The Day the Monks Hit the Lotto

Wat Front

Many people can count the amount of gold they own, well, on one finger. Add in earrings, necklaces, and a few bracelets, then maybe you’re up to a couple of ounces. But imagine that you’re doing a bit of reorganizing around the house and discover 5 tons of gold sitting in your storage room.

Sound unlikely? Well maybe so, but this is exactly what happened in the case of the now-famous Golden Buddha of Wat Traimit in Bangkok.

How can an entire Wat-full of monks not know that over $200 million in gold is squirreled away in their storage room? The details are sketchy, but it seems to go something like this: At some point in the past, possibly the 18th Century, in order to prevent the priceless Buddha statue from being stolen by an invading army, it was completely plastered over, painted, and inlaid with pieces of colored glass.


The strategy worked – perhaps too well. Because it wasn’t until 1957, when the old stucco statue was being moved from a storeroom, that a crane operator accidentally dropped it, chipped off a piece of plaster, and exposed the lustrous gold underneath. This lucky incident probably had less to do with the crane operator’s karma than it did with the fact that he was lifting 10,000 pounds (4,500 kilos) of gold instead of a chunk of carved plaster. Buddha's Face

Either way, it was certainly a fortuitous incident and Wat Traimit’s Buddhist monks won the lotto that day.

Wat Traimit isn’t the largest or most ornate temple in Bangkok, but if you visit the city, make sure to wander over toward Chinatown, and don’t miss the Golden Buddha.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri

Last updated October 10, 2017


We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

22 thoughts

  1. Since all the gold ever mined in world history would only fill two swimming pools, finding five tons of the stuff would definitely make your day.

    1. This is an interesting statistic Joe, and it got me to thinking (It’s blowing a gale here in Galway, so there’s not much else to do. ). If I figured it right, five thousand pounds of gold is a only bit over 4 cubic feet! So your pool figure may be correct. Thanks for a fun bit of trivia. ~ James

      1. Hey James, Four cubic feet is a lot of gold! I have also read that all the gold ever mined in world history would only make up 1/3 the volume of the Washington Monument. It is a rare commodity indeed.

    1. Thanks Susan. I guess if you’re a Buddhist it doesn’t matter if you’re praying to a gold image or one made of mud. But I’ve never seen nearly a quarter billion in gold, so I was impressed. ~ James

  2. You have the best stories I have to say. Can you imagine the look on the monks faces when they realized what they had. Or perhaps better the look on the crane operator’s face when he dropped it? Talk about a bad news good news kind of situation!

    1. Sue this is one of those almost unbelievable stories that was begging to be told. When we visited the temple was crowded with people and I wondered how many appreciated (or cared) that they were sitting in front of a king’s ransom in gold. ~ James

    1. Peta, Bangkok is a wacky place, but it has so many unique sights that I never grow tired of visiting. I’m a bit surprised that this temple doesn’t get more attention. Maybe with all that gold sitting around they don’t mind. ~ James

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