A trip to Bangkok won’t be complete without temple-hopping. There are hundreds of them in the Thai capital, you won’t get to even visit 10% of them in your stay. Unless you’re staying for a month and not doing anything else aside from visiting these temples.
The most popular temples are a mere walking distance from each other (and by that I mean, when you’re wearing comfortable shoes, sun visor and cotton clothes).
WAT PHO: We started early with The Reclining Buddha, the Wat Pho. We were there before the temple opened at 830am. My friends have decent shots of the Wat Pho, but Mary and I each had solo shots with it, which is rare because people flock to this temple like there’s no tomorrow.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: It is one of the 6 temples across all Thailand with the highest grade / classification of the royal temples. The reclining buddha itself is 46m long, and the complex has small other temples in it, which was originally built by King Rama I. Apart from the famous reclining buddha, there are other instagram-worthy places in the complex that the keen eye will appreciate. Explore the complex for about 90 minutes.
TRIVIA: Siam is Thailand’s old name. Thailand also literally translates to ‘LAND OF THE FREE’. Due to its location below the Chinese mainland, a lot of Thais have Chinese lineage and even King Rama I had Chinese blood.
FEE AND HOURS: 100 Baht, the complex is open at 8am but the Reclining Buddha temple at 830 and closes at 5pm.
TIP: Don’t just throw your ticket! Claim your free bottled water – trust me, you’re going to need it.
WAT ARUN: Right across the Wat Pho, you can see the Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn) standing proud with its central “Prang” (Khmer architecture) on the other side of the Chao Phraya River. It would take a boat (pay 4 Baht) to get you there. At the time, the central Prang was being renovated and so there were some construction materials that didn’t look good in photos but will serve its purpose well in further preserving the great temple.
WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT: If you want to see all the temples and the old city in general from afar, then being on the other side of the river, here in Wat Arun, is the perfect place to do that. You can also walk the central spire up, though a little steep, to have a sweeping view of the east side of the Chao Phraya River.
TRIVIA: Since I mentioned Khmer, I might as well mention that Khmer language and architecture was and is rich in Thailand. Why, they share a border. Modern-day Cambodia used to be what we knew in history as Khmer Empire – get this, I still remember my Asian History professor telling the class about Kampuchea, which is actually derived from Sanskrit (yes, Cambodia is India-influenced) Kambujadesa. Desa means land, and Kambuja (that’s why the locals pronounced their country with the J in Cambodia). I will talk more about Cambodia in my Angkor Wat blog. Stay tuned!
FEE AND HOURS: Some say it’s 50 and some 100 Baht. We didn’t get to pay anything because we couldn’t find the booth to pay. Coming from the boat, we entered where it should be the exit for most and got lost along the way. Open 830am and closes 530pm.
TIP: Wat Arun is best viewed at dawn, hence the name. If you can wake early and head there before sunrise, you’ll be delighted. If you can’t, however, it is also best seen at sunset when the lights are on but it’s not too dark yet.
If you want to see the major temples in the old city, then I suggest you book at any of the hotels and inns in Khao San road. You can take a cab and get stuck in traffic and only pay 77 Baht for it (the Tuktuk driver initially pegged the price at 200 Baht so we walked away). We took another Tuktuk driver who quoted the fee at 100 Baht thinking it was a good deal at 8am. Turns out it was better, but not the best way to get to the temples.
If you’re staying in the Sukhumvit Area (where almost all the malls are), getting to the temples would take time and might be expensive as there are no close train stations in the area. In that case I suggest you get a paid tour so you won’t get lost.
Next time we visit, the Grand Palace will be on top of the list. We missed it because, we were also in Bangkok for some other business and we were pressed for time. Entrance to Grand Palance (which also houses The Emerald Temple) is 500 Baht.
There are other temples worth visiting when in the area. For more, you click here.
Meanwhile, please do not miss my other blogs for the Thailand-Cambodia series. I’m writing them up in a few days and will update this article so I can include a link.