Wat Phra Kaew – All that glitters IS gold
Hello, traveler! Is a gold deficit a problem in your life? Fret no more, because Bangkok’s Wat Phra Kaew will fill that void perfectly!
Wat Phra Kaew, or the Temple of the Emerald Buddha, is the crown jewel of Bangkok, and it’s not hard to see why. Probably the most costly tourist attraction at 500 baht per entry, it is definitely one of the most stunning group of buildings you’ll see in your lifetime.
As with any other temple in Thailand, you’ll need to be dressed decently in order to enter Wat Phra Kaew, so that means no sleeveless tops, short shorts and skirts, and stuff like that. But as usual, if your attire is lacking, you can always rent sarongs and tops outside to cover up.
This is the explosion of gold that greets your eyes upon entry!
Wat Phra Kaew is actually a whole building complex located adjacent to the Grand Palace, so it covers a pretty large area. Not that you can move around that freely though; prepared to share your personal space with a ton of other camera-wielding tourists gawking together with you!
The structure next to the huge golden stupa in the picture above is the library, Phra Mondop, which houses sacred Buddhist manuscripts. It’s also the building that commands your attention immediately, because of the dizzying, insane detail in the towering structure.
The heart of Wat Phra Kaew however, is the smaller but no less impressive Ordination Hall, with its blue-tiled roof.
The Ordination Hall is the building that houses the precious Emerald Buddha, the most sacred Buddha image in Thailand. On most days, you’re welcome to enter the Ordination Hall to view the Emerald Buddha, but of course there had to be some special ceremony happening on the day I went that prevented anyone from going in -___-
Around the Ordination Hall, and throughout the Wat Phra Kaew complex, you’ll find 12 of the small pavilions like in the picture above called ‘salas‘ – they’re resting places for the people, so have a seat there if you feel like catching a break from the burning sun!
Throughout Wat Phra Kaew, you’ll see various marks of the influence from the Ramakien, Thailand’s national epic derived from the Hindu epic Ramayana. There are the ‘yakshis’, or temple guardians, that watch over all the entrances to the temple:
There are the monkey-demons and giants from the Ramakien:
There’s the ‘kinnara‘, half-human, half-bird creatures originating from Buddhist and Hindu mythology:
And there’s the painstakingly hand-painted mural (“What do you mean too much gold? HAVE SOME GOLD LEAF FOR THE MURAL”), that stretches along all the walls of the Wat Phra Kaew, that depicts the entire Ramakien epic! It’s the longest hand-painted mural in all of Thailand.
Wat Phra Kaew is gorgeous no matter when you look at it, but you’ll only truly appreciate its grandeur when everything glows under the rays of sunlight that pierce through the clouds on a cloudy day 🙂
On your way out, you’ll pass through the grounds of the Grand Palace!
The Grand Palace strangely has a distinctly more European style even though it’s right next to the Wat Phra Kaew. It’s no longer the King’s residence these days, although it is still used for special ceremonies, like coronations.
If you’re a fan of architecture, or have an appreciation for massively decadent things that are a result of a lot of blood, sweat and tears like me, you should definitely check out Wat Phra Kaew when you’re in Bangkok! Sure, it’s a little pricey for a place that’s otherwise cheap to visit, but it’ll make a nice check on your ‘been there, done that’ list 🙂