Pictures of the floating world

8 breathtaking Bangkok temples

Read my guide not to get lost around Bangkok temples!

By Anna Purpurpurpur

Bangkok is famous for majestic large Buddhist temples – but there are so many of them you can’t visit all (just imagine that in Thailand overall there are over 40 thousand temples)! So I prepared a list of most famous and most impressive ones for you!

1. Temple of Emerald Buddha

I was left speechless when visiting Wat Phra Kaew – I’ve been to around 50 countries and have never seen anything like this.

Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of Emerald Buddha, is one of the most important Buddhist temples in Thailand. It is located on the same grounds as the Grand Palace, and the central building – Phra Ubosot – houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha.

The buildings of the complex are amazing, consisting of a covered galley, many halls, prangs and monuments all covered in traditional Thai symbols and gold as well as porcelain tiles, and you can find large golden stupas there as well.

Just take a moment to appreciate all the details of this unique religious architectural style and spot various materials those decorations are made from, including porcelain, golden leaf, glass mosaics. There are also many mythical and religious symbolic figures as Garuda birds and Yaksha the demons.

The 15th-century statue is actually not very big (it’s only 66cm tall) and is made from green jasper, and ’emerald’ describes only its colour.

This Buddha has three sets of golden raiment—clothing—decorated with precious stones that are changed by the king himself a few times during a year. You can’t take photos inside the temple, but the Emerald Buddha is visible from the outside, too. 

2. Temple of the Reclining Buddha

Wat Pho, or Temple of the Reclining Buddha (Wat Phra Chetuphon Vimolmangklararm Rajwaramahaviharn), is another iconic Buddhist temple not far from the Grand Palace where you can see not only the Giant Buddha but also Phra Ubosot, a few prangs and a gallery of 394 smaller golden Buddhas. It’s also one of the oldest and the largest temples of the capital so make sure you have a lot of time to explore it!

It’s a huge temple complex that was re-established by Rama I in the 18th century on the site of an older temple, with numerous meticulously decorated buildings and stupas – there are almost a hundred of those here! The figures you can spot were used as a ship ballasts and now find their home here.

Apart from this, this temple is home to 1400 stone inscriptions covering almost every part of life (there used to be 2000 of them dating to the time of King Rama Ill) – this temple is believed to be the birthplace of Thai massage and medicine as well!

But the main point of the visit is the 46-metre-long and 15-metre-tall golden Reclining Buddha located in Viharn hall. No surprises it’s the main landmark for tourists today because it looks incredible! The reclining Buddha in general is a very popular image when Buddha lies on his right side holding his head by his hand – and just moments away from entering parinirvana, or nirvana-after-death.

Only his feet are 5 metre long! No doubt you’ve seen the photos from here showing the mother-of-pearl inlaid soles of the Buddha. The statue itself dates to 1832, and you usually have to stay in line to walk around the statue.

There is more to see in the meticulously decorated hall around the reclining Buddha as well. For instance, you might observe the murals or spot bronze bowls along one side of the hall—actually, they represent the auspicious traits of the Buddha. You can drop coins into them to bring luck and support the monks.

3. Wat Arun 

Wat Arun Ratchawararam Ratchawaramahawihan, or the Temple of the Dawn, is one of the most famous symbols of Bangkok, famous for its ceramic and porcelain outer decorations and corn-shaped prangs, or spires, with the tallest one being 79 metres high.

It’s located right on the river bank of the Chao Phraya River on the opposite side of the grand palace. Its name is linked to Aruna, a Hindu god of the rising sun. It’s unclear when it was founded, but it was already on this site in the 17th century under the name of Wat Makok.

The temple was under restoration just a few years ago (as I understood, its surface is meant to be colourful, and it’s already a bit greyish). If you have time, have a look at the architectural and decorative details, mythical beast Kinnari, yakshas (demons) and many others.

4. Wat Saket

We came to Wat Saket Ratcha Wora Maha Wihan just to learn that the main part of it – Phu Khao Thong, the golden mountain standing on an artificial hill – is under restoration until July 2024. The name of the temple is linked to washing hair – why would you ask? The legend says that Rama I stopped here to take a bath before proceeding into the other part of the city.

Buddha’s relics that are kept inside the golden mountain were received from India. You can still climb 320 steps, but considering that it’s +36 and the most famous part of the temple is closed, we decided to skip it. There was a funeral in the temple itself. Loi Krathong Festival Aldi takes place on the temple’s grounds as well.

5. Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan (Loha Prasat)

Not far from the Monument of Democracy and the Golden Mount you can find Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan, or Loha Prasat, a unique temple of Bangkok with 37 metal spires. It’s even been called an Iron Castle for that reason!

Only three temples like this exist in the world: the first one was built in India during Buddha’s lifetime, the second one was built in Sri Lanka around 156 BC, and this one was built in 1846 in Bangkok. The temple was erected by Rama III to commemorate Princess Sommanat Wattanawadi, who died shortly after labour at 19 years old.

You can climb all seven floors of the building to observe the panorama from it, and a small exposition about the temple’s history is located on the lower floors. There’s also a little cafe with the tastiest Thai tea on the temple premises – head there to restore your breath after climbing all the stairs in the heat!

6. Wat Traimit

A Thai Buddhist temple in the Chinatown by the Chinese gate marking the borders of the Chinese district? Yes!

Wat Traimit, previously known as Wat Sam Chin because it was probably founded by three friends, is a gorgeous Buddhist temple right next to Odeon Circle – come here to see a giant Gold Buddha who weighs 5.5 tons! The Yaowarat Chinatown Heritage Center is also located here.

7. Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen

Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen is an ancient royal temple located on the Chao Phraya River. Its been established in early 17th century, was nearly abandoned in early 20th century and now is as prosperous as ever.

It’s been successful in promoting Buddhist education and charities however the most famous part of it now is the giant gold Buddha! Actually it was finished only in 2021 and already become the most famous photo spot. (And it has a tiny but a very photogenic cafe on the temple premises too, by the way!

The best way to observe this 69-metre-high statue is from the water: the boat ride from the local pier along Bangkok Yai Canal lasts about 20 min, and you can also observe temples nearby (see below), feed the fish (I swear those are huge!) and even to spot asian monitor if you’re lucky!

8. Wat Khun Chan 

If you take a boat along the canals of Bangkok, you might be surprised that Wat Paknam Bhasicharoen is by far not the most astoundingly looking temple from the water here. Just look at Wat Khun Chan!

It’s a lesser visited Bangkok temple but it’s definitely worth your attention. Also known as Wat Waramartaya Punthasatharam and built in the first half of the 19th century, it’s a fantastically decorated temple: you can spot Buddha sitting on three elephants, tigers, lions and many other creatures!

You might also like my other blogs about Asia.

Hope you liked my blog,
Anna xxx

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