The end of the Buddhist Rains Retreat takes place on the full moon in October. For three months, the monks have to stay within their temple. They cannot disrobe or move to another temple. The original idea was to stop monks stepping on and killing plants and insects during the rainy season. This period is sometimes called Buddhist Lent in English as lay people make an effort to give up things such as meat, alcohol, or smoking.
At the end of the Rains Retreat, the local people come to the temple to make merit by offering donations and items such as new robes. At this time, when the rivers are at their highest levels, many provinces around Thailand organize boat races. In Lat Krabang District, in the Eastern part of Bangkok, merit making and boat races will take place along Lamplatiew Canal (คลองลำปลาทิว) in front of Wat Sutthaphot (วัดสุทธาโภชน์).
Wat Sutthaphot has occupied its present site on Lamplatiew Canal for over 100 years. Many of the people in this area are Mon and it was common in the old days for the monks to go out on their early morning alms round by boat. Some of these original boats can still be seen inside a small museum on the temple grounds. Every year on the first Sunday after the Rains Retreat has finished, thousands of local people come to Wat Sutthaphothas to make merit.
The alms giving by boat event starts at about 7 a.m. but if you are going to go next year I would advise to arrive early as it is difficult to park. From about 6 a.m. people start to reserve places along the canal. Less than an hour later there are countless thousands of people lining both sides of the bank for nearly a kilometer. At 6:45 a.m., just over 100 monks from 16 local temples start boarding boats. They then set off down the canal collecting alms from the lay people.
There are so many people at the merit making event that it takes more than two hours for them to finish collecting alms. I have been to many such events in Thailand and I must say that this is one of the most beautiful I have seen in a long time. It is also very unique. I have seen alms rounds by boat before, but never on this scale. I was overwhelmed with this event. Once the monks have finished they will go to the temple where food is offered to them. This is then followed by boat racing and other activities until about 3:30 p.m.
Wat Sutthaphot is on Soi Wat Sutthaphot, Tambon Thap Yao of Lat Krabang District. To get there you can take a public van from the Victory Monument that is heading towards Lat Krabang. If you are going by the Airport Rail Link, get off at Lat Krabang Station and then continue by taxi or motorcycle taxi. The GPS coordinates are 13.740531, 100.795183.