Fabulous food. Exotic nightlife. Bustling streets. Stunning beaches.
There is more to Thailand than that. And it’s the sparkling temples. 🙂
Each year Thailand attracts devout Buddhists, specially from Asia, who would arrive by dozens to revere Bangkok’s religious monuments. Here’s two of the most famous landmark temples, in more pictures than text.
The Grand Palace, as its name might suggest, was the official residence of the Thai Monarch since 1782 until 1925. Located in the heart of Bangkok, the Grand Palace has more than 100 buildings in its premises, some of which are still used by the king for royal ceremonial occasions.
Wat Phra Kaew is the Buddhist temple compound in the palace complex, and it is the first area tourists would enter. It is surrounded by a covered walkway and its inner walls are decorated with murals that depict Ramayanaya – a war epic – which describes how Rama, a legendary prince who would later become king of Ayodhya rescued his wife, Sita who was kidnapped by Ravana, king of Sri Lanka. Being a Sri Lankan, I’m familiar with the epic, and was truly mesmerized to find murals based on Ramayanaya in the Grand Palace. 🙂
The highlight of the Wat Phra Kaew temple inner compound is the ordination hall which houses the famous Emerald Buddha statue. Gateways to inner compounds are guarded by Yaksha, giants from Hindu mythology. Other mystical creatures of Hindu mythology also can be found in the temple compound with graceful Kinarees standing outside Prasat Phra Thep Bidon, and grimacing Hanumans supporting the lower levels of two small chedis near Prasat Phra Thep Bidon.
Among the non-religious building structures that are open to public in the palace compound, Chakri Mahaprasat (the Grand Palace Hall) which is a blend of Western and Thai architecture takes prominence. Legend says Thai kings used to house their harems in the inner palace area, guarded by combat trained female sentries.
Opening hours: Daily; 8.30 a.m. to 3.30 p.m.
Entrance fee: TB500
How to get there: The most efficient way to visit Grand Palace is to take a ferry (access point is the pier at Tha Chang). Taking a taxi might be cumbersome due to dreadful traffic.
Wat Pho – home to Bangkok’s largest reclining Buddha and the largest collection of Buddha statues in Thailand – made me feel serene the moment I stepped into the temple compound.
Finished in plaster and gold leaf, the reclining Buddha statue is 46m long and 15m high. The statue represents Lord Buddha, about to enter the Parinirvana.
Mother of pearl inlay on the soles of the statue depicts the 108 auspicious physical characteristics of the Buddha.
In the temple compound, there are stone giants guarding the way to royal chedi. The four chedis here represent the first four kings of the Chakri dynasty.
Phra Ubosot is east the royal chedi, and its covered hallways features 394 glided Buddha statues from Ayuthaya and Sukhothai eras. Inside Phra Ubosot remains Phra Buddha Deva Patimakorn statue, an Ayuthaya era Buddha statue originally brought to the temple by Rama I, whose ashes are kept in the three-tiered pedestal.
Opening hours: Daily; 8.30 a.m. to 5.00 p.m.
Entrance fee: TB100
How to get there: Wat Pho is within walking distance of Grand Palace.
Important to note: When visiting these sacred attractions, make sure you dress appropriately and fully cover yourself. This applies to both men and women.