Bangkok is famous for many things, and one of those things is its glittering temples. I will cover many temples in this blog, some well known, and others not so. Also I try and provide address details and a How to Get There wherever I can. If temples are your thing, then you need never be short of a place to visit in Bangkok! You can visit my website, www.matthewt.co.uk for pictures of many of these temples.
Wat Phra Kaew
Any list of temples in Bangkok has to begin, quite rightly with Wat Phra Kaew, the capital’s number one tourist attraction. Housed in the Grand Palace complex, it is a fantastic collection of buildings, spires and roofs glittering in the bright sunlight. It also hosts the country’s most revered Buddha image, the Emerald Buddha, which in itself is quite small but has a history. Also only the King of Thailand changes the Emerald Buddha’s attire at the turn of each season, such is the reverence in which it is held.
If you have the time, a visit here is a must. Try to get there early before the crowds build up (it does get incredibly busy) and before it gets too hot. Beware of the touts outside who’ll tell you it’s closed for a public holiday, research Touts and scams in Bangkok before you leave home. And finally make sure you’re properly dressed, this goes for any temple. Acceptable attire is trousers or a long skirt, and a t-shirt that covers your shoulders.
Location – The main entrance is off Thanon Na Phra Lan, most easily accessed from Tha Chang river express pier. Many of the river express boats stop off here.
Probably Bangkok’s second most famous temple, located just a short walk down the road from Wat Phra Kaew.
It is most famous for two things, the world renowned Institute of Thai Massage and the massive and hugely impressive Reclining Buddha. While you’re here both are definitely worth a look in, but I find that the grounds of Wat Pho are surprisingly peaceful once you get away from the main entrance and the building that houses the Reclining Buddha. I like to stop off here to relax sometimes; you can usually find a quiet spot to yourself to chill out for a bit.
The same warning about touts as above also applies here.
This is an instantly recognisable Bangkok landmark. Located just a short ferry hop away on the other side of the river to Wat Pho. Catch a cross river ferry at Tha Tien and it drops you right outside.
It is recognisable because of its towering “prang” a central spire surrounded by smaller spires. You can climb up to a certain level on the main prang and this gives you great views back across the river to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. The temple grounds are reasonably interesting, but the most famous shot of Wat Arun is probably from back on the Wat Pho side of the river, at sunset. Capture it if you can!
Wat Saket - The Golden Mount
Literally a temple on top of a hill. This was once Bangkok’s highest point and offers great panoramic views around the city. It’s a fairly easy climb up some broad stairs to the top of the mount and there are some interesting nooks and crannies at the top.
It is sandwiched between Thanon Worachak and Thanon Boriphat, the most interesting way to reach it is by boat along the Saen Saeb canal, stopping off at Fan Fha pier, near to the Democracy Monument.
Commonly referred to as Wat Benja or the Marble Temple, this is a stunning temple and with a difference. As the name suggests, it is heavily laid with Italian marble, which gives this temple that extra gleam in the midday sun, as if it were needed! If you know how to adjust your camera to the light conditions, you can get some great shots here.
Located a short taxi ride away from Ratchthewi skytrain station, along Si Ayuthaya Road, it can also be combined with the nearby Chitrlada Palace, Vimanmek Mansion and Dusit Zoo.
This temple is made famous for two reasons, one being that it is a highlight of the tuk tuk touts “grand tour” of Bangkok, before they drop you off at a nearby tailors or gem shop. The other reason is that it’s home to an imposingly tall standing Buddha, which is worth making the trip alone.
Located just down the road from Wat Benja, the easiest way to get there is by river express boat to Rama VIII pier.
Wat Pathum Wanaram Ratchaworawihan
This temple is a bit of a wildcard on my list, because it’s not particularly outstanding in itself. However it’s the location that fascinates me. It is situated somewhat uncomfortably between the monolithic shopping centres of Siam Paragon and Central World Plaza
I find it to be a great oasis of peace and calm in the chaos of downtown Bangkok. Because there is so much surrounding it, I find I can often have the place completely to myself. You can also get some great juxtaposing photos of the old and the new from the grounds of this temple.
This final temple on my list is even more of a wildcard, or should that be red card?! Famous because it has an image of David Beckham in its main altar, this temple tips a nod toward modernism to try and attract the younger generation. And as a resident of the temple said “Football is a modern religion”. How very true!
A bit more difficult to find, it is located on the southern bow of Rama III road, and only really accessible by taxi.
There are countless other temples that I haven’t managed to visit, probably the most famous being Wat Suthat, home of the Giant Swing and Wat Traimit which houses the biggest gold Buddha in the country. Feel free to get in touch if you want any further advice on visiting temples in Bangkok.
South East Asia photos on my website, www.matthewt.co.uk
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