three standing Buddha statues of different scale, lined up in a row. The tallest statue is 60m high. 

One of the standing Buddha statues at Wat Phikulthong.

A closeup of the statue’s golden mosaic texture.

Two out of three statues lined up on the central walkaway at Wat Phikulthong.

Wat Machimmaran, the sitting Buddha statue with the Wheel of the Dharma on its chest, is 99ft high, 156ft wide and 73ft deep. The statue sits on a temple that is influenced by traditional Chinese architecture.

The sitting Buddha statue.

A common sight at Buddhist temples is the sala, an open rectangular pavilion used for resting and taking shelter.

The shimmering temple of Wat Phikulyai is a little more secluded than the other wats featured here, but it’s worth the trip to marvel at the temple’s intricate architectural details and patterns.

Red tiles adorn the tiered roods at Wat Phikulyai.  

The geometry of balance and symmetry can often be seen in religious architecture.


Wat Maisuwankhiri, Kampung Bukit Tanah, 16200 Tumpat, Kelantan
Wat Machimmaran, Kampung Jubakar, 16210 Tumpat, Kelantan.
Wat Phothivihan, Kampung Jambu, 16200, Tumpat, Kelantan.
Wat Phikulthong, Kampung Terbok, 16200 Tumpat, Kelantan.
Wat Phikulyai, Kampung Baroh Kok Pauh, 16210 Tumpat, Kelantan.

Text and photos by Esha Hashim


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