About Wat Phra Kaew
The temple of Wat Phra Kaew is placed on the Ground Palace compound in Rattanakosin, Bangkok. Thailand's most sacred temple, Wat Phra Kaew is also one of the most important pilgrimage sites for Buddhists disciples from across the universe. The temple is situated at the heritage centre of the nation. The temple enshrines the holy Phra Kaew Morakot, one of the highly worshipped images of Lord Buddha in the world. The idol has been carved from a lone piece of jade.
The temple of the Emerald Buddha is beautifully decorated and has a great sense of peace about it. Thousands of Buddhist devotees and tourists flock here round the year to offer their obeisance to the lord and seek blessings. The site itself continues to leave visitors in awe with its intricate and detailed architecture. This is the ultimate example of the creativity and craftsmanship of Thai people. The complex remains the spiritual nucleus of the Thai culture and tradition.
How to Reach Wat Phra Kaew
Taxi: Suvarnabhumi is the nearest airport from Wat Phra Kaew and it will take around 25 minutes to reach the temple by taxi. This is the quickest as well as the cheapest way to arrive at Wat Phra Kaew as it will cost you just 40 Baht.
Train: You can also take the Skytrain services and get down at Saphan Taksin station and opt for a taxi or bus to reach the temple.
Water taxi: This is another fun ride to the temple. Take a boat upriver to the pier at Tha Chang. Then, from the pier, the temple complex can be reached in 5 minutes by walking.
Air: Suvarnabhumi airport is linked to all international airports and offers great services to visitors from all across the world. Don Mueang International Airport is another important avenue to get to Bangkok. Both the airports offer taxi facilities to ferry you to the Wat Phra Kaew.
Best Time to Visit Wat Phra Kaew
Bangkok is busy round the year. This means that you have to plan meticulously and battle the crowd no matter which season you visit the temple complex. Generally late November to early December is considered the best time to visit Bangkok when the weather remains pleasant.
This time, the city dries out of monsoon and experiences a slight nip in the air. With holidays still two weeks away, the burst of crowd is yet to arrive during this time. You can expect fewer crowds at the temples and other historical sites. Try to visit the Wat Phra Kaew complex early in the morning, before 8.30am just after the temple opens for visitors. As the day progresses, the crowd starts pouring onto the temple premises.
What Not to Miss at Wat Phra Kaew
There are multiple attractive tourist destinations around Wat Phra Kaew. These are some of them that you must visit.
1. Prasat Phra Thep Bidon: The royal pantheon, is the largest building on the upper platform. It was built in 1855 by King Rama IV. This was the original home of the Emerald Buddha. A popular tourist site today for its great heritage and cultural value, Prasat Phra Thep Bidon remains open 24 hours.
2. Wat Arun Ratchavararam: This is another holy Buddhist temple in Bangkok which is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. The temple derives its name from Aruna, a sun god, according to the Hindu mythology. Beautiful architecture, serene ambience and tremendous faith of the natives make this site a major tourist attraction in Bangkok. The temple remains open from 8am to 6pm.
3. Sanam Luang: It is a public park right in front of Wat Phra Kaew which is gorgeously decorated. This is the historic centre of Bangkok where major royal family and government events take place. The iconic park remains open from 5am to 10pm. This is one of the most beautiful and well-maintained tourist sites in Bangkok where you can visit with your family and children and spend at least two hours.
4. Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles: A stunning collection of authentic Thai fabrics and textiles is available here. The place remains open every day from 9am to 4.30pm. This is a great place to cool down after visiting the Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew. You can collect some textile souvenirs from here
5. Bangkok City Pillar Shrine: A small yet gorgeously decorated shrine erected around the revered city pillar is one of the significant tourist places in Bangkok. It opens daily at 6.30am and closes at 6.30pm. A must visit for tourists to know about Thai life, history and culture.
Attractions in Wat Phra Kaew
The Wat Phra Kaew complex is huge and is replete with interesting artefacts. Here’s the list of must-see attractions of the place.
1. Shiny elephants: The elephant statues here are symbols of good fortune and strength. It is believed that as a visitor you should rub your hand on the elephants’ heads for good luck. Children walk around the elephant statues thrice for strength.
2. The Healer: This is another must-visit spot on the temple complex. A blackened bronze statue of a hermit who was once a medicine man is placed on the west side corner of the Wat Phra Kaew complex. Visitors pay their obeisance to the statue by offering flowers and burning joss. Those who are praying for their sick loved ones to recuperate soon offer prayers here.
3. The Angkor Wat model: King Mongkut in 1860 decided to disassemble the Angkor Wat model in Cambodia and shift it to Bangkok in order to show his strength. However, the king died before the project was completed and his son finished the rest of the work. The model is the epitome of 12th century architecture. The traces of Hindu mythology and culture can be found in this model.
4. The library: There is a beautiful and vast library pavilion here that has a great collection of ancient and modern scriptures. The original library, however, was destroyed by fire.
5. Murals: The murals of the temple complex are a major attraction for visitors as they are the story of the Ramakian, the Thai national epic that has been scripted inspired by the story of Ramayana. The murals bear the saga of the Thai religious-politico society and heritage.
Other Essential Information About Wat Phra Kaew
Location: Wat Phra Kaew is located on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Timing: Remains open daily from 8.30am to 3.30pm.
Price: Entrance to the Grand Palace will cost you 500 Baht. This includes a visit to Wat Phra Kaew.
About the Emerald Buddha
The Emerald Buddha, popularly known as the Phra Putta Maha Mani, is an image of Lord Buddha. The idol here depicts a calm and meditating position of the Lord. It has been curated according to the traditional style of the Lanna school of the north. The history of the idol dates back to the 15th century. The idol has been perched on a series of raised platforms and no visitor is allowed near the idol of the Emerald Buddha, barring the HM King himself.
A seasonal cloak, the attire of the Buddha idol, is changed thrice a year during summer, winter and monsoon. The occasion of changing the idol’s attire is regarded as one of the most important and holy rituals of the temple. The ritual is performed only by the King himself. The entire ritual is considered as an initiative to bring good fortune to the country. According to the legend, this particular image of lord Buddha originated in India where a sage called Nagasena prophesied that the statue would bring prosperity to each nation that houses it. Thai people consider the idol as the sole protector of their country. The 66 centimetre tall idol wears attire completely made of gold and various precious gems and jewels.
History and Architecture of Wat Phra Kaew
The construction work of the temple of the Emerald Buddha started in 1785 when King Buddha Yodfa Chulaloke moved his capital city to Bangkok from Thonburi. The idol was enshrined at the temple of Wat Phra Kaew during the rule of Phutthayyotfa Chulalok in 1782. This was the beginning of Thailand’s Chakri dynasty. The present sovereign of the dynasty is Vajiralongkorn, King Rama X.
Wat Phra Kaew houses several buildings in the precincts of the palace that is based on an area of 95 hectares. The architectural style of the place carries the Rattanakosin or old-Bangkok culture. The roof of the temple has been embellished with green and orange tiles. Mosaic pillars and marble pediments are the prominent features of the temple. Here, unlike other temples of Thailand, you will witness elaborately ornate holy pagodas, buildings and statues.
The main or annexe building is the centre ordination hall, locally known as ubosot that houses the statue of the Emerald Buddha. The Emerald Buddha statue is placed on an elevated platform encircled by gilded decorations. The entrance to the temple is guarded by a pair of mythical giants. The pedestal on which the Buddha statue is placed is ornate with Garuda. The image of the idol appears to be composed and divine with eyes cast downward. The entire temple complex is surrounded by a compound wall decorated with Thai murals based on the Indian epic of Ramayana. The murals tell the story of human devotion, honesty, faith, peace and values.
Dress Code for Visiting Wat Phra Kaew
Like any sacred place in Thailand, the Wat Phra Kaew complex has set certain dress codes for its visitors. Wat Phra Kaew is a bit stricter compared to the other temples of Bangkok. All tourists and visitors are expected to follow the dress code or else they are prohibited to enter the site.
1. Do not wear miniskirts, shorts, hot pants, tight-fitting trousers and tights etc.
2. Avoid see-through shirts, tops, blouses, culottes and knee-length and quarter length trousers.
3. Do not wear sleeveless shirts, t-shirts, blouses or tops or vests.
4. Do not wear rolled up sleeve shirts.
5. Avoid sweatshirts, sweat pants, pajamas, fishermen trousers, sarongs, windcheaters etc.
6. Do not wear sandals or floaters inside the temple complex.
7. Also, like other holy places across Thailand, you must take your shoes off while entering the Wat Phra Kaew complex. Many tourists remain unaware of the strict dress code of the temple and thus face hassles. However, several places are here that offer clothing, appropriate to enter the Wat Phra Kaew, on rent. You can hire them if you are not carrying proper clothing while visiting the place. Long skirts, full length trousers, full sleeve buttoned shirts and covered shoes are considered ideal to enter the temple complex.
Travellers’ Tip for Visiting Wat Phra Kaew
1. Adhere to dress code: The Wat Phra Kaew temple authorities are very strict about their dress code. So follow it religiously or else you would have to wear thick fabric-made garments available here for rent. Long cotton shirts, trousers and long full sleeved shirts are some of the attire allowed here.
2. Bring water: The temple complex is huge and it requires a minimum of two to three hours to visit the entire place. If you are visiting Bangkok during the summer, make sure you carry plenty of water when going to Wat Phra Kaew to keep yourself hydrated. There are a few water stations but among the thick crowd, it is difficult to find them. So better you carry your own water.
3. Go early: The temple complex starts receiving enormous crowds soon after it opens at 8am. With the crowd pouring in on the temple compound, it is difficult to manage the walking room or take photos. Also, it will be hard for you to get the authentic spiritual experience here if you don’t visit the temple early. If you want to enjoy the quiet atmosphere and view the magnificent architecture of the temple, then visit as early as you can.
4. Be respectful: Wat Phra Kaew is one of the holiest places of the Buddhist religion. Therefore, you must follow the customs set by the temple authorities here. Don’t be disrespectful to the holy figures or statues here. Don’t be judgmental of the architecture or rituals that you witness at the temple. Keep the dignity of the place as a respectable visitor.