According to Time Magazine, Bangkok is said to be the world’s no. 1 tourist destination. There’s many things to like from the city: from its shopping havens (going to the Chatuchak Market, anybody?), endless stream of street foods (we’ll cover this in a separate post) to all-night bar hopping. But wait, what about the temples? The city itself harbours hundreds of buddhist temples, why not visiting them? That calls for the real-life temple run, whoa.
About 95 percent of Thailand’s population are Buddhist, which explains why there are hundreds of temples in the City. The temples, known in Thai as “wats”,are also the living place for the monks and also has various sizes: some can be small, located in a small lane (or “soi” in Thai) while some can be a part of a massive complex. The massive ones are really a work of art – it is filled with intricate details while each of them has stories of their own. If culture is your thing then visiting the temples is definitely what you should do in Bangkok!
Unless you have infinite days for holiday, you’ll need to select which temple you’re going to visit, as there are hundred of temples in Bangkok. This boils down on what you want to do: either seeing the biggest and most touristy temple complex which calls for visiting the Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace, seeing the giant reclining Buddha statue at Wat Pho, climbing a steep ladders to get into the top of the spire of Wat Arun which beheld the amazing view of the complex nearby. All those three temples are among the highest grade among the temples in Thailand, and planning to visit the three of them are relatively easy as they are located near each other. For a more diverse experience, try observing one of the most modern temple in Bankok at Wat Benchamabophit, stepping up the coiled-snake shaped ladders of the mad-made hill at Golden Mount/Wat Saket or seeing the giant Golden Buddha and learn rich history surrounding it at Wat Traimit.
We summarise all those temples above to make your Bangkok temple trip easier:
1) The Wat Phra Kaew and the Grand Palace
If there’s one single reason why you should visit the Wat Phra Kaew at least once, that is because it is one of the biggest, and also the most touristy, temple complex in Bangkok! The main attraction here is the giant Emerald Buddha statue at the central bot, and the painted representation of Ramayana in the compound walls. When you’re done looking around the Wat Phra Kaew, it’s time to move into the Grand Palace and look around the old home complex of the Thai King! Make sure you come on time when the temple complex opens, which is 8:30AM, so you get more freedom to look around the complex, before it gets too crowded.
2) Wat Pho
Wat Pho is the home of the famous giant Reclining Buddha statue that spans for 46m long and is covered in gold leaf. There are also area to get Thai massage just in case you’re tired. Another object of interest is the chinese statutes that were once uses as ballasts on ships and the stupas around the complex. The close proximity to Wat Phra Kaew/Grand Palace and the temple being less crowded makes it ideal to visit second after visiting Wat Phra Kaew.
3) Wat Arun
The missile-shaped Temple of Dawn is arguably one of the most popular temple in Bangkok, visible from the river and has a stunning view during sunset. One of the best experience in the complex, we must say, is climbing the central spire, with its super steep steps. We did that… twice! Ha! The view up there is just stunning. You should do it at least once in your lifetime. Getting here is also easy, either you can take the Chao Phraya express boat, or taking a ferry boat from the pier just across Wat Pho.
4) Wat Benchamabophit
Also known as the Marble Temple, Wat Benchamabophit is one of Bangkok’s most modern temples. The temple exhibits modern Thai architecture as well as many local and foreign Buddha statues within the complex. We visited the temple when there was an event, which allowed us to watch the liveliness within the temple complex!
5) Wat Saket
The temple is known as the Golden Mount: that’s because it’s literally a temple with a giant golden stupa located at the top of a man-made hill! Getting to the top requires you to climb up some 300 steps which encircle the stupa. The view up there is also nice, make sure you avoid coming during midday as it gets hot when climbing up.
6) Wat Traimit
This is the home of the large gold Buddha statue, located at the top of the four-floors temple complex. There are museums and exhibition areas that covers the history of the Chinese community in Bangkok as well the history of the Golden Buddha itself, however visiting them incurs additional charge.
As a reminder, make sure you dress appropriately whenever going into a temple complex, ie. wearing dresses with no exposed shoulders or skin above the knee. While some temples enforce this dress code less strictly, the highest grade of the temples ie. Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Pho enforce this strictly, and failure to comply may result in you being redirected into clothing rental area. Also remember to obey the signs and the rules on every complex ie. removing your shoes, no photographing allowed, avoiding any offensive stretching of feet towards the deity etc. We hope you’ll find the short guide useful and happy temple running!