Ever since it appeared in a number of media outlets in early May, I have wanted to visit Wat Traimit to see if lived up to the hype of being a venerated site for us Leicester City fans. I didn’t really expect to see it so soon but being in Bangkok for Japan’s World Cup qualifier against Thailand gave me the opportunity.
The temple’s chief monk Phra Prommangkalachan, revered by the club’s Thai owners, had blessed the team, and as the Foxes closed in on the Premier League crown the world’s media were searching high and low for just about any story connected to the team that were 5000-1 outsiders at the start of the season.
As part of their promotional tour on May 18-19, the squad received a royal seal of approval at the Grand Palace followed by an open-top bus ride through the centre of Bangkok and they also visited this temple in Chinatown which houses the largest golden Buddha image in the world.
In the wake of Leicester claiming the top prize in English football last season, I wrote about the Asian influences which were pretty big factors in helping Leicester City do the unthinkable and win the Premier League. One of them was about the Chairman Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha who holds the monks of Wat Traimit in very high regard and has often put his hands in his pockets to fly some of them to the King Power Stadium in Leicester to bless the team and do other such Buddhist rituals around the ground.
As you can see above I put my City top on when I visited and it got far more reaction than I ever thought it would. I actually wasn’t aware that Ranieri and the squad visited this place until some Thai guy told me very soon after entering the temple complex. A couple of other locals also spoke to me briefly about Leicester but other than recognition of my shirt, there was sadly no sign anywhere displaying the link between the temple and Leicester City.
Once the fate of the title had been decided, local fans descended on this hallowed site hoping to get their hands on a number of Leicester City banners (rectangular yellow silk cloths with blue tassels and the Buddhist religious symbols surrounding the club’s fox emblem) blessed by the monk and I thought there might, at the least, be one of these somewhere but I sadly didn’t see it. Not even a photo anywhere around the temple grounds of the time when the English Premier League champions came to Wat Traimit!
Before all that, I was walking through the night market in Nana and it didn’t take too long to see a dodgy Leicester shirt on sale amongst all the Barcelona, Real Madrid and Manchester United shirts which is still something of a shock to the system as we are not used to being seen alongside these global mega-clubs. I ended up haggling for the 2016-2017 red away shirt eventually getting it for 300 baht ( ¥900/$8). It’s certainly not the worst fake shirt but it’s not the best either and, though it has the new Premier League badges on the sleeves, it is missing the Puma logos. Still, I didn’t see any locals in such shirts the whole time I was in Bangkok so it really is difficult to gage the effect of Leicester’s success using this method of analysis.
On our first night in Thailand we went to the Conrad Hotel where the Japan team were staying in the hope that I could meet Premier League winner Shinji Okazaki. Although I briefly saw him (and shouted out his name!) just a few metres away from me, he and the rest of the squad were all ushered into the lifts very quickly and there was to be no pictures or signings for the ten or so of us that had gathered in the lobby awaiting their return from training.
A couple of days later I saw the Leicester striker up close again as the Japan team bus arrived at the Rajamangala National Stadium for their World Cup qualifier. He was sat at the back but little did I know then that he would play absolutely no part for the Samurai Blue against Thailand. In the end, a couple of pictures of me clutching the Summer issue of J-Soccer magazine (below) with him on the cover (and featuring my article about his first season at Leicester) was about as close as I got to him!
Before the game we took the train to Ramkhamhaeng station where pictures of Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy were visible in picture-frame art form from this street vendor.
Back to the topic of magazines and whilst in the local 7 Eleven one night I saw this Thai magazine (below) on sale for 300 baht which I would later purchase having thought about it overnight!
Sadly, neither of our flights went through Suvarnabhumi Airport where the Leicester City shops have been for a fair few years now. I really wanted to see one again as I was curious to know how things have changed since my visit just before last season began.
It would’ve also been nice to visit King Power duty free shop near Rajprarop station just to see if they had included any pictures of the players, Ranieri or the owners themselves with the Premier League trophy and maybe a message saying something like “King Power: Proud sponsors of the Premier League champions!”
Click here to read ‘Thailand 2016 Pt IV: Floating Market’