Amazing Thailand: Bangkok Temples

July 7, 2019

Last May, I went to Thailand primarily because of two reasons: Thai temples and Thai food. And, certainly, I was not disappointed. This Southeast Asian country, located at the center of the Indochinese Peninsula, is home to the biggest Theravada Buddhist populace in the world. The country, alone, houses more than 40,000 Buddhist temples. Buddhism is deeply rooted in Thai culture and society. They better showcase this through building breath-taking religious sites and structures that exhibit piety and celebrate craftsmanship of the so-called free people, the Thais (They’ve never been conquered by any western empire). If you are on the hunt for the most intricately designed religious architectures, visiting Bangkok, alone, is no mean feat. 

A day or two would be enough if you want to gallivant around Bangkok to see its most famous temples. Temples or, wat in Thai, are places of worship or, at times, places of burial for nobilities and aristocrats. As for me, there were sudden changes in my itinerary, especially that unknowingly I arrived in Bangkok in the midst of King Vajiralongkorn’s coronation. Most of the temples were temporary closed to be in consonance with the coronation and procession rites. The upside of this though was learning more about the culture as veneration filled the whole city with people donned in yellow clothes and establishments along the procession’s route painted with hues of yellow (Yellow is the color of the monarch). 

The month of May falls on the hot season, so make your umbrellas, hats, and water bottles come in handy. However, most of the famous temples are located in the Phra Nakhon District, making them a few walks or a short taxi/ferry ride from each other.  One should also adhere to dress codes. Short pants, mini-skirts and tank tops are not allowed inside the precincts of the temples.

Wat Benchamabopit

Also called the Marble Temple, Wat Benchambophit is a definite feast to the eyes with its marble pillars, elaborate roofing, and surrounding wide garden. Situated along the cloister of the Ordination Hall are different images of the Buddha depicting various positions. This was commissioned to be built by King Rama V in 1899.

Location: 69 Thanon Si Ayutthaya, Khwaeng Dusit, Dusit District, Bangkok 10300, Thailand; Operating Hours: 8:00 AM – 5:30 PM; Fee: 20 THB

The Grand Palace

The Grand Palace is a complex that houses different temples and buildings apposite to the Thai monarchy. Though the newly crowned king now officially resides at the Dusit Palace, special ceremonies and state functions still take place in the premises of the palace. The complex is also home to the Emerald Buddha which is enshrined at Wat Phra Kaew. Other structures that can be found are arrayed in a harmonious display of Thai oriental structures and European contemporary elements. On another note, if you want to avoid the large crowd and the sweltering heat of the sun, coming in early is the key!

Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Grand Palace, Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand; Operating Hours: 8:30 AM – 3:30 PM; Fee: 500 THB

Wat Pho

Just a few walks from The Grand Palace is the home of one of the biggest Reclining Buddhas in Thailand. The 46cm-long statue symbolizes calmness and comfort as is manifested by the entirety of the Buddha’s position. At the feet of the Buddha are inscriptions which are said to be auspicious. Along the halls, 108 bowls can be found, representing the 108 auspicious characters of the Buddha. Dropping coins in the bowls is believed to bring good fortune. Outside the chapel, stupas, plated with vibrant ceramics, can be found erected on the temple grounds. In Thai culture, cremated remains of the dead can be scattered to a body of water or can be enshrined in a stupa, especially when the dead was a noble or an aristocrat. Wat Pho is also coined as the birthplace of Thai massage.

Location: 2 Sanam Chai Rd, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon District, Bangkok 10200, Thailand; Operating Hours: 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM; Fee: 100 THB

Wat Arun

Among the most photographed temples in Thailand is Wat Arun or the Temple of Dawn. The temple can be conveniently reached through the Tha Tien Pier, a few meters of walk from Wat Pho. One-way ticket costs 2 THB. The predominating structure of the temple is the 86m-tall tower which is ornated with mosaicked seashells and Chinese porcelains, often a distinguishing feature among other temples in Thailand which are usually embellished by gilded elements.

Location: 158 Thanon Wang Doem, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Bangkok Yai District, Bangkok 10600, Thailand; Operating Hours: 8:30 AM – 5:30 PM; Fee: 50 THB

Visiting Bangkok is like getting a beginner’s course to Thai culture and society. Temples bespeak the Thai people’s reverence for their country and its icons, their piety towards spiritual well-being, and their creativity and industriousness which perfectly blend the value of heritage preservation whilst accommodating the nascent and inescapable modernity. Indeed, one’s trip to Thailand is never complete without taking a halt and being enthralled by these man-made wonders.

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