Minimal travels for intrepid girls

Exploring the 4 Main Temples of Bangkok

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Bangkok is known as one of the most vibrant cities of the South-East of Asia. With its charming mixture of tradition and modernity, this metropolis is a must-see in your discovery of Thailand. Nonetheless, the relentless pace of its streets (just think about the five-lanes motorways running through the city) and its constant humid heat can hit you harder than you expect.

One way to survive in Bangkok is treating yourself with a wonderful Thai massage (highly recommended). Another way is exploring its colourful Buddhist temples (wat). There are more than 400 temples spread through the city, but if you only have a couple of days to spend in the capital be sure not to miss the 4 main ones.

 

Wat Phra Kaew

The Temple of Emerald Buddha (Wat Phra Kaew) is a vast complex of Buddhist temples and one of the main attractions in Bangkok. The place includes the ancient residence of the Thai sovereigns (the Grand Palace) and it was established in 1782, when Bangkok became the capital city. While the rooms of the Grand Palace are mainly closed to the public, Wat Phra Kaew has plenty of chapels and pavilions worth exploring.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew statue golden tower

 

Despite the massive crowd of tourists visiting the site every day, the uncomparable beauty and colours of its buildings can’t be missed. The wat is surrounded by a perimeter of galleries whose walls are decorated with painting of Ramakian (the most important literature in the reign of King Rama I). Six pairs of massive demon guardians stand at the gates of the gallery: they are Yaksha, ogres or giants from the hindu mythology.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew statue gallery painting hindu mythology

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew statue demon guardians

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew statue demon guardians

 

The highest buildings of the complex are the three main chedi: the seven-level roof of the Phra Mondop, the spire in khmer style of the Prasat Phra and the golden Phra Si Ratana.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew three chedi golden spire

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew three chedi golden spire

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew three chedi golden spire

 

The most important building of the temple is Phra Ubosoth, or the Chapel of the Emerald Buddha. This stunning hall in Thai style architecture (of the Ayutthaya period) dominates the view. The outer walls are covered in gilt and colour glass mosaics. The famous Emerald Buddha inside this chapel is actually a small statue made of nephrite, a kind of jade.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew chapel of the emerald buddha

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew chapel of the emerald buddha gilt mosaics

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew chapel of the emerald buddha gilt mosaics

 

Take your time to explore the entire site without any fixed itinerary, trying to get the spirituality and beauty of the temple. One thing that amazed me was the artistic technique of the statues and walls: it consists of a simple combination of coulourful tiny tiles and golden decorations.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew three chedi golden spire hanuman

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew statue demon guardians

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew pavillon roof golden decorations

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew pavillon roof golden decorations blue stones

 

At the end of the tour you will see the Grand Palace from the outside, a mixture of western and Thai architectural styles. The ticket for Wat Phra Kaew (500 Baht) also includes the visit of the Pavilion of Royal Decorations and Coins.

bangkok thailand buddhist temple wat phra kaew grand palace pavilion

 P

Wat Pho

At a short walk from Wat Phra Kaew, your next destination is Wat Pho, my favourite temple in Bangkok. This large complex contains the greatest collection of Buddha statues in the entire Thailand and a 46 mt long Reclining Buddha. This huge statue is covered in lacquer and golden leaves, and is hosted in a building that just seems too small for it. As you will see, this Buddha looks like he’s chilling and expresses a vast sense of calmness (as a matter of fact he represents the entering of Buddha into the state of nirvana).

bangkok thailand thailandia temple reclining buddha huge golden statue buddhism

 

Other important buildings of the site are the Ubosoth (the holiest prayer room, also called the “ordination hall”) and the four royal Stupa. Every Stupa is 42 mt high and decorated in glass tiles and majolicas of different colours. Four smaller Stupa forests are built in geometrical order at the four corners of the complex.

bangkok thailand wat pho temple four stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa roof

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

bangkok thailand wat pho temple stupa

 

All around Wat Pho you will find several Chinese statues in stone and granite. They came from China in 19th century, when Thai people traded rice and teakwood and returned with silks and porcelains. During those crossings, the Thai sailors used the Chinese statues as ballasts on the boats.

bangkok thailand temple wat pho chinese statues gate

bangkok thailand temple wat pho chinese statue gate

bangkok thailand temple wat pho chinese statue gate

bangkok thailand temple wat pho chinese statue gate

 

Wat Pho is also the national centre for teaching and conserving the Thai traditional medicine (including the Thai massage). If you are tired and sick of the humid heat, you can get a massage at the school inside the temple.

bangkok thailand wat pho temple golden statue buddha

bangkok thailand wat pho temple golden statue buddha

 

Wat Arun

To reach Wat Arun (“Temple of Dawn”), you have to cross the Chao Phraya River on a ferry from Tha Tien pier. This temple is one of most iconic of Bangkok, with its prang (high tower in khmer style) and elaborate floral mosaics made of coloured pieces of Chinese porcelain.

Its name comes from the hindu God Aruna, often personified as the radiations of the rising sun. Although the temple has existed since the 17th century, its distinctive spires were built in the early 19th century during the reign of King Rama II.

bangkok thailand wat arun temple of dawn chao phraya river spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

bangkok thailand wat arun buddhist temple of dawn spires

 

Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit is located in the Chinatown of Bangkok, an area full of tuk tuks, restaurant and little shops. The great attraction of this temple is beyond any doubt the massive solid gold statue of the Buddha. It is 3 mt high and weights almost 6 tons.

The funny thing is that the statue was discovered by chance about 40 years ago under a covering of plaster or chalk: it fell off a crane while it was being transferred to another building of the temple.

It is believed that the covering had been added to protect the priceless statue from the invadors and ravagers during the period of Ayutthaya.

You can reach Wat Traimit by taxi.

bangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha

bangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha

bangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha

bangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha

bangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha statuebangkok thailland buddist temple wat traimit golden buddha statue

 

This was the first article about my recent trip to Thailand. I hope you enjoyed it, let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂

One Comment

  • Tom says:

    Hi Gloria
    This is a fantastic article about the Big Four in Bangkok! When we went to Bangkok last time, we wanted to see them as well, but then Songkran happened 😀 We will go to Bangkok soon again in December though and I’m looking forward to see the temples this time! Thank you for this awesome inspiration 🙂

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