Bangkok Temple Guide | Of Mosaics and Spires
The temples in Bangkok are just as ubiquitous as there are 7-11 stores in every street corner. There are about 400 temples spread all around the city, each with its own character, story and cultural influences. Temple tours are one just of the many tourism highlights in Bangkok but after visiting about 3 or 4, a slug of temple overload will surely hit you.
Thailand is one of the largest Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia and is home to some of the finest temples around the world. Its long history of Buddhism dates back to as early as 13thcentury and had obviously set the foundations of Thai art and architecture. Distinctively, the temples in Bangkok are ostentatiously ornate, characterized by intricate artworks on its multi-tiered roofs and gables. Its unique use of ceramics and colored glass mosaics on its facade and other building elements speak highly of its Sino and Indic influences.
As its temples are more than what your fingers can count, it is only best to visit the ones that hold the most historical and religious relevance, impressive construction details and efficient touring time.
Wat Phra Kaew
Popularly known as The Temple of the Emerald Buddha, Wat Phra Kaew enshrines a 1464 Buddha carved in a block of pure jade. It is officially known as Wat Phra Sri Rattana Satsadaram and is housed within the grounds of the Grand Royal Palace.
The temple sits in a vast complex of decorated chedis (reliquary tower), prayer halls, viharn (teaching halls) massive yaksa tavarnbal guards and galleries of ancient murals depicting the epic, Ramayana. Wat Phra Kaew complex is a classic example of the smorgasbord of design influences from the carriers of Buddhism into Thailand like India, China, Cambodia and Myanmar.
Location: Na Phra Lan Road, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok
Entrance Fee: 500 Baht (open until 3:30PM only)
How to Get There: The fastest way is via Skytrain BTS (Silom Line) to Saphan Takhsin. Take Exit 2, towards Sathorn Central Station. Board the river taxi (Chao Phraya River) and get off at Station N9. From the wharf you may walk or ride the tuktuk to the Royal Palace.
One of the largest and oldest temples in Bangkok is Wat Pho. It is famous for its reclining Buddha that stretches to 43 meters long and 15 meters high. It is laid in gold leaf and its feet studded with mother-of-pearl embellishments.
Wat Pho is officially known as Wat Phra Chettuphon Wimon Mangkhlaram Ratchaworamahawihan and holds the distinction as the first and oldest university in Thailand for religion, literature and science. Today, traditional Thai massage is also taught within its temple complex filled with ceramic and glass mosaic chedis.
Location: Maharat Road (close to the Grand Royal Palace)
Entrance Fee: 100 Baht (open until 5:00PM)
How to Get There: If you are coming from the Wat Phra Kaew, walk about 10 minutes south from the Grand Royal Palace. But if you take this first, get off at Station N8 if you are taking the river taxi.
Bearing its full name as Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan or the Temple of Dawn, Wat Arun is perhaps the most iconic of all temples in Bangkok because it sits prominently along the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. The locals also know it as Wat Chaeng.
Wat Arun is highlighted by a 70-meter central spire or prang heavily adorned with Chinese porcelain and tiny pieces of colored glass into complex mosaics. This temple is influenced by the Khmer building styles that represent Mount Meru, the center of the universe in Buddhist cosmology. Make a steep climb to the summit to see a commanding view of Rattanakosin district hemmed by the Chao Phraya River.
Location: Thonburi District (along the west bank of Chao Phraya River)
Entrance Fee: 100 Baht (open until 5:30PM)
How to Get There: Coming from Wat Pho, take the river taxi and disembark at Station N8. Transfer to a smaller boat in Tha Thien Pier to cross to other side of the river.
The Temple of the Golden Buddha is what describes Wat Traimit because it enshrines a 5-meter and 5-ton of solid gold Buddha image. The temple’s façade is washed in white and gold, a refreshing design element from the rest of the heavily decorated temples in Bangkok.
It is located at the end of Yaowarat Road and provides a good starting point for a walking tour of Bangkok’s Chinatown.
Location: Talat Noi, Samphanthawong, Bangkok (near Hua Lampong Station)
Entrance: 50 Baht
How to Get There: Take the underground train called MRT to Hua Lampong Central Railway Station. From there, walk west away from the station. Just follow the signs, as it’s a circuitous walk to Traimit Road.
The temples in Bangkok are a composite of cultural influences from other parts of Thailand but strikingly from the lavish Rattanakosin styles during the 18th century Chakri Dynasty. While Thai temple architectures are considered largely a derivative of Buddhist art from its foreign influencers, it also produced distinctive and exquisite Thai aesthetics admired by the world today.
- Start early to avoid the crowd, although inevitably you will end up with the hordes of tourists within the day.
- It is suggested to begin in the Royal Palace and moving out into the rest of nearby temples.
- The traffic in Bangkok is really terrible. It is highly recommended to take the Chao Phraya River Express. Except for Wat Traimit, the best way to get there is via MRT.
- Dress appropriately especially in the Wat Phra Kaew. Do not come in shorts, tank tops, skimpy skirts. However, pants and skirts may be rented at the entrance.
- Each temple has an entrance fee. Be ready to spare at least 1,000 Baht to see all the major temples.
- Around the temple complex are stalls selling food, drinks and souvenirs.
- Guides and personal audio guides in your chosen language are available in some temples.
- You might also want to check some sights (monuments, stores, local markets) within the block outside of the temple complex.