Bangkok – 5 Temples in One Day, A DIY Travel Guide
Photography by Iza Sanchez
Buddhism is an important part of Thailand culture. This reflects in thousands of Buddhist temples across the country. In Bangkok alone, you would easily spot a temple in some corner of the city. If you only had a day or two to spend in Bangkok, choosing which temples to visit can turn into a painful mental exercise. Below is a useful guide to help you narrow down your list, plus some great tips for your visit to the temples.
What to Wear
First off, take note that Thailand like most Asian countries is conservative, and in places of worship, wearing clothes that reveal too much skin is considered inappropriate. Therefore, wear long pants and put on something with sleeves.
At the Grand Palace a girl beside me wasn’t allowed inside because she wore ripped jeans. If you find yourself in a similar situation, go to the shops outside the gates They sell cheap boho pants which are stylish and look good on both men and women. As for footwear, comfortable, flat shoes are ideal since you’ll be walking the whole day.
Beat the Heat
It’s hot in Thailand with temperatures ranging from 29°C to 36°C in the daytime. Thus, make sure you have these items in your backpack: sunblock, a summer hat, shades, and a water bottle, (There are water refilling stations in most of the temples).
Start out Early
As the saying goes, “the early bird catches the worm,” so start out as early as you can. I left my hostel in Khaosan around 7:00 am, and because it was going to be a full day of exploring, I had a quick and heavy breakfast, you should too.
Commute with Ease
A commuter boat on the Chao Phraya River
Riding long-tail boats is a fantastic way to get around in Bangkok. Most people start their day at the Grand Palace and the easiest way to get there is by boat. Look for a pier close to your hostel. I stayed in Khaosan and the closest was Phra Athit Pier— just 10-minutes away by foot.
The boats arrive every 5 to 8 minutes. The fare is fixed at 15 Baht. Get off at Tha Chang Pier and you’ll find yourself standing outside the walls of the palace.
By metro rail or BTS (Bangkok Mass Transit), get off at Hua Lamphong station which is around 4 kilometers from the Grand Palace. Then, take a taxi which will cost roughly 60 to 80 Baht.
Temple Overview and Admission Fees
The three must-see temples in Bangkok are Wat Phra Kaew, (located inside the Grand Palace), its neighbor Wat Pho, and finally Wat Arun. You can see all three in one day. But, with some will power and dexterity you could manage to squeeze in one or two more temples into your agenda.
The temples are generally open from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, others are open up to 6:00 pm. The Grand Palace closes at 3:00 pm.
The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew
At the Grand Palace, buy your ticket inside the compound. The admission fee is 500 Baht. Fortunately, the admission fee to other temples is much cheaper. When you’re at the vicinity be wary of scammers who might approach you and make all sorts of offers. If you encounter anyone who encourages you to visit a jewelry store, get away as quickly as you can.
Wat Phra Kaew inside the Grand Palace is one of the most beautiful architectural structures you might ever see. It’s known to be the most sacred temple in Thailand. But, I do wonder how locals are able to worship there in peace with the mob of tourists that come everyday. Yes, the crowds can be overwhelming.
From Wat Phra Kaew, walk toward the palace which is the king’s residence. It’s another architectural masterpiece to marvel at. I spent about two hours at the Grand Palace obsessively photo documenting the site.
Wat Pho is the second most popular temple and home to the largest, golden reclining Buddha in Thailand. It’s located south of the Grand Palace, so essentially it should be your next stop. However, to exit the Grand Palace you’d have to walk back to the main entrance before you can head off to Wat Pho.
While on a map the two temples look close, to walk from the Grand Palace to Wat Pho can feel like eternity when you’re getting baked under the sun. Also, when google maps tells you it’ll take 10 minutes, it actually means 20. So, if you can manage to find a tuk tuk driver who agrees to take you to Wat Pho for 10 to 20 Baht, that’s a deal.
The admission fee to Wat Pho is 100 Baht. The compound is huge, equivalent to an 8-hectare farm. Inside the compound you’ll find colorful stupas of all sizes, impressive statues, well manicured gardens, and hundreds of Buddha statues from various eras.
Image via Wikimedia Commons by Manoonp
Once you’re done at Wat Pho, you can walk to Tha Tien Pier and get across the river to Wat Arun by ferry. The fare only costs 4 Baht. Wat Arun, known as the “Temple of Dawn, ” was built in the middle of the 17th century. It’s famous for its towering spires which visitors are allowed to climb. You can relax by the riverside and freely walk around the beautiful compound, but if you’d like to enter the gated temple, there’s a minimal admission fee of 50 Baht. The temple is open until 6:00 pm.
Image via Wikimedia Commons by กสิณธร ราชโอรส
From Wat Arun drop in at a nearby temple called Wat Kalayanamitr, again you can walk there, but if it’s too hot ride a tuk tuk or a cab (always negotiate fares with tuk tuk drivers). Wat Kalayanamitr also sits by the riverbank. It houses one of the largest golden Buddha statues in Bangkok, and is frequented by locals more than tourists. Hence, it is a good place to observe and appreciate local religious customs. Visitors can join in prayers and make offerings.
Finally, swing by Wat Benchamabophit, known as the “Marble Temple.” It is located on the east side of the Chao Phraya river. How to get there? – Take a cab or tuk tuk. The cab fare would cost around 80 to 100 Baht. While tuk tuk fares cost usually 100 Baht/person/trip. If you are a group of 2-3, it’s cheaper to take a cab. However, if you want to experience a 20-minute, open-air tour of the city, go for a tuk-tuk.
Wat Benchamabophit is also known as the Marble Temple. Its red gilded roof and majestic frame always caught my eyes when I traveled along Nakhon Pathom Road. The temple was made from marble exported all the way from Italy in 1899. It houses dozens of Buddha statues lined around an immaculately white courtyard. You can walk freely around the compound and its lovely gardens, but if you’d like to enter the main temple there’s a minimal admission fee of 20 Baht.
It was late in the afternoon, when I went to Wat Benchamabophit. There were few people and I really enjoyed the quiet and serene ambiance, a stark contrast to the busy temples I visited earlier that day.
At last, cap off your day by splurging on a delectable Thai dish at a nice restaurant, (I recommend Tom Kha Kai – Chicken in Coconut Soup). Then, let your tired feet take you to a spa where you can enjoy a soothing Thai massage as you dream of your adventures for the next day.
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