Bangkok is home to several hundred gleaming golden temples – many of which are centered around the old part of town and along the banks of the Chao Praya River. Some are more memorable then others for a variety of reasons (size, architecture, unique artifacts, unique Buddha statues, location etc). Some of our favorites are indicated by the Dave’s Pick, the imprint of a boot image as shown here.
Thai temples contain two sections – the Phutthawat (the primary part of the temple that most visitors see – the part of the temple dedicated to Buddha) and the Sangkhawat (section that provides the housing for the monks and includes the kitchen area).
Thai temples or wáts include several buildings such as the Ubosot (ordination hall) and the Wihan (containing images and statues of Buddha and where monks and people come to pray) – are places of worship, site of various events throughout the year and also provide a home for monks. We recommend visiting temples in the early morning before it gets to hot. Dress appropriately – most temples will let you in with shorts – as long as they are not to short (the exception being the Grand Palace) and shoes must be removed before entering the temple buildings. Note that many temples open in the 7 to 8am hour and most close by 6pm.
You may wonder if all that gold foil you see on statues and in temples in Bangkok is real. Yes, this is real gold ranging from 96.5 to 99.99 percent purity. It is an extremely time consuming process to create such thin gold foil from the original gold bars. Once the gold reaches the stage where it is thin enough to be shipped to the temples bamboo scissors are used to cut it into small square pieces. Regular scissors are not used because the gold foil sticks to the metal of the blades.
Also note that many temples have multiple spellings of the same name, used to be called by different names and or have multiple different names entirely. This can be confusing to the casual visitor so be sure to double check you are going to your desired temple.
We have visited and reviewed the following approximately 50 temples in the central part of Bangkok to date:
Erawan Shrine is an often very crowded Hindu shrine located in the heart of Bangkok’s shopping district at the Ratchaprasong Intersection of Ratchadamri Road. An elevated walkway leads past a number of prominent shopping areas in this part of town easily allowing pedestrians access via the second story to some of these shopping centers as well as providing a bypass over crowded intersections.
The closest BTS Station to the Erawan Shrine is Chit Lom (only a few minutes walk from the station). The shrine itself is located at the base of the Grand Hyatt Erawan Hotel at the Southeast corner of the street intersection. It features a golden image of the Brahma God and was originally constructed at this location in the 1950’s. However note that this is not the original statue – it was destroyed by an insane man in 2006 and was soon replaced with a new statue.
Today it attracts people from many countries all over Asia including many from China as well as those walking by curious to see why there are so many people here. Flowers line the gates in front of the statue (can be purchased from nearby vendors) and people come to light candles and pray at it’s base. We have also often seen Thai dancers performing under a nearby covered tiny stage along with musicians seated next to them. Any cash left is managed by a group who then donates it to various charities in the country as well as to select hospitals in need of equipment for their patients.
Grand Palace began construction in 1782 and is one of the primary highlights for both locals and travelers. It is open from 8:30am to 3:30pm each day. The palace is bordered by four roads – Mahathat, Thai Wang, Sanam Chai, and Na Phra Lan. Completely surrounded by high walls on all four sides, the Grand Palace spans several acres and contains numerous buildings. It is located next to the Chao Praya River.
Being one of the most recognizable landmarks in Bangkok it is easily characterized by its gleaming golden temples, hundreds of spires, and brightly colored tile roofs – most of which are a prominent dark orange color.
A couple of things you will want to be aware of: Only persons wearing long pants are allowed to enter the Palace grounds. For many years you also needed to wear closed toe shoes but recently this rule has been relaxed and you can now enter the Grand Palace with sandals. If you do not have on the proper attire, you will need to change into the appropriate attire, although we found that these rules do not seem to apply to many of the local men who work in the palace.
Depending on the day and or time of year, significant crowds will often be lined up outside the walls of the Grand Palace well before it even opens in the morning (8:30am to 3:30pm daily.
A changing room is located to your immediate right as you walk in the main entrance. For 200 baht you can rent long pants – you *must* have exact change. When you return the clothing the attendant will return your 200 baht.
Tickets to the Royal Palace are 500 baht. The ticket windows are located a minute or two or more walk if very crowded from the main entrance. You will be inspected for the proper clothing at the main gate. Be sure to pick up one of the very informative brochures available in several languages at the gate. This brochure provides a map inside and also describes in detail the history of the buildings and the palace. Aside from the sheer impressiveness of the all the detailed gold and glass work in the buildings (bring your sunglasses!) you will want to visit the famous Temple of the Emerald Buddha.
Emerald Buddha (inappropriately named because it is actually made out of jade) was first found in the northern province of Chiang Rai in 1434. It is housed in Wat Phra Kaew on the grounds of the Grand Palace. It was originally covered with plaster and when a priest saw some green coloration through the plaster, he mistakenly thought it was emerald, and the name has stuck through the centuries.
The temple that contains this Buddha feels intensely spiritual and is often well packed with throngs of people inside and outside. The Emerald Buddha is set about 20 or 30 feet above the floor on top of a gold throne. Many people pray on their knees inside the building – facing the Emerald Buddha. You will probably see many flowers, vegetables and other organic items that have been left here. Depending on the time of year (the seasons – cold, warm & wet the Emerald Buddha will be clothed in different golden clothes. All Royal clothes not being worn by The Emerald Buddha are found in the Royal Museum located near the ticket gates (museum mentioned below).
Note: there are many Tuk Tuk drivers hanging out near the Grand Palace and they *love* to prey on tourists! They will insist on taking you to a jewelry store for a reduced transportation rate. Even after you insist back that you are not interested they may still physically take you to a jewelry shop sometime during your ride. Its best to walk away from the Grand Palace area and flag down a moving Tuk Tuk or one that has just dropped off passengers.
In addition we’ve had several reports of innocent looking Thai bystanders who approach confused looking tourists and insist on helping them or giving them a ride to their next destination but then taking them to a jewelry store. Be aware of these “scams” most prevalent around the Grand Palace.
When the seasons change, the King of Thailand is responsible for removing the “old” clothes and replacing them with the current season’s attire. If the King is sick or unable to do this, usually his brother or another member of the Royal Family will change the clothes.
One of the largest buildings in the Royal Grand Palace is the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall (Royal Throne Hall).
As you leave the palace there will be an exit to the main courtyard and the Chakri Maha Prasat Hall (Royal Throne Hall). Be sure you are ready to leave as there are signs saying you are not allowed back into the main palace once you exit to the main courtyard courtyard. Guards are on duty here to make sure of this. Be sure to visit the Coronation Room – this is where the world’s longest reigning monarch, the King of Thailand was coronated in 1946 (died in 2016). Photography is not allowed in here. Nearby weapon museum rooms are also available – some displaying very old weaponry and worth visiting.
Notice the European influence in the lower two thirds of the Royal Throne Hall – it was designed by a European architect in the 1880’s. The upper half contains several tall colorful spires. There are some visually pleasing bonsai trees growing in front of this building. In addition you might want to consider taking your photo with one of the Thai Royal Guards standing in front of this building. Sometimes we have even been able to make them smile for the photo but more often then not, no matter what we say, they retain that grim looking expressionless stare. Other times security guards don’t allow you take photos of the Royal Guards.
Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles is located next to the ticket booths inside the main entrance to the Grand Palace. As you enter the main gate walk straight past the clothing attendant on your right and in several hundred feet turn left toward the actual stalls that you walk through when you have your ticket in hand – you make your left turn once you reach the ticket booths. On your right is an unassuming entrance into the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles. We suspect most tourists fly right by this museum – with most wanting to simply get inside the Royal Palace as quickly as possible.
This museum is well worth visiting – not to mention the air conditioning inside works quite well. This museum showcases how Queen Sirikit brought Thai silk to the world and how it ultimately become one of Thailand’s most associated products. The museum also features many dresses from Queen Sirikit’s personal collection. Tour groups often visit this museum, so one minute a room might be full of people and then the next minute quite empty. The tour groups tend to push their groups through quite rapidly, probably in anticipation of seeing the actual palace.
“Next door” is the coin museum featuring a number of ancient coins. You enter this museum through the far right walkway next to the main entrance stalls – and you use a separate ticket to gain entry that was given to you at the main ticket office. This museum is fairly small – you used to be able to access it from the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles on the second floor but during our latest visit access was closed (another coin museum opened in 2014 off site from the Grand Palace – see our museums page in this guide for more details).
It is also interesting to note that Thai people can visit the Royal Palace for free. In addition if you are a foreigner and you are with a Thai person you may be granted free entry (but not usually). More information and latest updates about the Royal Grand Palace can be found here: www.palaces.thai.net Estimated visit time for the Grand Palace and Museum is 180 minutes.
Wat Amon Khiri is the small but rather impressive looking gleaming temple in the shadow of the busy Rama VIII Road on the Thonburi side of the Chao Praya River. Located a few minutes from the iconic Rama VIII Bridge. Worth a stop to gawk at the bright gold and red temple building but also worth marveling at the interior equally colorful hand painted murals.
Wat Anongkharam Worawihan is located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Praya River – not far from the King Rama I Bridge. Not a popular temple with tourists – that is fine – you will probably have the grounds to yourself. Originally it was built in 1850 as a dedication to King Rama III and was named Wat Noi Khamthaem but later renamed by King Rama IV.
The large Buddha was brought here from the Sukhothai Province in 1949. Also known for lots of detailed religious images that decorate the grounds out doors. Also in a scenic location next to a local canal.
Wat Arun , a smallish temple located on the western side of the Chao Praya River, is accessible via ferry boat from Wat Po directly across the river using the Tha Tien Pier. There are many small local restaurants located along the wood planks that border the edge of this portion of the Chao Praya River. For authentic Thai cuisine you can’t beat some of these restaurants.
From select parts of Wat Arun you have excellent views of the Grand Palace and of Wat Po on the other side of the river. You will certainly be attracted like a magnet to a refrigerator to the tall tower, called Phra Prang, which is in the center of Wat Arun. It is worth walking around this tower about 1/3 of the way up on the concrete walkway. This tower is 243 feet tall and is decorated with thousands of little pieces of colorful porcelain.
Even though Wat Arun is also known as the “temple of the dawn” – sunset is an excellent time to be here as there are not that many crowds and its a peaceful time watching the sun set over the Chao Praya River and Bangkok. Estimated visit time 60 minutes.
Wat Bang Yi Khan is a very small temple located on the Thonburi side of the River next to the always busy Rama VIII Road. This temple was originally built in the Ayutthaya period and contains several ancients items of note including old mural paintings inside the wihan building (painted by Pae Kong – a prominent painter from the Rattanakos period) and several smaller Buddha statues that are over 100 years old.
Wat Bench amabophit (called Wat Ben by locals) or otherwise more simply called the “Marble Temple” is highly worth a visit (and certainly sees less visitors then more famous Wats like Po and Arun – both because it is small and possibly because of it’s location outside of the historic center of Bangkok near the Chao Praya River). Located near the Dusit Palace, Dusit Zoo and the Vinmamek Teak Mansion. Worth making the trip out here from the central historical core of Bangkok. Also can take a taxi from the Victory Monument Skytrain stop which is how we usually make this trip based on where we stay while in town.
Opulent and elaborate are two words to easily describe this remarkable temple. It was built in 1899 and it’s name translates to “Temple of the fifth King located nearby Dusit Palace”. It was built in part with Carrara Marble imported from Italy (to see more nearby Carrara marble in use visit the Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall located just down the street).
Very popular with visitors so a nominal admission fee is charged. Be sure to enter the primary building on site, the ordination hall – one of the most impressive back lighting for a golden Buddha we have ever seen is housed inside. This Buddha dates from 1920 and stands over ashes of King Chulalongkorn. The nearby courtyard and views of the ordination hall are equally as impressive. A canal runs through the property with some quaint curved bridges standing over the water. Also of note is this wat is featured on the 5 baht coin and was in an episode of the TV show, The Amazing Race.
During our latest visit, several large banners erected presumably by Thailand’s Tourism Authority, offered visitors a chance to take their photo in front with the words as a backdrop – “I am at Wat Ben”.
Not a lot of food vendors in the immediate vicinity.
Wat Bophitphimuk Worawiharn has seen a number of name changes over the years based on certain eras and kingdoms. One of it’s names ‘Lain’, referred to all the mud in the area due to its low lying location relatively not far from the Chao Praya River.
At one point cholera killed many people in the area and their bodies were taken to this temple’s graveyard. Originally wood – it has seen been replaced by concrete. The residences of the monks on site are built in both Thai and Chinese styles. Within about a 15 minute walking distance of the Siam Museum.
Wat Bowon Mongkhon is a decent sized temple on the Thonburi side of the Chao Praya River about a 20 minute walk from where the King Rama VIII Bridge reaches this side of the river. The walk is somewhat fun if its not to hot – as it is through a bunch of very local neighborhoods – a maze of homes along the river bisected by narrow paved pathways. Far enough removed from the core of Bangkok one doesn’t often find tourists here. Worth checking out the colorful buildings plus an older stately wooden building.
Located next to the Chaloem Phrakiat Rama 9 Park – which shows as a green space and a park on maps but in reality is a mostly paved over parking lot with a few trees growing on site!
Wat Bowon Niwet Vihara (not to be confused with Wat Bowon Mongkhon on the other side of the river) is located within a short walk of Democracy Monument and a slightly longer walk from Khao San Road. This impressive and historic temple is worth taking some time to visit and walk around the grounds. Originally established in 1829. The Ubosot contains several impressive golden Buddhas including the well-known Phra Phuttha Chinnasee Buddha image which supposedly was built in 1357. A number of Thai Kings prior to their ruling lived here including Rama VI, Rama VII and the more recent much revered King Rama IX.
For visitors there are lots of highlights to a visit here including two ancient Buddha footprints (dated to 1426), murals in the ubosot that were painted by historical prominent Thai painter, Khrua in Khong and the impressive chedi near the ubosot. Part of the temple looks to have architectural influence from China including various sculptures. Remarkably this temple has its own website – visit: www.watbowon.org
Wat Buranasiri Mattayarm is located along the picturesque Rop Krung Canal not far from the Khlong Lod Night Market (in old town Bangkok). Built by a man named Bunsri Buranasiri on his birthplace. This wat used to be called Wat Siri Ammattayaram and was later changed by another Thai king. Small wat with a clean courtyard and an unassuming stupa. Near to a number of much more famous temples – however, this temple sees few foreign visitors.
Wat Chakrawatrachaw Woramahawihan or otherwise more simply known as Crocodile Temple features several small and one large crocodile – kept in several enclosures right at the base of one of the temples on property. Located on the edge of Chinatown this wat was first founded as a royal temple in 1825 (pushing nearly 200 years old). Plenty of history here aside from the novelty of seeing crocodiles housed on the grounds!
Like a number of lesser visited wats around town we found some of the buildings locked on site during our visit. An open-air car parking area is located adjacent to the temple. A security guard collects a nominal parking fee as you exit. Also houses one of the larger communities of monks and novices in Bangkok. A very long and narrow, very crowded during the day shopping soi is located just down the street.
Wat Chana Songkhram Rachawora Mahawiharn (how is that for a mouthful) is located between the Chao Praya River and Khao San Road (within a very short walk of Khao San Road). Popular with locals and tourists alike. We don’t often see nuns in Thai temples, but we have seen nuns at this temple before. During our latest visit to this temple, a local was introducing himself to tourists and showing them around the temple. A stop here is a welcome respite from the often chaotic and noisy nearby streets including Khao San Road.
Estimated visit time 20-30 minutes.
Wat Chaturamit Praditharam is located on the Thonburi side of the river about a 15 minute walk from the Rama VIII Park at the base of the Rama VIII Bridge. Located in a quiet area with several other tiny temples nearby – one has more fun making the journey to this temple then perhaps hanging out at the temple itself. Walk through a maze of small neighborhoods and ultimately reach the temple via crossing over a small footbridge over a tiny canal. No one around during our latest visit – certainly a quiet well off the beaten path for personal meditation.
Wat Disanukaram (also referred to by other spellings such as Wat Desanukaram) is an impressive wat but compared to other temples in this part of town, quite small. Some notable design features are the door panels are made of mother-of-pearl (same material used in the feet of the Reclining Buddha at Wat Po), the lower part of the interior walls are made of marble and a number of intriguing paintings decorate the interior walls.
Unfortunately this wat is on the ‘tuk tuk scammers list’. We first heard about this wat from one such scammer – who was hanging out around a touristy section of town (near Wat Saket) and he offered to bring us to this temple in his friend’s tuk tuk provided we stopped at a jewelry store first – offering an all day rate of only 60 baht because of a “special promotion”. We have since visited this temple several times and each time we notice foreigners accompanied by a tuk tuk driver. Once one of the tuk tuk drivers even tried to stop us from walking into the courtyard that surrounds the temple (saying it was forbidden to enter – absolutely not true).
Home of the ‘black’ Buddha. It can be quite challenging to actually visit the interior of this temple as we have heard it is only open on the last day of each month (unconfirmed).
Wat Daodungsaram or Wat Daodung for short is also known as Wat Daowaduengsaram. Located on the Thonburi side of the river about a 15 minute walk from the Rama VIII Park at the base of the Rama VIII Bridge. Situated in a quiet area with several other tiny temples nearby. Originally founded by Chao Chom Waen, a lady in the royal court of King Rama I – it was first called Wat Khrua-In after the first abbot’s name. King Rama II had this temple renamed. Known for its beautiful original mural paintings by Luang Seni Borirak, a Thai Chinese artist who painted during the reign of Kimg Rama III.
The original construction featured hardwood pillars and walls made from solid teak wood. However during restoration the wooden structures were replaced with brick. The name Daowaduengsaram means “heaven where the god Indra resides”.
Wat Hua Lampong is locacated near Bangkok’s busy Silom District and can easily be accessed via the closest Metro stop, sam Yan (directly next to the main temple entrance) or a short walk from the Sala Daeng Skytrain stop. This is a sizable temple that we have visited numerous times. Because it is located in such a crowded part of town, it has always been quite crowded during our visits.
Nominal admission fee charged to tourists to enter the main temple. A number of shrines are located on the property; a number of monks also live on site. Estimated visit time 20 minutes.
Wat Iam Woranuch (also known as also Wat Iam Won Nut) is one of our favorite micro temples in Bangkok. A calm space in nearby urban chaos – surrounded by the always busy Rama VIII Road and the lesser busy Samsen Road – still a busy part of town. Located within walking distance of the much more well known standing Buddha, Wat Intharawihan. With influences from China, Thailand and India. A small pool with tiny running waterfalls drowns out some of the nearby traffic noise and makes for a relaxing ambiance. Also plenty of greenery in this small space.
Originally called Wat Mai Thong Khung because of its location on a nearby canal (later filled). Interestingly the canal featured a wide turn where the boats used for the Royal Ceremonies could turn around. The oldest building on site is the charming pavilion.
Wat Inthar awihan (Wat In for short) is home to the one of the world’s tallest standing Buddhas – at 32 meters tall. The Buddha is dressed in gold tiles that rise the length of his body. Construction started in 1867 and was finished in 1927. The abbot at the time of the early construction actually died at the base of the statue. It can be hard to get good views at the base of the statue (sometimes there are portable tents setup here in the way – if you walk to the nearby Ordination Hall (prayer hall) near the main entrance and climb up the steps you will have a better glimpse of its size from slightly further afar. Regardless of where you view this, this statue is quite impressive.
The statue was refurbished in 1982 with golden tiles. This held up pretty well into the 1990’s. During our most recent visit in 2018, some of the files are showing wear and some are missing, especially in the lower part of the statue. Entry is by donation only. Wat In borders Thanon Wisut Kasat is only about a 10-minute walk from Khao San Road. Estimated visit time 30 minutes.
Wat Kalayanamit Woramahavihan (or Wat Kalaya for short) is a major temple complex located on the banks of the Chao Praya River (near the much small Bangkok Yai canal) and within a short drive of the King Rama I Bridge. There is even pier along the river with the same name as this temple. Despite being on a busy section of the river, this temple does not see as many visitors as the more famous ones up river.
Known for several items – a massive sitting Buddha statue contained in the massive wiharn building and a bell tower which holds the largest bronze bell in all of Thailand. Also worth checking out are the old and original paintings from the era when this temple was constructed (1825). Originally built by a family and then donated to King Rama III.
Travelers take note – this temple is known for being a holy place for travelers and locals often come here to pray before and after taking a trip.
Wat Khaek Silom or it’s more formal name Sri Mahamariamman Temple, is a beautiful and rare (for Bangkok) intricately designed Indian temple. It was built in 1879 by a number of Indians living in this area. Easily accessed via a short walk from the Chong Nonsi Skytrain stop, it is located at the corner of Silom Road and the small soi, Pan Road.
Easily noticeable due to it’s unique and colorful design. And you may also notice the flower vendors lined up along Pan Road selling a a variety of mostly yellow flowers for those who come to the temple to worship. No photography is allowed inside but you can take photos from the street.
An annual 10-day/10-night festival is held here in September/October called Navaratri – in which attendees worship a variety of gods. Look for a procession on the last day of this event in and around this temple in which part of Silom is actually blocked from through vehicular traffic. Also a number of budget hotels and hostels within a very short walk of this temple.
Wat Mangkon Kamalawat Temple was previously (and still sometimes referred to in Chinese) known as Wat Leng Noei Yi. This impressive Chinese temple is located in a part of Chinatown – old Bangkok that doesn’t see to many western visitors. This is the largest and most important Chinese Buddhist temple in all of Bangkok. During special ceremonies (including Chinese New Year) the temple can be extremely crowded with visitors and for those who don’t spend much time at temples – a very exotic experience. Even entering the temple is fascinating – the most intriguing entrance is via a narrow alleyway accessible from Charoen Krung Road.
The temple was built in the early 1870’s – its current name means “Dragon Lotus Temple”. Very Chinese visually including a number of colorful dragons. Various shrines are located at the temple – during a visit you will see people lighting and carrying burning sticks of incense which they continuously wave and hold while bowing to various statues. At times, in the small shrine rooms the smoke can become quite thick. Other gifts include fruits and paper money.
Don’t try to rush through this temple – rather meander slowly exploring the variety of courtyards and passage ways. A visit here is a positive assault on the senses – with a variety of smells, red and gold colors, and the energy of hundreds of people coming to pay their respects and pray.
The closest public transportation stop to this temple is via the Chaophraya Express Boat to Ratchawong pier (about a 10-15 minute walk from the pier).
Wat Pasee was originally built in 1847 by a landowner who collected fees from nearby merchants. A cemetery on site has a rather dark history – it was used by the government to behead prisoners and later by execution (using guns). Located next to the raised intersection of Ekkamai Soi 63 and Phetchaburi Road – don’t go to this intersection but rather turn off on a small side soi just before entering this intersection as you drive north on Ekkamai Soi 63.
Very noticeable because of the newer extremely golden hall that was more recently built next to the main temple. Also several very tall buildings located nearby contrast dramatically with the temple buildings. The Ekkamai BTS Station is about a 20 minute walk (or hire a taxi from there).
Wat Pathum Khongkha Ratchaworawihan is a very picturesque wat located near the banks of the Chao Praya River at the edge of Chinatown and within a short distance of Wat Traimet (the world’s largest solid gold Buddha) in the Talat Noi part of town. This is the much lesser known and smaller of the two temples.
This temple is also known as Wat Sam Pheng and was later renamed to its current name. Known for several ornate statues as well as glass covered displays of golden buddhas lined up. Also a very pretty ubosot building.
Wat Pathum Wanaram , also known as Wat Sapatum Wanaram – is a great place to stop if you are looking for some relaxation and quiet time after shopping in many of the huge shopping complexes that surround this wat. It is the temple of the King Rama the IV and is located between two major shopping complexes, Siam Paragon and Central world.
Despite being located in the middle of this concrete jungle, once you are in the temple – its like being in a totally different world. You are surrounded by trees and it is much quieter than the nearby roads. Look for the elephants with long white tusks located on the grounds; they often contain temporary decorations.
Wat Phitchaya Yatikaram Worahiharn is a medium to large sized temple located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Praya River – located near several canals and across the highway from Wat Anongkharam. Not many tourists visit this spot. If open, walk into the ubosot to check out the water color painting of a Chinese warrior. Also some other nice murals inside including the ceiling and on the main doors. Noted for its several impressive stupas. A very photogenic temple. This part of the river has a number of worthwhile temples to visit – one can spend their day temple hopping as you move north as most of the major temples along this part of the river are within walking distance of each other.
Wat Phra Chetuphon or also called by the name Wat Po is home to the reclining Buddha. This is the oldest and biggest temple in Bangkok – it is quite impressive and well worth your time to visit it (very photogenic). There are colorful temples, tall spires and ornate artwork everywhere! Upon close inspection you will find that the colorful buildings, spires and statutes are decorated with thousands of small pieces of colored glass. Colorful paint is liberally applied to many of the statues.
The inside of Wat Po underwent a recent remodel including the reclining Buddha itself as well as the wonderful detailed murals on the walls inside. As a result when you visit this temple today everything is in excellent shape. This Buddha was created from concrete and bricks and is covered with a layer of real gold. The feet of the reclining Buddha are quite impressive – they are layered with mother of pearl. Also spend some time looking at all the very detailed murals on the walls as hundreds of these were painstakingly restored by very patient individuals.
We have visited this temple many times – several times during the actual remodeling. We watched one of the workers work on a mural; it was almost too painful to watch – his progress was excruciatingly slow. Also note that if you arrive at this temple in the afternoon chances are the ticket attendants will yell at you and say “5 minutes, 5 minutes to closing” when in reality if you are there anytime in the early to mid afternoon you are no where near their closing time. We asked the guards why they say this and they say it is to try and get people to hurry up and not wait around blocking the entrance!
Also note, that Wat Po is famous for their massage school for both foreigners and Thais. You can come to Wat Po and pay for a massage. More information is available here: www.watpomassage.com Estimated visit time for entire temple 60 minutes.
Wat Praya Siri Iyasawa is located on the Thonburi side of the river about a 15 minute walk from the Rama VIII Park at the base of the Rama VIII Bridge. Located in a quiet area with several other tiny temples nearby – one has more fun making the journey to this temple then perhaps hanging out at the temple itself. Walk through a maze of small neighborhoods and ultimately reach the temple via crossing over a small footbridge over a tiny canal.
Wat Prayurawongsawas Waraviharn Temple (also known as Wat Prayoon) is a beautiful sizable temple complex where visitors could spend 30 to 60 minutes exploring. Known for several things including the brilliant white colored and giant chedi (great for serving in sunset photos), what is left of what used to be a giant fend built from ancient iron weapons including swords and a do not miss a short walk from the giant chedi – turtle ‘mountain’ with its calming pond and several small temples built into the side of the slightly elevated rock. Turtles live here and visitors can feed them. Simply purchase a variety of fruit from nearby vendors and what you cannot eat, give the turtles.
The mound of rock that forms this ‘mountain’ was inspired by King Rama III’s observation of dried wax left by a dripping candle and was built in the early 19th century. This temple was previously awarded a UNESCO Asia-Pacific Cultural Heritage Conservation certificate. Looking for a very unique and memorable temple that is not on the list of first time visitors to Bangkok – this one is it!
Located near the King Rama I Memorial Bridge in a very historic part of town which used to be lived in by the Portuguese back when Bangkok was founded. Can access this temple by taking the Chao Phraya River Express boat and getting off at the Memorial Bridge Pier.
Wat Rachsingkorn (Royal Temple) is located ‘next door’ to Asiatique – there is no direct access from Asiatique but visitors may access it via Soi Charoen Krung 74 off of the main Charoen Krung Road – just a short walk down this soi and then across the temple’s own parking lot.
It is located close to the edge of the Chao Praya River. Features a pretty golden stupa (much smaller then the big one at the Grand Palace) and old bell and an ordination hall. We saw no other tourists here during our visit – some bathrooms in the far back hidden a bit behind some of the buildings on site.
Wat Rakangositaram Woramahavihan is located on the Thonburi side along the banks of the Chao Praya River a bit north of the famous Wat Arun (Temple of the Dawn). This temple is known for its plethora of bells which decorate the grounds – therefore often known as the “temple of the bells”. Like many temples it has had multiple names – originally it was called Wat Bangwa Yai and was built in the Ayutthaya Period. During one period of renovation an ancient bell was found at the temple (moved to the Temple of the Emerald Buddha in the Grand Palace) and King Rama I then commissioned 5 bells to take its place.
Of historical significance, the old Tripitaka Hall on site was the original residence of King Rama I.
Not a temple to rush through – take your time and admire the unique bells on display, perhaps take in a chanting session later in the evening by monks and check out the hand drawings/paintings in the wihan building. Very popular with locals but we haven’t seen that many foreigners here. Prominent enough of a temple to warrant its own website (all in Thai), www.watrakang.com
Wat Ratchabophit Sathit Maha Simaram is located within between two nice parks – within a short walk of either Rommaninat Park or Saranrom Park. Also next to a canal. This very pretty temple was built by King Rama V in 1869. A unique blend of both Thai and Western architecture (the interior). Somewhat off the most visited wat route – we don’t usually see many tourists here.
The Royal Cemetery is also located on site containing the ashes of some family members related to King Rama V. Also check out the cool looking watchmen built into the entrance doors. The interior of the main temple is very impressive with plenty of glittering gold used as decoration (somewhat inspired by Italian architecture). The primary Buddha actually rests on Italian marble.
Closest public transportation is the Tha Thien pier (using the Chaao Praya Express boat).
Housed numerous images of Buddha during one period. Was damaged by bombing during WWII and was subsequently rebuilt following the war. The present temple was rebuilt in 1960.
Located close to the Rama I Memorial Bridge and a sizable public park. Opens early! 6am.
Wat Ratchanatdaram Worawihan (Loha Prasat) is one of Bangkok’s most revered and respected temples (and beautiful, we might add). Located within a short walk of the Democracy Monument and the nearby Wak Saket (Temple of the Mount). No BTS or MRT stops immediately nearby – best accessible via a taxi or Uber. Originally built in 1846, the name means Iron Castle in English – the roof is topped with bronze tiles. 37 black metal spires are built into the castle, each one represents a specific virtue required to obtain to reach enlightenment.
Modeled after only two structures which no longer exist – one in India and one in Sri Lanka.
Visitors will discover a number of exhibits and information in the “labyrinth” of the complex – a series of small corridors and rooms supported by thick walls containing prominent arches (the information is presented in Thai but during a recent visit here we observed plenty of photographs). This part of the complex is also home to small meditation rooms for the monks.
Spiral steps lead to the upper most levels (you can get off at any level to explore). Be sure to stop at the open air walkway on the 4th level for good views of Loha Prasat and the nearby Wat Saket on the hill. The small shrine on top features a number of relics relating to Buddha.
Wat Saket or “the golden mount temple” is located in the heart of old Bangkok not far from some of Bangkok’s most well-known temples. What differentiates this temple from the others in the city, is its hill top location featuring excellent views in all directions of the Bangkok skyline. This hill was artificially created and for many years was the tallest point in Bangkok. In addition the sheer size and brilliance of the golden Stupa located in a small courtyard on top of the temple is worth making the climb for.
While the hill is not super tall – it is tall enough to give one an excellent perspective of the city – and this is one of our favorite places to watch the sunset in Bangkok. One has to climb nearly 350 gradual steps in order to reach the golden Stupa on top. The path is mostly in the shade and winds up a pleasant walkway – passing bells which you can ring one at a time as you walk by. This temple even has it’s own coffee shop located about 1/4 way up the walkway on a side alcove next to the path.
Unlike nearly all other temples we have visited in Bangkok – once you reach the uppermost level there is a sign indicating you can keep your shoes ON, rather then taking them OFF. As a result you can visit the shrine on the uppermost level and the courtyard next to the stupa, wearing your shoes.
A temple roadway encircles the hill – visitors enter through the main entrance and pay the minimal entry fee. Often mist will be spraying from sprinklers near the entrance – a very welcome addition especially during the mid day heat and humidity that Bangkok is known for.
This temple has a rather gristly past – dead bodies used to be placed out in the open air and vultures would congregate by the hundreds to dine on the rotting meat. The surrounding neighborhood has never shed it’s name of “Ghost Gate” still referring to the long ago corpses that would be stacked up at the temple.
This temple can become extremely crowded during National Holidays such as Songkran and Loy Kratong. Estimated visit time: 45 minutes
Wat Sam Phraya Temple (Wat Bang Khun Prom) – part of the attraction of this temple is finding it! One should make a special note to start your journey underneath the King Rama VIII Bridge and walk through a maze of narrow paved alleyways through very local looking neighborhoods with small homes – until you come out near the Green Garden Cooking School – from here it is a very short walk to the temple. Note that sometimes maps will show this temple as being on the other side of the Rama VIII Bridge on the grounds of the Bang Khunphrom Palace which walk-in visitors are not allowed (and that is NOT the temple we are referring to here).
Features a number of brilliantly white chedis, a small pond (that usually is covered with some sort of plant life) and several small buildings. A quite place to rest if you find yourself in this immediate neighborhood.
Wat Samphandhawongs (Wat Koh) is located in Chinatown – a visit here makes for a relaxed time away from the crowds of some of the larger wats. Like many of the wats we have visited, this one also dates from the Ayutthaya period. Was called Wat Koh at one point. The main hall was locked when we visited but nice monk indicated we could walk around at our leisure. A picturesque small wat that is certainly off the beaten path.
Located along the one way Song Sawat Road near the edge of Chinatown.
Wat Sommanat is located near the busy Nakhon Sawan Road but accessible via the much smaller Soi Wat Sommanat road. The temple grounds are clean with colorful buildings. The temple was built in 1853 – ordered by King Rama IV as a dedication to a Thai queen. A very pretty ubosot building – both outside and inside. Worth a stop if you find yourself in this part of Bangkok with not much else to do. For reference is a very short walk from the Rajadamnern Boxing Stadium.
Wat Suthat Thepwararam Ratchaworahawihan is located about a kilometer from the Tha Tien Pier along the edge of the Chao Phraya River – you can either walk or catch a taxi nearby this pier. This is one of the older temples in Bangkok with construction having first began in 1807 but not finished for another 40 years. The “giant swing” is located in front of this temple. Admission to the temple for foreigners at last update was 20 baht – payable on the entrance closest to the Giant Swing.
Wat Sutthiwararam is a very tiny wat located along the river side of Charoen Krung Road – about a 20-25 minute walk south of the Saphan Taksin BTS Skytrain stop and about the same distance walk north of Asiatique.
This was originally named Wat Lao and was deserted for many years. It was restored in 1885 and today features an ordination hall, bell tower, crematorium and cemetery, a pavilion and a school. Totally off the tourist map – good example of a temple that is not busy with tourists every day!
Wat Suwannaram Ratchaworawihan is worth making the effort to visit especially if you are on a long tail boat. Located right on the banks of the Bangkok Noi river canal (up from the Chao Praya River) there is even a small pier in front of the temple on the canal. Highlights are the beautiful original hand-painted ancient murals – some are extremely detailed in their visual presentation. These murals were painted by famous artists Thong Yu and Pae Khong (this is not the only temple in town where we have come across their religous artwork). Located on the Thonburi side of the Chao Praya river – this temple is little visited by tourists. Lets keep it that way!
An interesting past including at one point serving as an execution site for Burmese prisoners. Over time this temple has been restored several times including during the reign of Rama I and Rama III. It has also served as the Royal cremation site for members of the royal family.
Very appealing ubosot building from the outside with lots of colorful decorations and mosaics. Worth checking out are the prominent gleaming golden Buddha statues inside the wihan building.
Wat That Thong dates from a site where two ancient temples stood – more recently an original civil temple was built in 1937. Originally was intended to be used to build a Bangkok port. The temple today stands in place of the original two temples and takes it’s name by combining parts of the names from these two temples.
Located almost directly across from the Ekkami BTS Station and near the Eastern Bus Terminal – it allows for very easy access on foot. To make sure you are on the correct side of the street as the temple when you exit the BTS station – choose exit number three.
Nice place to walk around leisurely among the buildings – a school is next door and can be crowded in the early am with students coming to school. A pretty golden Buddha is contained inside the main temple. Visit: www.facebook.com/pages/Wat-Pasee/243856929057199
Wat Thep Siran Thrawat (also known as Wat Debsirindrawas Ratchaworawiharn) is located next to a picturesque canal and a short walk from the Nopphawaong Bridge. This temple was ordered built in 1876 by King Rama V as a dedication to his mother – Queen Debsirindra (hence it’s name). Construction within 2 years. Beautiful buildings including the ubosot with its marble and door decorations (lacquered gold painted leaf). Look up when you are in the ubosot – you will see detailed carvings. And look up when you are standing in the pavilion for more beautiful golden decorations.
This temple also used to be a royal crematorium for members of the royal family and King Rama V had a special pavilion built here to house his son’s body. The pavilion is still used by the royal family during certain cremation ceremonies.
Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan was originally constructed between 1836 and 1839. Located next to the impressive Loha Prasat complex and within a short walk of the beautiful Wat Saket. Features a number of Chinese artifacts due to historical trading between China and Thailand including porcelain pieces and statues. The primary Buddha statue on site was carved from white rock.
This temple is also home of the Sunthon Phu Museum – located towards the back of Wat Thepthidaram Worawihan. The museum is a collection of small rooms centered around a small courtyard honoring the life and times of poet Sunthon Phu. Sunthon, often called the “Shakespeare of Thai Literature” or “the Bard of Rattanakosin” he ordained at this temple and spent several years of his life here. The museum rooms are where he lived during his time here.
The Adventure of Sudsakorn was Thailand’s first animated film (dating from 1979). This film was was based on a character from Sunthon’s nearly 50,000 line poem, Phra Aphai Mani.
A monk will often give you a highly personalized tour of the museum guiding you through each of the rooms within the museum. One room contains story boxes – open up one of them to read more about Sunthon (in Thai and English). Despite Sunthon being born in 1786, technology plays a role here – during your tour if you stand in certain areas you will be superimposed into a digital image (which can then be emailed to you by one of the monks).
Another highlight of a visit is singing some of Sunthon’s versus with a monk. The monk will set the tone and you will follow suit, verse by verse. The acoustics in the room will make you sound like a Thai opera star!
Wat Traimit is home to The Golden Buddha, the world’s largest solid gold statue of a Buddha (somewhere between 700 and 800 years old). It weighs over 5.5 tons and is quite impressive. It was originally covered in plaster to conceal it’s true value from enemies invading Thailand many years ago. It is 15 feet tall and measures over 12 feet in diameter.
If it is crowded you may need to hold up your camera over your head in order to get a decent photograph. And it most often is very crowded – this is a popular stop with buses and tour groups and as an independent traveler you most likely will have to weave your way through them to reach the ticket counter. Open daily from 8 until 5pm – we’ve been here soon after 8am on a weekday and it was already crazily crowded!
This wat is located close to the Hua Lampong Railway Station (the main train station in Bangkok). If you know where to look there are faucets and hoses just off some of the main paths leading into this wat – these are a good source for splashing cold water on one’s face and clothes.
Also notice the neat trees in which the branches are thin and cordlike and hang almost to the ground level. Several of the vendors have tied some of their goods to the ends of these branches. Be sure to pick up a free brochure which describes the history of this great stature. Estimated visit time 30 minutes
Wat Tri Thotsathep is about a 10-15 minute walk from the main part of Khao San Road. Worlds away in feel, this temple sits among very quiet Thai style old residential areas. Not a touristy temple at all – chances are you will be among the few foreigners visiting this temple. This temple was planned to be built several times by three members of the royal family but never came to fruition until King Rama IV had it built himself.
In English its name translates to “built by three gods” in homage those in the royal family who conceived and or worked on building this.
Highly recommended are the interior of the buildings with their detailed, hand-painted and very colorful murals many of which have been recently restored.
Wat Yannawa or simply called the ‘boat temple’ is located just a few minutes walk south of the Saphin Taksin BTS Skytrain stop (on the river side of Charoen Krung Road). If you stand in front of the entrance you can actually see this skytrain stop not far down the street. Wander in the short distance it takes to enter the grounds past the imposing gatehouse and you will soon discover why this temple has it’s name. A prominent boat modeled after a 19th century Chinese sailing vessel serves as this temple’s viharn (sermon hall).
The old feel of this temple contrasts dramatically with some of the newer buildings in the area. A dramatic view of the nearby Ghost Tower is also available from the temple grounds – with giant ads draped down this never finished skyscraper also contrasting dramatically with the temple.
This temple seems to be under most tourist’s radar – during our visit we saw only a couple of other curious tourists on the grounds.