November 21st, 2011

Bangkok’s Must-See Temples

by Don

The Buddhist religion and culture reigns supreme in Bangkok. The most striking testaments to the religion are undoubtedly the fabulous temples to be found in and around the city. An early morning visit to a temple is a spiritual experience, even for the most devoutly irreligious. It’s also the best time to catch the saffron-robed monks as they pray. Visiting all the temples on holiday is an impossibility, so we’ve narrowed them down to the most essential three…

King Taksin was renowned for promoting art and literature during his 18th Century reign. He also oversaw the restoration of a number of temples, including Wat Arun, on the west bank of the Chao Phraya river. The legend has it that Taksin fought Burmese invaders at Ayutthaya before arriving at the temple at the break of dawn. He renovated the site and called it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn, and the name still used by locals. The craftsmanship on display here is breathtaking, certainly one of the most beautiful temples in the whole of Thailand, with its 70 metre spire, festooned with minute pieces of coloured glass and Chinese porcelain, all intricately arranged in mesmerizing patterns. As the name suggests, it’s quite a place to see at dawn, although you might have to make a return trip at sunset to see it lit up in all its glory.

Wat Pho is Bangkok’s largest temple, famous for its huge reclining Buddha, covered in gold leaf and measuring 46 metres long. The feet alone are 3 metres each in length, and studded with exquisite mother-of-pearl inlays. The temple is also home to a traditional Thai massage school. This invigorating style of massage relieves stress and improves circulation – if you only have one massage on your trip, do it here. The cost is between 120 and 200 baht, depending on the length of the massage.

The headquarters of the Vipassana meditation method, Wat Mahathat is a key centre of Thai Buddhism. Tourists can take classes in English every day – which is highly recommended if you want something a bit different on holiday. Wat Mahathat was built to house Buddhist relics, and is one of Bangkok’s oldest temples. Adjacent to the temple is a huge Sunday market, where you can pick up all sorts of interesting religious artefacts, such as amulets, charms and talismans, each serving a different purpose, some for warding off evil or bringing good luck, others for financial fortune and health restoration. Traditional Thai medicines are also available.

Beware of the dress codes of all Bangkok temples – they generally ask that you do not wear shorts or other revealing items of clothing. Check the specific requirements of each temple before you head off.

If you’re looking for a budget flight to Thailand, you could do worse than the DialAFlight website. Click the link to search for a cheap flight to Bangkok, and discover for yourself the special places of wonder that are Buddhist temples.

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