Last Updated on September 18, 2018 by Natasha Amar
This post is part of the Hipmunk #CityLove project.
Thailand is home to some spectacular temple architecture and you’ll find yourself visiting at least a few Buddhist temples or Wats on any sightseeing tour of Bangkok. If like me, you’re interested in temples and find them fascinating, then here’s a list to get you started on the temple trail in Bangkok. Many of these temples are a short walk from hostels and budget hotels in Bangkok. Of course, the city has many more temples you could visit if you have the time. If you slow down and carefully observe the statues, architecture, and murals, you’ll find yourself appreciating them more.
Take a scenic ferry ride across the Chao Phraya River and you’ll find yourself gazing at the majestic Wat Arun, or the Temple of Dawn, in Thonburi. There’s something about the 17th-century Wat Arun that is very different from other temples around Bangkok; perhaps it’s the eye-catching phra pang or spires covered in millions of small pieces of Chinese porcelain or its striking riverside site. Four small towers surround a tall Khmer-style central tower. Visitors can climb up the steep steps on the main tower for a nice view of the area and the river. It’s worth walking around in the complex and exploring the main prayer hall, pavilions, and statues housed within. It’s recommended to stay until sunset when the temple makes for a beautiful silhouette against the evening sky. Wat Arun is definitely my favorite temple in Bangkok, both for its distinct architecture and for the atmospheric ferry ride.
Tip: Climbing up the main tower is easier than getting down and I saw a lot of people panic once they had to get down. If you’re afraid of heights, avoid going up and enjoy the view from lower levels.
Wat Phra Kaew
If you’re a first time visitor to Bangkok, it’s unlikely that you’ll miss a visit to the Wat Phra Kaew, housed within the grounds of the famous Grand Palace that attracts crowds of tourists throughout the year. Wat Phra Kaew or Temple of the Emerald Buddha gets its name from its Buddha statue carved of a single block of jade. The murals in the temple are the longest in the world and depict scenes from the legend of the Ramayana. Notice the striking sculptures of ferocious mythological creatures and giants standing guard at entrances. With its grand gold chedis, pagodas, and murals, the temple makes for a must visit in Bangkok.
Tip: Combine a visit to the temple with a visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. Don’t rush through your visit at the temple; it’s spending time exploring the different features and the murals on the balconies.
Wat Pho, or the Temple of the Reclining Buddha, is also popular with tourists, and is easily seen after a visit to the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. The temple is home to the enormous 46-meter-long reclining statue of Buddha, covered in gold leaf, and feet inlaid with exquisite mother-of-pearl. The statue features prominently in photographs taken by visitors to Bangkok and chances are that you’ve seen this image more than once online. The temple is also home to the respected WatPo Thai Traditional Massage School where you can get a Thai massage or enroll in one of their training courses.
Tip: It’s a ten-minute walk to the temple from Wat Phra Kaew.
I stumbled upon Wat Chanasongkram quite by accident, I had just checked into my hostel, stopped for lunch at a street-side restaurant, and started walking around the area, as I always do when I first arrive in a new city. I didn’t expect to find a temple in the backpacker area of Banglamphu and was pleasantly surprised to see such a beautiful ornate structure as I turned at a street corner.
The main prayer room houses a revered Buddha image in the mara posture surrounded by 15 Buddha images and a pair of elephant tusks.
Here, you’ll find yourself sharing the grounds with fewer tourists than at the Grand Palace and Wat Pho. The shaded courtyard makes for a peaceful and quiet spot, remarkably in contrast to the area once you step outside.
Tip: If you’re in the Khao San area, you can easily walk to the temple in a few minutes.
Photo by Patricia Pat via Trover.com
Perhaps the most popular structure of Wat Saket is the Golden Mount; a 58-meter gold chedi that stands on a constructed hill and enshrines within a statue of the Buddha. Features of the temple are atypical of Buddhist Wats and include a prayer hall and library. It’s worth climbing the 300 steps around the Golden Mount to get to the top and appreciate the views.
Tip: If you’re visiting Bangkok in November, then it’s a good idea to visit the temple during the Loy Krathong fair to witness crowds of worshippers and a candlelit procession to inaugurate the fair.
Photo by Ryan de los Reyes via Trover.com
Another of the city’s temples with a very distinctive style of architecture, Loha Prasat is a temple whose name translates to the ‘Metal Castle’. The 36-meter-high structure consists of 37 metal spires representing the virtues toward enlightenment. The architecture of the temple is unique in the use of concentric square levels, on the highest of which is a statue of the Buddha.
If you’re interested in other temples in Thailand, feel free to check out photos from temples in Chiang Mai. If you’re looking for what else to do in Bangkok, here’s a post by my friend Bino with some Bangkok itinerary suggestions.
Do you like to visit spiritual or religious places when you travel? Though I’m not religious, I find it gives me great insight into local culture. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
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